Periscope Depth

if you can’t convince him I guess it’s not cheating

I’ve been writing “seriously” – sitting down and working on a novel on a schedule – for about three years now. But I’ve never tried rewriting until recently (my third manuscript). This isn’t too bad. No one should try to sell their first novel. But it’s such a different process from writing that it’s like I’m learning to walk again. Writing is easy: you sit down for an hour, string words together, marvel at your own eloquence, log off once the timer goes DING and eat a cookie. I’m surprised more people don’t try it.

But rewriting is hard. Rewriting is like coaching your gifted 7-year-old at baseball. You love him, so you keep at it. But you have to be firm. You also have to be a good coach and keep drilling him on the fundamentals. But you can’t smother him or he’ll never grow. And you can’t call it quits just because he starts pouting. And as the clock rolls around to hour #2 of batting practice, you start wondering if maybe you’re pushing him too hard. Am I investing too much in his success at this one sport?, you think. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if he weren’t a baseball prodigy, right? But then he shows you some flash of athletic brilliance and you know you have to keep at it. For his sake. He’ll thank you some day, if he still wants to talk to you.

One of the great things about the Kindle is that you can download a sample of any book they sell for free. This sample usually covers the first chapter or two for a modern thriller (the genre I write in). Coincidentally, this is about as much as an agent or editor wants to see before asking for the rest of the manuscript. So, at the advice of three different people from Muse and the Marketplace, I downloaded the first two chapters of Harlan Coben’s Tell No One. Man. People talk about economy of language and tight pacing but he’s got it down. In the first two chapters, we’ve met and fallen in love with the protagonist’s wife, only to see her get mysteriously murdered. Then we meet the protagonist’s friends, whom we suspect will be his allies in investigating some new mystery. And we get a hook to draw us in further.

Masterful stuff. And it inspired me to get back to work.