Diary of a rewrite
AKA anything can be a desk
The opportunity arose to work with an editor on my manuscript. The timeframe’s tight, the scenes are out of order, it’s 98,000 words and needs to be cut – but I’m not going to say no. When you’re offered a chance like this you need to bite it off and chew like hell.
Completed step 1: printing out hard copy of manuscript. I needed to reread it to work out where it’s at, what elements I need to boost, which ones I can remove. Why a hard copy? Because I know if I start rewriting on the computer I’d start changing the story before I knew where it was going.
Worked out available time. Between pre-existing engagements there are seven clear days out of twenty before the deadline, including five in a row.
Carried manuscript printout with me everywhere. It became my commute reading material. I claimed a train table desk when I could, and when I couldn’t I made a train floor desk. I set a deadline to finish the hard copy read, then spent two days making copy changes to the electronic file – rearranging chapters, highlighting ‘Insert scene that does X here’ notes, changing a mistyped ‘your’ to ‘you’re’ that I’d missed the first hundred times I’d read it. This helped me prioritise what needed to be done in the time I had. I’m in two minds about several elements of the manuscript, hence the editor, and could spend months writing and rewriting and deleting and rewriting and starting again and going back to old versions.
This was my last day at work for a week. I rewrote on the train and discovered I’m over the embarrassment of people reading steamy scenes over my shoulder. I lost focus slightly on the way home, ending up with a meta image of my laptop on my laptop on my laptop (right). A friend on the other side of the world, let’s call her Cass, is also rewriting. We decided to push each other along with regular social media chats and project updates.
Day one of a five-day stretch of rewriting. I woke up with a shocking throat and spent the day working at a café in front of an open fire with a constant supply of hot drinks and food. After deletions the MS was down to 94,000 and I needed to average about 14,500 a day to finish in time. I knocked off about 8,200 words. Not great, but there were a lot of changes to the set-up. Adding 800 words to one section somehow bumped up the total word count by 4,000 words. So began an obsession with Scrivener’s word count calculation, which changed if I selected empty folders. I finished the day with 28,000 words done and 70,000 left to do.
Sick. Aching, hotting and colding, nose running. Sore throat had become clogged head. Damn you, body. Days without anything planned other that REWRITING A MANUSCRIPT are not a signal to go into an immune system shutdown. I did the school run in my pyjamas and invented the bed desk. Granted, I put clothes on over the top of my PJs and I know bed desk isn’t new, but it was for me. Cass pointed out I needed to do just under 20,000 words a day to make my deadline. I cried a little. I watched some of the Eurovision semis. I added a chapter, bringing some of the characters in earlier. Cass and I chatted about spiralisers and zucchini pasta. At 7.30pm my cat started yowling at me because I was in bed and not in the loungeroom providing his cosy curl-up lap. Paracetamol got me through to 11pm. I cut some words, added some words, and worked through 23,500 – 10,000 of which had been rewritten several times already for grant applications. Score! The overall total was down 1,500, with 44,000 left to do. Halfway point goal unlocked.
I slept badly, switching between cocooning myself in the covers and throwing them off. Still sick. After much shoving, cats eventually realised curling up on bed desk was not in their best interest. Considered working in a subplot where the muso protag wanted to write a Eurovision song. Realised I had not taken Eurovision into consideration when calculating time needed to write. Shower brainwave resulted in two cut chapters, a secondary character rewrite, and more confusion overall. 26,000 words left. Gave up trying to work out Scrivener word count, but overall total now somewhere between 93,000 and infinity.
Mother’s Day. Eurovision Day. Still sick. Needed ventolin for the first time in two years. Left bed desk set up so magical elves could finish story. Watched Eurovision. Ate undercooked pancakes. Was told I was not a ‘real mum’. Used this show of love as an excuse to return to the bed desk and a purring cat who had worked out he could live in harmony snuggled next to bed desk. Berated lazy magical story elves for their lack of progress. Sent fam on a mission to find cough mixture. They came back with bonus Chinese food. Added a redemptive act. Added a couple of Easter eggs relating to friends’ manuscripts. Cried a little during the last chapter. Zero words left to do!!!
There were words left to do. I had two scenes to add in. Lucky I’d arranged the day off work. Still sick. Mr F took the youngster to before-school care and I stayed at bed desk. I found the Maltesers the boys thought they’d hidden in plain sight on the kitchen bench. I made coffee. I procrastinated on Twitter. I took more paracetamol and cough medicine. I had a nap. Somewhere in all that I did what I needed to do. By 7.30pm the manuscript was as done as it would get and formatted for printing.
Woke up. Saved manuscript to USB, using bed desk for the last time. Cried a little. Put on clothes that weren’t pyjama-based for the first time in days. Had a breakfast of paracetamol and cough mixture (does not go well with coffee). Dropped the youngster at school, went to appointment, printed manuscript, went to another appointment, came home, used desk desk to write this blog post. And here we are.
Today two medical-type people have asked me if I’ve had the flu that’s been going around. It’s tailing off now, leaving a lingering tiredness and a husky come-hither voice. Four days at the bed desk were, as it turned out, awesome for productivity. My mind was still functioning, and if I did anything more physical than type my body told me to get back to bed desk quick smart. Mind you, there could be a stack of random Eurovision lyrics in there now. It was strong cough syrup.
The manuscript is on its way to the next stage, and I’ve rediscovered this story and characters. They’re under my skin again, and much has been happening in the public arena lately that’s given me a renewed energy to get this story Out There.
The last few weeks have been a push with short nights of sleep and long days of writing, but they’ve shown me I can do it if I make the time. I was relieved that I could use being sick as a reason to say no to a couple of things – then caught myself. What’s wrong with saying ‘I can’t, I need to write?’