Today is my deadline for submitting the manuscript of Bitter Seeds to my editor at Tor. I’m very happy to say that I beat the deadline by four days. Hooray!
In fact, I could have submitted the manuscript almost two months ago, but I’m an incorrigible rewriter. (And I’d like to think that it’s now a stronger manuscript than it was two months ago.) After finishing the first draft, I spent about six weeks on a fairly extensive cover-to-cover rewrite. Part of that was simply because I know the characters so much better now than I did when I started this book, and also because my skills have (I hope) improved a little bit over the course of writing it. (Which was the sole purpose of this exercise when I first contemplated it.) But I’d also acquired many great notes and suggestions on this book via workshopping, and most of those didn’t get incorporated into the first draft. That’s what second drafts are for.
Editing and rewriting is my favorite part of the writing process — I rewrite better than I write. I enjoy working on something that’s already on paper, filing down the burrs, slicing away the imprecision, finding more succinct ways to express myself. (Something I obviously never do here.) It’s rewarding. I suppose it’s a little bit like polishing rocks– the first draft is coarse, jagged, dirt-crusted prose. But after quality time in the tumbler (or, in my case, with a red ballpoint pen) it turns into something different. Smooth. Shiny. Purty. Well, purtier than it was, anyway.
I enjoy physically seeing the improvements in a draft. So I do most of my editing and rewriting on paper, with a red pen. For some reason, my brain works more effectively at a keyboard when I’m doing the original composition, but it works more effectively with pen and paper when I’m doing revisions. Every experiment with reversing that has ended in failure. So, for Bitter Seeds, I printed out all 500-plus pages of the first draft and stuck them into a 3-ring binder. (The fattest binder that Office Depot hadin stock at the moment, as a matter of fact.) Then I sat down with a pen and a cup of coffee, and opened the binder to page one.
That’s not to say the book is finished. Not by any means. An entire cycle of editorial notes and revisions looms in the future. I’m looking forward to that, because it will make the book smoother and shinier. But for now, as of today (well, four days ago) the current manuscript represents my very best effort. Burrs and all.