Rewrites

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If you’re a writer who has undertaken the task of rewriting any one of your stories, please allow me to give you a hug, some cuddles, and ten boxes of your favourite candy.

If you’re a reader, you get a hug and the cuddles too. But, you’re going to have to send me the candy instead. Or make it a cinnamon roll. I love those!

Over the years (and by that I mean more than two decades), I’ve written a lot of stories. There was a time I even began to write poetry. But then one night, William Butler Yeats appeared to me in a dream, and his message was simple.

Do not fuck around with poetry.”

I stopped fucking around with poetry.

Life went on, and I wrote more and more, then less and less, and eventually I just got back into it and didn’t stop. I never shared my work with anyone for the longest time, but slowly I began to get out of that extremely private writing convent I’d mentally cloistered myself in, and when I did, everything changed.

I maintained a blog for a few years, where I posted my ramblings, articles on social issues and whatever else I felt the need to write about.

When I began publishing stories online, they were to my surprise, well received. But, by then my attention was already shifting from simply writing out pieces on this or that. Although at the time I wasn’t certain as to what it was shifting towards.

I carried on that way for a while, regardless of the uncertainty. Some stories turned out nice enough, some got left unfinished, some were tossed in the bin, and a few never made it past the idea stage. I was restless and it was starting to show.

Then, about a year or so ago and completely on a whim, I began writing a story which was at the outset very different from anything I’d written before. I could feel it every-time I got to penning down the characters in the tale.

As they grew, the story grew, and so did my readership. So much so, that I would most likely have become overwhelmed by the response the story got, had it not been for my mind which remained oblivious to almost everything around.

I became obsessively focused. I spent most nights writing till the sun came up and it was time for my kids to get ready for school. My free time was spent on thinking, researching, debating with myself, researching some more. I jotted down notes on whatever was at hand, and, for five straight months I literally ignored or became oblivious to almost everything in my life, and I just kept writing till the story’s end. Over 600,000 words. I still don’t know how.

When it was finished, I told myself to take a break, and try to ignore the emails from friends telling me to “Just publish it already!” Within a week I jumped into another project, and then another. A few months later the restlessness returned and ignoring it, I continued writing.

But, my heart wasn’t in it anymore, the story I’d completed still played on my mind. So like a complete fool, I began yet another writing project. (So many falls guys. There are so many falls when you’re a writer.)

Eventually I reached a point where I was just writing for the sake of getting the words out, while all around me people still wanted to read the story I’d finished months before. The emails still arrived, and advise from friends telling me to edit the manuscript didn’t stop. And, it made me so miserable, I knew I was in trouble.

improve

So, one day, I was browsing through my folders and opened up “the” story which had not long before taken over my life. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to read it and maybe consider all the advice.

I began to read.

When I reached chapter five, I closed the document and moved it to the Recycle Bin.

A few days later, I restored it back to the folder and read chapters six through eleven. I closed the damn thing again, but this time it didn’t go to the bin.

That night after everyone was in bed, I fixed myself a pot of strong coffee, sat down in my little balcony and began to read the story from the start and as if someone else had written it. By morning I was done, and for the rest of the day, the coffee machine stayed on, the cup near me somehow got repeatedly refilled and everything around me faded to black while I attacked that document with a vengeance.

By that evening I had the first outline of my second write on the story completed, five character sketches in place, and a general plot line with enough open ends for me to mull over at a later date. When I finally closed my groaning laptop, I spent some well deserved time with my kids, gave them dinner, got them to bed and then I collapsed and slept for ten straight hours.

After that came the difficult part. Telling the ones I wanted to tell.

To my husband I said (and with a lot of false bravado) “I’ve decided to rewrite my story, because what I wrote before was really just the first draft of it.”

He barely glanced up from the book he was reading. “OK.”

OK? I mean… Seriously? OK? That’s all I got from the man I made mushy vows before God and people to? O-fucking-K.

I stifled the urge to strangle him, popped open my laptop and began clacking away, ignoring his annoyingly smirking face.

Next up were two people I was literally dying to tell. But, I put it off for a few days, and eventually just sort of slid it into a conversation we were having. “Um, so guys, I was thinking… and um… I feel I should, you know… rewrite my story.”

I can swear I heard Sahar’s excited (and disturbingly orgasmic) shrieks all the way from Lahore to Karachi. She also and very smugly mentioned several times how she just knew I was going to pull this at some point. And that she’d been waiting for it.

