Writing Fiction: Going Back In

There’s a great story about how they found the voice for the Devil in The Exorcist. The producers approached Mercedes McCambridge, star of some notable westerns in the fifties, who had deep, characterful voice. She told them, if she was going to do it properly, she would have to take up smoking again, come off the wagon and drink raw eggs. You can hear the results.

I hate to sound operatic, but as I start the process of rewriting my second novel for the eleventh time, I know what she means. The novel involves an elderly woman descending into dementia – as my mother did; and male character who I have repeatedly failed to get the right tone for. The thought, what again? does occur.

An editor at a recent conference, said the average number or rewrites for a published novel is seventeen. I have to admit, when I first started, I thought it would be three, possibly as many as five. But the digit counter keeps rising. On the upside, the novel keeps getting better; on the down, it means, well, going back in. Which hasn’t always been a comfortable experience, and is unlikely to be this time either.

Note: If you want to see why Mercedes McCambridge would be furious with me for describing her Exorcist role as ‘a voice’ you can hear her talking about the role at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TKLSck7s2M


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