A few months ago, I dusted off a ten-year-old novel to begin rewriting it. I would say that my writing abilities have improved over time. The novel wasn’t horrible but not what I would write today. The effort started simple enough. I went chapter by chapter reading it first then rewriting it from memory. I had done this with another novel and it turned out much better than the first. However, this time, I discovered something about myself.
First, the voice I had then is completely different than now. I made it a little over half way through the rewrites when I realized I was doing something awful to the original. I wrote that book at a specific time in my life. It reflected the attitude, spirit, and conflict I was dealing with. It was before I had my mental illnesses in check. The anxiety and paranoia were lost in the rewrites. They were disingenuous to the subject matter which was again, mental illness. My rewrites had a self-awareness the original lacked and that was bad. Therefore, I started over again. This time, I didn’t do rewriting but editing what was already written.
Second, I want developmental editing. Anyone who has followed my ideas on writing knows that I live and die for this. We can write and rewrite until our heads explode. It doesn’t really matter when we cut the manuscript off, just that we do so and release it into the world. The changes I’m currently making aren’t intrinsically impactful. They make the book more palatable. It’s still gritty but reflects more of my present-day beliefs which are ten years matured. The point is to not get hung up on the details. Not unless the manuscript is completely unreadable which I pray this is not.
Third, the most fascinating aspect of the novel is how I can see the threads of my personal journey. A lot of the epiphanies I experienced through the events of The Husband are echoed in this older novel. It was surprising. I had completely forgotten about this aspect of the book. It had subjects of titles, normalcy, wellness, and spirituality. The protagonist was dealing with the same life issues I would find myself forced to wrestle with in my own journey. I don’t think I was cognitively aware of the struggle at that point in life. To see these characters, unfold those trials was eye opening. Hopefully, if it can do that for me, it can do that for others.
Forth, I can’t be emotionally attached. I think it’s a trap for writers to love their characters and stories too much. It is dangerous. One of my professors would always say, “The minute the writer’s words are inked, they no longer belong to them but the reader.” This is so true. They’re just imagination and not our babies. We have to be willing to let them go, change them, and accept people’s perception of them. It’s kind of why I like writing. I like hearing how differently people read my intentions.
Aaron Daniel Behr
June 22, 2018
Mount Vernon, Ohio