I wanted to spank her with a hairbrush for all my months of misery that her otherwise mouthy mouth could have prevented.

Chani was a lot more calm. But, that’s Chan. She’s our guru of balance and zen.

If that’s what you want to do, Anne, you should do it. Because, it’s a great story.”

And that was that.

Rafa was a combination of both. She was excited but not shrieky, calm but not zen. She promised to read and write me wordy essays on each chapter. Sometimes her essasys are longer than the chapter, but she’s thorough, and does a great job of dissecting every word I write. I allow her to do that, because you know, one day… Free family doctor!

I began to write. I asked a few people who I trust have a critical eye to read it. They haven’t rolled their eyes at any of the chapters yet. So, I’m optimistic.

Moral of the story? Rewrites are important. They’re very important. You write, you re-read, you rewrite and then you do it again and again till your story is as close to perfect as you can get it.

And every celebrated author, or writer worth their salt will tell you that. Because, every celebrated author and writer of any worth has never, and will never consider their first write of a story to be the finished product after editing it for typos and drawing up a fancy book cover.

That’s not writing. And, it’s certainly not respecting the art, the reader who buys the book, or your talent and skill.

Writing is hard work. It’s not going from Word document to New York Times Bestseller list in one, swift and easy move. It takes time to get the writing right, it takes patience, it takes a lot from you. And, you willingly give it.

You keep giving, because at the end of the day, it’s your chosen craft, not something you’re doing to have your ego stroked. Like a lump of clay it needs to be molded and refined, then polished and painted. Sometimes the lump won’t amount to much, but you give your hands a rinse and keep at it till it does. One day, it might turn into something great. Maybe it won’t, but that’s OK too.

There will always be plenty more lumps of clay left over to try with again.

~*~

©Anne J. Dias – 2013

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22 thoughts on “Rewrites

  1. You know it’s disturbing when after some 30 straight hours at work , I don’t think about bed but your post. And what is even more bizarre is the million dollar smile on my face when it should be sulking from the lack of zzz’s. But then a tiny voice whispers in my ear, ” you love Anne’s work”, sign, the heart is captured and fingers press the buttons, while the fangirl flag flutters with pride.

    20 years, did my eyes read it correctly, oh my Anne, the selfish in me just cannot stop thinking about all the lost treasure clove of words you are hiding. I really cannot help but appreciate how glad I am that you are sharing your writing process, it’s so inspiring and makes me appreciate your hard work even more. I still feel that a mere comment from a mortal reader like me cannot justify the magic you guys create. In your characters we tend to escape and have that moment of solitude.

    This whole experience makes you so real , a very refreshing insight into the working of a writer. Also, glad you point out how the job is not done with mere words on a document, sometimes we ridicule a book without bothering the sentiments and the efforts of it’s author. This generates immense respect.

    Now how curious i am about this story you mentioned, cannot wait for you to share it with us , whenever you feel us worthy enough to appreciate it. So glad you guys have each other to bounce off ideas, materials and just for being there. Reminds me of , Sisters of travelling pants.

    Loads of love, hugs, cuddles and ofcourse the cinnamon roll!

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  2. Where do I send the candy and the cinnamon roles, also, which ones? Dunkin Donut ka chalay ga ya Cinnabon ka? .
    I love reading your work and would love to read all the rewrites too.

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  3. Hey Anne, will it be appropriate enough if I ask how hot was Yeats ? or better, can we ever hope to read your fuckingly awesome poetry?

    I feel like sending you the macaroons, the fudge cake and the yummy Belgium waffles. Just so you know, I control myself from not spamming your wall!

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  4. Oh..you are putting a lot of effort there into that story..:)

    I dont think you are gonna reveal which story you are rewriting and its gonna be revealed in its own good time..so all the best..!!
    And yeah, where do we send all the candies and stuff??!..

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  5. To be honest here, I haven’t had any chance to read any of your work. But I would love to read all of them, like they are now or the rewritten doesn’t matter because I will read and thats why I am here. Oh my god, you have been writing for that long? Take your time and if your comfortable with sharing your work with us then you can do so. It must be awesome either way.

