I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more beautiful e-mail subject line as “Offer of Representation” An agent, a bonafide agent at a bonafide agency read what I wrote and loved it. Though my friends and family smiled and encouraged me, I also knew they loved me so they couldn’t exactly fling the document in my face and scream the horror! the horror! But an agent could, and so many did, albeit not in so many words, they were more polite like, Thank you for your interest. We are not interested. So naturally when the offer came, and the contract arrived in the mail and I signed with my favorite black pen, I felt relieved and wanted to take a nice long nap. I was done. Except a few hours later my agent e-mailed me with an attachment of my manuscript with so many suggestions I felt bewildered, you did like this didn’t you?
I felt my heart get sucker punched as I saw cherished sentences I spent hours revising slashed, charachters whose perspectives I spent days imagining, red inked as unnecessary. I read somewhere that when you get agent/editor feedback you must read it like you would swallow a bitter pill, quickly with scrunched shoulders. Then, put it away for a while and go back to it.
So I did. And the next day I grudgingly realized that yes, that sentence could be done away with, we don’t need to know what this character is thinking as it doesn’t move the story forward. In this way I slowly began rewriting, and now that I’ve finished, I look at the finished product and I am amazed at how much better this manuscript is.
I remember asking Ms. Bruno in 10th grade English after reading a beautiful haunting poem by Edgar Allen Poe, do you think he had to rewrite this at all? She looked at me like I asked her if babies grow on trees. Everyone, even the greats, perhaps especially the greats, rewrite. Any book you will ever read on writing will tell you to brace yourself for the first draft because it will stink and you will want to fling it into the first available source of burning lumber you can find. It is in the rewrites that a book gets beautiful and worthy of anyone’s else’s eyes but yours.
In some ways life is like that. When we first began communicating we babbled. When we first walked we staggered. Most of us study for the grades we get, practice the cuisines we have now perfected. Life is rife with first drafts, opportunities we refine and from which we grow.
I remind myself this as I sit down, ready to begin the first draft of another story. I see her in my head and I know what she is wearing. I see the lines of worry etched on her forehead. I will sit down tonight and write about her. I am prepared for a first draft that will smell like two day old tuna, but I know that as with all things in life, the beauty is in the refining, the polishing until it shines like gold.