Stop! Rewrite!

When I first submitted Embers for edits, my editor sent it back to me with notes and corrections that didn’t even go past Chapter 3, and I was told to rewrite the whole thing.

In short, I was mortified. I thought that my entire book had to be awful for my editor to not have bothered to do a complete edit all the way through. I despaired for days. I convinced myself that I was a terrible author and that I’d probably never write another book again. In time, though, as the despair faded into determination, I realized that what my editor had done was really a blessing in disguise.

In Geisha, A Life by Mineko Iwasaki, the author recounts her journey to becoming a renowned geiko, starting back from her early childhood. While she was taking dance lessons, every girl there dreaded hearing their teacher tell them “stop!” For them, being told to stop was the dance teacher’s way of saying that their dancing was horrible and they should leave class and never return.

At one point, Mineko, who had been a proficient dancer and named successor of the okiya that took her in, received a dreaded “stop!” from her teacher and she returned home in tears. Upon arriving home, she was confronted and asked what was the matter. When she explained what had happened in dance class, she got an unexpected reaction.

The purpose of the “stop!” was not a punishment or an unofficial ban from dance classes. In actuality, it was a much-needed push. Mineko had been hitting a wall with her dancing, and her teacher had only been trying to give her that extra push to do better, to try harder. Ultimately, Mineko went back to dance class, and she returned stronger than ever, surprising even herself.

So, what does dancing have anything to do with my editor’s own instructions to rewrite Embers? I, too, was hitting a wall creatively. Writing Embers was a long and difficult process. I had a lot of challenges in life to overcome, so being able to create with such burdens on my shoulders was difficult.

When my editor told me to rewrite Embers, it was much like how Mineko had been told to stop. It was my push. I realized that it was the moment I could either allow myself to submit defeat and continue to wallow in despair, or I could stand and fight and turn Embers into the amazing novel it could be.

I’d worked too hard on it to give up. So I broke through the wall, and I shattered it. I came back strong, and now here we are, just days away from Embers‘ launch day.

So, I say to you other authors out there, don’t be afraid. If your editor tells you to rewrite your book, don’t greet it with despair like I did. See it for what it really is–the push to do better. Because what it boils down to is simply whether you’ll choose to give up, or choose to exceed everyone’s expectations, including your own. Face the challenge head on. You can do it.

Write the novel you were meant to. Take good and turn it into greatness. Take greatness and become extraordinary.

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One thought on “Stop! Rewrite!

  1. Ana Ling

    This was such an inspirational piece, Karyn. Thank you so much for sharing.
    In many ways this article not only reflects a writer’s challenges but anyone and everyone who is working towards a greater goal. In my opinion, it does help if someone offers a bit more guidance and/or feedback than a simple ‘stop’, just so you can weed out mistakes and improve where improvement is needed.
    In any case, I wish you best of luck in your writing career. You’re very talented and I’m looking forward to more from you. Kudos!

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