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  6. Anne dear … have always known that the effort and time that you give your stories and writing is of mammoth dimension … and it is greatly appreciated … and also realise that that is just not enough considering what you all go through … wish there was some other way of showing real gratitude … wish I could pack a real hug your way to let you know what your efforts mean to all of us … along with all the other goodies mentioned above … Belgian waffles etc etc etc …
    Am just waiting for the re-written version of one of your stories eagerly … am just wondering which one it is going to be …

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  7. Im not a writer but i think i do know how much energy goes into writing… i have a hard time writing my comments :P…its never thought through.. i just write whatever comes to my mind… i was not even a reader till IPK came along… my love for that show/characters made me a reader… as a reader i would like to thank all the writers for sharing their wonderful work with us!!
    Thanks a lot.. Dil se! 🙂
    oh and all the best!!

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  8. Aha I love these post where you give us insight into who you are behind tr words of the amazing stories you write…and you are absolutely correct that writing is in art and you have to have a great deal of passion (and your 2 decades of experience…) to be able to orchestrate!
    And believe me, your hard work is very much appreciated 🙂 ohh aha yes where should the cinnabuns be sent to( I loveee those)?

    Looking forward to more of your work and this mystery story 😛

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  9. Hi guys

    Onam vacation is on. My kid is at home full time.  Cant read even news paper nowadays. Please dont delete me from the list. I will read and comment.

    Please

    Love Smitha

    ________________________________

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  10. Yes, I screamed, we’re Punjabi, we’re known to do that, so no, I don’t apologise for the strain on your ears :p Deal with it.

    Re-writing, in not so many polite words, is a bitch. It is one nasty, mean, vindictive, obsessive bitch which makes you wonder why you wrote anything in the first place because now you have to slave over it! But God, once the bitch is pleased with what you’ve achieved… there is nothing in the world like that accomplishment.

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  11. Its fascinating to read how you developed as a writer, from a closet writer, to one that is now very well known among us, from a blogger to a person who now is rewriting with the intention of publishing. It was all very fascinating and inspiring, to say the least.

    You’re right, it must take so much effort to rewrite things, you know you would have to critique yourself (which is easier said than done), have new ideas to incorporate into the already perfect story to make it better for the world out there, and most of all, you would have to trust yourself to do better, fox ex. I mean when I code, I look at it again and again and say write it more efficiently and stuff like that, but there are only so many ways a logical program can be written. But with a story, it can be written in a million different ways, and the characters can be moulded in whichever way you want, and all of that, finding the right balance takes time, and immense amount of toiling over. I am so glad you are doing that, and I am proud that you have passed the first barrier already, that is to get up and start. And with a story like yours, it never should have been in the recycle bin, and that story particularly resides in a lot of our hearts.

    So I from the bottom of my heart, wish you the best for re-writing the story, and many more stories to come until it fulfills your heart and what you wrote does justice to what you set out your story to portray. Your stories are journey’s sweetheart, and you better not stop until you reach your destination.

    LOve,
    Pankti

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  12. Wow …. That’s work work and work . It’s tons of effort . I am not a writer so cant say have been there, but can imagine how difficult it would be. You have this real world with husband / kids who need you attention and then you have your stories . I don’t know how you switch on or off or is it always on . It’s like multi tasking all the time . The work I have read has been fantastic . Hope you do publish some soon and all the best for for current one.

    I might send you some dark chocolate, but for now please work with this ☕

    – Neha

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  13. wot? I missed this one great how? anyways u r from Karachi really wao lol I never knew even when u wrote in tht Christmas deserts post of urs tht if anyone wants to get any in Karachi to let u know I thought u r talking abt Sahar…. btw I just love ur frndship

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  14. There go all my dreams to make it to the NY Times BestSeller list. I cannot for the love of me go back and work on the story. The characters simply cease to acknowledge me. I am stumped. I wrote once and I still have the document in a folder buried somewhere underneath piles of other junk.

    Surely there is some famous writer who did it in one shot? I refuse to take no for an answer!

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  15. Thanks for the insight into how you write. The hours, the madness, the urge to get the words out – these emotions you go through to write & then take it up to rewrite it reveal a bit about ground work for a story to emerge for us to read.

    Obviously writing is in your DNA, as you have grown from being a closet writer to a published one taking more than 2 decades. Its also great you have this close circle of friends of the same ilk who you can sound your ideas out to. That is why you clubbed up together I suppose.

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  16. You are an amazing writer. Thanks for sharing the amount of effort, be it the amount of time spent in researching, writing, rewriting etc. not many writers talk about the amount of effort they put in. You have eloquently put it.

    Wow! 20 yrs gives you more insight to the way you play around with words and the thought you put into it. Thanks for sharing the small but important day to day topics.

    And tones of hugs for the write ups – always.

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