Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Titanic Book Launch & Teachable Moment

When in my classes, I plead, beg, urge, encourage my students not simply to write but to re-write, many have no idea how much the rewrite means to me; they've no conception of how many rewrites I do to get a page, a scene, a chapter right. Not just right but perfectly right to my final perfect LIKING.  Of course, it is not always easy to determine when it's as good as it's going to get, but there comes a moment in the many rewrites of a scene or chapter that screams at you--you're DONE DONE.  But then you turn it over to a number of editors, and guess what?  You're not done.

However, you've now been away from the story long enough--or that chapter long enough--that you can be objective with it and yourself, so that when suggestions anew are made, you can deal with them without freaking out (as the younger generation is want to say). The story or scene or chapter is not correctable inside your head, and so the first and rough drafts have to be produced before you can ever get to the process of rewriting and revamping and reorganizing and re-this and re-that. Once it is out of the gray matter and on the white page, you now have product to work mold and shape, to hammer and saw...and you see it and feel it as a product rather than nebulous, foggy thoughts and voices careening about your mind's deepest recesses and corridors.

Some authors say they hate the rewrite and this is understandable because once a story's been told (the plot is put on paper), it can't help but get old; it gets older as your rewrite, too. However, in my own case, I get my best lines and most inspiration and insights into character(s) and best plot twists and the occasional ingenious idea or "movement" in the action or situation during the laborious rewrites. Whole incidents not there before worm their way in, insisting on being a part; whole new characters crop up insisting on being in the story. Layers develop and the once straightforward story takes on a character of the onion needing to be peeled away so as to get at the core. Themes emerge that were not there until that sixth, seventh, or tenth rewrite.

This certainly has been the case with my Children of Salem, a purely historical novel set in Salem Witch Hunt days wherein our hero is trying to conduct a courting of his childhood sweetheart when her mother is excommunicated and locked up as a witch....and this was certainly true of my 11-book medical examiner series begun with Killer Instinct and predating Bones and Silence of the Lambs.  This was definitely the case with my recently completed and gone on sale Kindle Original entitled Titanic 2012 - Curse of RMS Titanic.  The thing grew and grew with each successive rewrite, and I believe and feel with all my heart that it grew for the better and not the worse.

Chapter 30 - wow, many times did I have to rewrite Chapter 30, far more than all the other chapters, and why? For one, it needed a great deal of attention from the get-go and a lot of rewriting even before I turned it over to early readers/editors. Knowing I need all the help I can get and not shying from that fact, I had as many folks read the early, ugly drafts as I could manage to find. The book was torn from limb to limb, as my early readers did not spare the rod or spoil the child/book...nor did they spare the slings and arrows for its author. "How couuuld you?"/ "Call yourself an English Professor, do you?"/ "What were you thinking?"/ "Are you sure you want to be a writer?"/ "Ever et raw meat?" ---OK, I exaggerate and none of my early readers are that blunt or harsh, but I KNEW what they were thinking.

Chapter 30 - as with other chapters just required so much attention in large part due to the fact I had NO idea what I was talking about. I knew what I wanted to say, what I wanted to accomplish, but as my final editor pointed out, he being a genius with special effects of the science fiction order: "You'd be laughed off the face of the Earth had "THAT" gone to press." Fortunately, Robert Farley Jr. was tough on me and blunt. It would have been the equivalent of a street cop using a frilly girly-girly gun on the job had I not had this friend's help in the sci-fi areas of the futuristic scenes. As I said, I knew what I wanted to get across, had it all sketched out in fact--but man was it was damned "rough" until my friend and early reader/editor got hold of it. Together we went back at it again and again as it was not so easy for any of us either to get this scene across and keep all of its surreal dream aspect intact along with the floating dead, zombies in a true Dead Zone. I needed help with the sub, with the breathing apparatus, the liquid air--its scientific name, with how men might find a dead zone and how it would look and feel, a zone inside Titanic where no life, not even microscopic, lived--where only my hero alone becomes the sole life form. While having fun with the discovery of the 1912 cargo of automobiles. Final writing was a matter of many honings.

So never discount the power of the Re-Write and what it does for your story, scene, chapter, novel. With that, I leave you with a buy link for a novel you can have in your hands in ANY format thanks to Kindle store philosophy of not being exclusive. Find Titanic 2012 at: - A Titanic book launching it is, too. Amazon Reviews are up as well!

Please do leave a comment....would love to hear stories of reWrite that saved your scene!

Robert W. Walker (Rob)


Morgan Mandel said...

I enjoy the editing process at the beginning, but I hate the part where I have to check each word to make sure I didn't add an extra letter or miss one for some odd reason.

Fantastic book and fantastic cover! I can't decide who is more talented, you or your son, Stephen!

Morgan Mandel

Rosalie Marsh. Author said...

Thanks you Rob for that tutorial. My problem is that I take is as a personal slight on my abilities if someone criticises / makes comments which are not always positive. Your lesson teaches me not to be but to simply look at the product as I would with an inanimate thing or development in my learning materials or an assignment for a qualification and to move it from the 'personal' to the impersonal'.

Rosalie Marsh