There is a certain point in the writing of a book when you lose touch with reality.
This was the plan: I was going to whiz through finishing the first rewrite just before the holidays, pass it to my substantive editor (a.k.a. The Boy), who’d somehow magically edit 50 chapters while in crunch time at work, celebrating Christmas, and dealing with a cold, just in time for me to do the second rewrite, and pass it to my copy editor right around New Year’s.
I swear it seemed doable in the middle of December. Have to admit, though, that seeing it in writing like that does emphasize the crazy.
Taking a few days off from everything and focusing on Christmas allowed for reason to return. As did a mutated version of the cold I’d had before the holidays, causing a drastic drop in energy. And that’s when I realized something important.
The only way I would finish the second rewrite in time for New Year’s was if that DeLorean could gobeyond October of last year.
And also that even if I were somehow able to warp the time-space continuum and finish as the clock struck midnight, it would go against a very basic tenet of my life. Namely that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. It applies to a remarkable number of situations, including this one.
I learned many things from writing and publishing Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tools for Treatment, Side Effects and Pain. Among the most important were these two.
One: Every single stage of writing and publishing a book always takes longer than you anticipate.
Two: You should never rush any of it.
The goal of all of this is to send out a book that is as good as I can make it so it will be worth your time. And that requires more than a crazed rush to an artificial deadline. In On Writing, Stephen King talk about the importance of putting your book down to rest for a couple of months and do something else entirely to clear your mind and heart of everything that’s consumed them. Only then will you be able to look at your book with the objectivity a proper rewrite requires.
I’ve had a hard time shifting my perspective from the close-up narrow focus it takes to write the book, to the broader perspective and wider focus you need when rewriting. Right now, it all seems really good, hardly in need of messing with at all.
And that just can’t be true.
In order for your writing to be as good as it can possibly be, you must kill your darlings. You have to be prepared to take your favourite lines and your most treasured words, and strike them from your work. In order to properly permit that kind of murder, you have to be able to see that perhaps they are too much, too twee, too self-indulgent, too… everything.
And to do that, you need distance.
For the next two months, I’m going to do something completely different. I’m not quite sure what it’ll be yet, but I’m going to forget about my baby.
And then I’ll come back to make it the best I possibly can so it deserves being in your hands.