On Re-Reading, Re-Writing And Arithmetic

Things seemed so easy. Just zip through the ending that I’d already  
mapped out, nail a few scenes, drop some exclamation points, throw in  
some gratuitous nudity and I’d be finished. Or finished with this  
draft until my advisor skewered it (in a constructive way!) at least.  
But it turns out that life isn’t always the easy road that they make  
it out to be on the first season of Lost.  So instead of just  
plodding forward happily, I started to re-read my book from the  
beginning. And then I started to freak out. It seems, not enough was  
happening to my characters. Sh*t needed to go down in a much more  
intense and forceful manner. People needed to be put in awkward  
positions. Choices needed to be made. Adverbs toned down. Exclamation  
points undropped.

In lieu of completely losing my mind, I decided to semi-rationally  
read through the book again with a pen and a pad and take note of the  
places that needed some more conflict, where things needed to be  
ramped up, toned down, or excused from existing. This took an entire  
day, but it had the end result of making me much more confident about  
the state of my book (almost readable!) while staving off any desire  
to self-medicate.

And now I feel the need to do those things before I turn in this  
draft. Which might take a few more days. Yes, this could make my  
advisor curse the day that I forced her to sign an exclusive advisor  
for life contract, but at least she didn’t actually prick her finger  
and stamp the contract with blood, like I’d asked. And if this draft  
is better, then my next draft will be better, which means I will have  
to spend less time on the back end making the excuses that i’m trying  
to make right now, which will no doubt improve relations with the PR  
firm hired to promote my work. And that, friends, is how you publish  
a book!!!

Class dismissed.


On to more general topics: (several of) the people have spoken and  
it’s generally agreed that I am lazy and need to step up my blog  
game. With that said, I will now be posting at least twice a week,  
usually Mondays and Thursdays. At least one of these posts per week  
will be of choice quality. The other will be, like, pretty good.

Enjoy the remnants of the week and the weekend. My friend Frank is  
coming into town, utilizing his spring break from law school in balmy  
Virginia to spend some time in the winter wonderland of Boston.  
Obviously, he didn’t think this through.

And PS- I’m planning on milking the songs of 1998 for all they’re worth.

Pretty Fly,
(For A White Guy)

The Offspring

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10 thoughts on “On Re-Reading, Re-Writing And Arithmetic

  1. Kevin Alexander

    First drafts are the ugly, embarrassing, really, really wealthy step-uncles with none of their own children of the writing process. You have to sit with them for awhile and ignore the bad stuff they say so that you kind of get where they’re coming from and they feel comfortable enough around you to open up but you know that if you do it for long enough, eventually they’ll die and leave you their money (second drafts).

    Wow. That’s a terrible metaphor.

  2. Tom

    Okay, this is making a lot more sense now. Yep, Awkward is what I still had stuck in my head. Somewhere along the line I missed a few crucial details. Does this mean my fan club membership is going to be revoked?

    I agree with other thoughts here concerning the rewrite process as well. In fact, last night I sat there staring at the slowly growing second page of draft one and thought, "Why do I have to write the first draft? I’d much rather go straight to rewrite, ’cause it seems like the REAL good stuff doesn’t settle in until I’ve gone through something three times." Or is that just me?

  3. Anna

    I was wondering if you could tell me how you do this thing here with this site. It’s something I would like to do but I’m not computer literate enought to figure out how.

  4. Lisa Bakewell

    Good to know that we can look forward to reading about your escapades twice a week. It’s always fun to come here for a laugh. I really enjoy your blog.

    By the way, I wonder if there are as many Google hits for "Anne Lamont" as Anne Lamott? I’m sure she gets her name messed up all the time. I know that with my last name, Bakewell, I’m asked how to spell it on a regular basis. Go figure. The response after I spell it: "Oh…just how it sounds." Duh…


  5. Kevin Alexander

    Thomas- I think we have some sort of miscommunique re: what my novel is about and I think I understand why. Back in the day, (three-ish years ago)when I first started writing for WD, I was trying to sell a book of essays based on my middle school life, titled Awkward. These–it turns out–we’re not very good, mostly because I’d written them all when I was 20-22. Also because nothing exciting happened in my life either.

    Then I entered the MFA program and began work on the novel that I’ve been so lovingly referring to in real time. The novel is about a made up college and involves an assault, fraternities, and several conversations about RBI baseball. I hope this unnecessarily long explanation clears things up.

  6. Robbie



    butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high
    take a look, it’s in a book, it’s reading rainbow

    I can do anything
    friends to know, and ways to grow
    reading rainbow

  7. Genevieve

    I like to think of rewriting as practice, and with consistant practice you can only get better. Especially if you’re continuing to learn, which you are. Keep it up, man. Tom’s right, you’ve already got an audience waiting to read it. Have you ever read Anne Lamont’s article "The Sh*tty First Draft?" It glorifies rewriting. Glad to know we’ll get more updates on your progress and the hippies as well.

    Thanks for the heads-up on the Diablo Cody interview. I don’t care what the fashion world says, her leopard print,tattoo-revealing evening gown at The Oscars was elegance personified.

  8. Mindy

    "…where things needed to be ramped up, toned down, or excused from existing." Hilarious and oh so true! The latter is what I did to most of my first and second draft. Keep on keeping on.

  9. Tom

    Mondays and Thursdays! Kick***! My life just got better, even if I’m still broke and unpublished in the fiction field. This is probably the best news I’ve received all week, although it’s not Friday yet, so my life could become oustandingly amazing in just 24 hours. Look, it IS possible.

    So, lemme get this straight, you read your ENTIRE book in a day? I’m not throwing darts, just getting my mind around it. I’m taking it that the reread wasn’ that sort of "where’s my microscope and scalpel, this thing will dissolve into a sea of red" sort of reread, but perhaps it was a sort of visual whitewash pass by the eyes, broadly painted brush strokes and whatnot? You know, by the time you get done with this thing, there are gonna be all kinds of people who want to read it just to see how all the clamoring resolved itself over these many months – or, I guess we’re into years now aren’t we? Has it been that long? I must say, I’m amazed, impressed, and envious that youre middle school life has been fascinating enough to warrant a novel. Mine could be summed up during the flip between the end of a Tide commercial and the return back to a rerun of The Wonder Years – just that blip between the two. I’ve not got your sort of excitement, obviously.

    I think I’ve written way too much here now, so I’m just gonna stop typing n


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