Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tuesday Tune: "Rewrite" by Paul Simon

For me, the summer of 2011 will always be known as the Summer of Rewrite.  From May to late July, if you came to the basement of my house between the hours of 3:30 am and 7:30 am, you'd find me sitting at my desk, staring at the blank glow of my computer monitor--occasionally stabbing the backspace key and typing new words, but usually just sitting there grinding my teeth and agonizing over the process.

Some writers thrive during the revision process.  Not me.  I hate it in the same way I hate visits to the dentist, prostate exams, and eating broccoli--all necessary and, quite possibly, life-saving tasks; but if I had my druthers, I'd skip the doctor's gloved index finger up my unmentionables and go straight to the Caribbean cruise (which is where I take myself as he's digitally violating me and instructing me to turn my head and cough).

In the same way, if I could just go from first draft to final polished words in one surefooted leap, I would.  But no, first comes the word-wrestle, the cut-and-paste, the taking out of the trash.  This summer, entire chapters and characters were cut from my Iraq War novel (Fobbit), a heartless slash-and-burn in the name of trimming it down to a leaner, meaner manuscript.  It wasn't easy, but I eventually got to a point where I was happy with what remained.  And now, Fobbit is out there in the world making the rounds of editors in New York City offices who couldn't give a crap about all the words which were left behind.  They only care about what they see on the page in front of them, the "after" picture of Charles Atlas, oiled muscles all a-gleam.

Benjamin Percy (The Wilding) also knows the exacting toll of rewrite.  In his contribution to Largehearted Boy's "Book Notes" series, he wrote:
Revision is careful carpentry. Revision is where I sand away all the splinters, caulk the cracks, tighten the screws. And I'm in a much different mindset, no longer following my heart but my head. I pace around. I do pushups. I chew on pens. And I listen to music to put me in the mood of a scene.

One song that might help is Paul Simon's "Rewrite" off his new album So Beautiful or So What which was also released during my own Summer of Rewrite.
I've been working on my rewrite, that's right
I'm gonna change the ending
Gonna throw away my title
And toss it in the trash
Every minute after midnight
All the time I'm spending
It's just for working on my rewrite
Gonna turn it into cash
Our national troubadour knows a thing or two about writing and rewriting.  More than a few pens have been chewed over the course of his career.  Here he is performing the song on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon":

If you'd like to order "Rewrite" from Amazon, click here.


  1. Congrats on getting through the hardest part of writing, and sometimes the hardest part to make it to.

  2. I was in the PA shop at MNFI from 2007-2008, so I can't wait to read your new book, Fobbit. It will probably will hit close to home. Having just discovered your blog, I look forward to hearing more about it. Great to see a writer and a veteran out here.

  3. Thanks, Paul. As a matter of fact, just six days after posting this "Tuesday Tune," I got good news about "Fobbit." Grove/Atlantic decided to take a chance on this middle-age writer and made an offer on the book--which my agent and I happily accepted. There are plenty more rewrite sessions ahead of me now, but I'm working with a fantastic editorial team. I heart Grove/Atlantic!