Some of you may be wondering why I completely abandoned my blog for the last two months. (Most of you are probably now scratching your heads and going, “You weren’t blogging? I mean, yeeeahhhh, I TOTALLY noticed!”) I hope you’ve been picturing me on a grand and epic journey of some sort, having adventures and gathering wisdom. In real life, I’ve been sitting here alone in my apartment since January 10th, rewriting my second novel from scratch. But despite the complete lack of adventures, I HAVE gathered some wisdom, and I’m here to share it with you.
How to Rewrite Your Book From Scratch in 75 Days (and Not Die), A Step-by-Step Guide
Day 1: Receive a call from your agent. “You’re going to be getting your edit letter for book two today,” she says, “but your editor wanted me to call and prepare you first. It’s going to be a lot of work. She also wanted me to reassure you that she doesn’t hate you or your writing.” At this point, prepare cookies and tissues. You’re going to need them shortly.
One hour later, receive the actual edit letter, which essentially says, “Characters and emotional arcs? Decent. Your plot? Not so much. Please delete all of it and try again. You have eight weeks.” Remember those tissues you just prepared? Reach for them. Cry for three continuous hours while furiously texting all your writer friends about how your editor DOES in fact hate both you and your writing. Blast “Shake It Out” by Florence and the Machine on repeat because you really need to hear the line, “It’s always darkest before the dawn” seven thousand times. Eat eight cookies and go to bed.
Day 2: Decide you have been sulking long enough and get to work. Wait for your critique partners to appear on g-chat, then ambush them and force them to have epic brainstorming sessions with you. Flail a lot.
Day 4: Get sick. Naturally.
Day 5: Hit on an idea for a new plot. Rejoice! Grudgingly admit that your editor was right, because if you can pull it off, this new plot will be way better than the old one. Then realize implementing the new plot will mean deleting 70,000 words of your existing manuscript. Stop rejoicing and eat more cookies.
Day 7: Meet with your editor (by phone, ’cause you’re still sick) and pitch her your new plot. Do a quiet happy dance when she says, “Oh, this sounds SO much better!” Negotiate for an additional four weeks to write it. As soon as you get off the phone, realize this new plot will require intensive research on subjects you know nothing about. Eat more cookies.
Days 8-16: Spend fourteen hours a day doing research. Google everything from “how to paint an elephant’s toenails” to “New Delhi goat farm” to “Indonesian marriage practices” to “tallest chimney in Scotland.” Interview reality show contestants and field producers. Watch episode after episode of The Amazing Race while taking copious notes. Read other people’s reality-television-based books to make sure yours will be completely different.
Days 17-18: Make a comprehensive outline of your new book.
Day 19: Start rewriting. Before you actually highlight those 70,000 words and hit delete, make sure you have more cookies ready. It’s going to hurt.
Days 20-61: Wake in a panic every day at 6:00 AM, wondering why you haven’t yet finished your daily word count. Get sick again, twice. Eat an entire bag of Cadbury mini-eggs in four days (unrelated.) Buy a new laptop when your graphics card dies with no warning. Find yourself doing things like wandering aimlessly in a sleet storm in search of chocolate-covered potato chips. Fall on the ice, bruise your tailbone, and attempt to do days’ worth of writing while lying down, your legs propped on a giant pillow shaped like an owl. Cease the following activities altogether: showering, wearing clothes other than pajamas, cleaning, venturing out of the house, knowing what day it is, talking about things other than your deadline, eating food that hasn’t been delivered to your door by a non-English-speaking guy on a bike, seeing other humans besides that guy on a bike. Realize near the middle of February that you’ve just written 50K words in 30 days and have accidentally done NaNoWriMo (in the wrong month.) Watch A LOT of Gilmore Girls, because it’s the only thing your brain can focus on after very long days of writing. Read ELEANOR AND PARK, which is so good you almost throw your new laptop out the window and quit writing.
Day 62: Finish a new first draft. EXTREME REJOICING.
Days 63-66: Read over new first draft. Discover that it is terrible—amazingly, you have managed to write something both too action-packed AND too boring. Insert comments in the margins as you read, many of which just say things like, “Noooooooo” and “Just… make this better” and “OH DEAR GOD THIS SUCKS.” When you’re finished, discover you have inserted 450+ comments. Curl into a small ball and text all your writer friends things like, “I hate this book with every fiber of my being.”
Days 67-74: Uncurl and address allllllll the comments, one by one, in order.
Day 75: Delete that last comment. Send complete draft to several critique partners, attached to emails that say, “This might suck, please don’t judge me.”
And that brings us up to speed.
Starting today, I am taking a week off from writing, because I have lost all perspective on this book (and everything else in my life.) This morning, I was awake for all of eight minutes before I started getting twitchy about the fact that I wasn’t working. But I will fight it. I will bake muffins. I will read something I didn’t write. I will go to museums and see movies and pour new information into my poor depleted brain, which I’ve been wringing out like a sponge for the last 75 days, long past the point where there was nothing left in it. And then I will spend two more weeks revising, and I will turn this sucker in. Because despite what I thought 75 days ago, this book is NOT going to kill me.
To everyone I have ignored/driven insane over the past 75 days, I am so sorry. Please forgive me. Want some muffins?