Rewrites must be top in my list of ‘Mind-boggling Things You Take On.’ I mean, editing is one thing but total re-writes can cause you some serious brain-blitz. Some years ago I won an award at the Winchester Writers’ Conference for ‘Best Slim Volume’ with a series of linked short stories. That is to say, I sent in one story and the synopsis for another nine.
The prize was to have the collection published (in a very limited 30 copies print run!) and it seemed like a fabulous prize. Winning was certainly a major boost to my self-esteem … until I got home and realised I had a deadline of less than a month to write the other nine stories based around the handwritten book of wine recipes handed down to me from my Grandmother.
Each story in Sussex Tales included a recipe as well as notes on the medicinal value and folklore attached to the main ingredients. It was a good premise that should have resulted in a great book – and yes, I completed the stories in time … but oh my then editing levels! They were … scratchy … to say the least. ‘More haste, less speed’ as the Grandmother who inspired the book would have told me.
Sussex Tales are fun stories, and I have always wished I could have been given more time to get them properly polished, and I fully intended to do so. But time passed and other projects took priority until this year when I decided that it was time Sussex Tales emerged from the back of the wardrobe and became a fully fledged book. Rebranded for an audience of greater than one (or three if you count my husband Peter and best pal Debbie). Thirty copies, twenty of which are still sitting in a box at the back of the wardrobe, barely counts as published Sussex Tales needed to be re-written and re-packaged for readers’ eyes, as opposed to merely mine.
I edit all the time. Not just my own work but also the anthologies that I co-edit with Jenny Barber for both The Alchemy Press and Fox Spirit Books, so in theory it should have been a doddle. It wasn’t. Revitalising that sorely rushed project turned out to be a lot harder than I anticipated.
In the fifteen years since writing the originals, my style has changed almost beyond recognition, and my research skills have been honed to a level where all of the things that I originally fudged, relying solely on memory for the sake of that short deadline, had to be, researched, re-imagined, and rewritten. Each story had to be set upon and systematically murdered page by page, sentence by sentence.
The slim volume of 40,000 words has grown closer to 60,000, now with a full glossary of Sussex dialect words and phrases as well as more succinct research notes into the plants and other goods. Finally it is completed and about to be issued by the Penkhull Press in November 2014.
The editing and rewriting was hard graft, but a worthwhile effort. I can’t wait to see it in its full glory, and I hope other people will love the new and improved Sussex Tales as much as I loved writing them.
The morals of this tale are two-fold.  never rush your editing – it matters more than I can tell you, and  never discard anything you have written because one day it will rise up and be beautiful.This article first appeared on the Do Authors Dream of Electric Books blog site in July 2014.