Today I begin to rewrite my 4th novel. Novel number 3 lies like Sleeping Beauty awaiting the appearance of an agent. I am hopeful the 3rd will be published but am uncertain whether it will be through the small or main stream press. Either way, I shall work to give it life just as a mother struggles to give birth to her child. In the meantime, I labor with the new piece, hoping my skills grow with my practice.
A rewrite can be a tedious affair. The story begins in an amorphous form and must now be shaped, not with chisels and sandpaper, the tools of the sculpture, but with attention to words. Each one must justify its existence or be banished. Eliminating entire paragraphs might become necessary, despite their flow or cherished imagery. Today’s readers are impatient with too much embellishment. They have so many claims upon their time.
I’ve asked myself why tastes have altered. Were he writing today, Charles Dickens would no doubt quarrel with his editor over his copious words. I’m pretty sure the change isn’t due to shortened attention spans, though some experts have suggested as much. Nor am I convinced that we work harder than our forefathers. No, it isn’t that we have more to do; we have more choices. At a restaurant, for example, try settling on a salad dressing or listening to the list of house specials without your eyes glazing over and you’ll know what I mean.
Our lives are so enriched with radio, television, movies, cell phones, social networks and twitters that the frenzy to engage overtakes us. The simple act of sitting alone to read seems an act of courage. It’s a form of abstinence, a withdrawal from the hive where we feel most connected. To obtain a reader’s attention for a minute or an hour is a gift. A writer should remember this and refuse to fall in love with his voice. The rewrite should be brutal and free of excess verbiage. Careful editing shows respect for the time a reader has to give.