An excellent story is always rewritten

One of my former editors told me that, during my early days in BT. I remember feeling sick writing a raw copy, did rewrites at least 10 times in one day and couldn’t think of anymore ways to make it less.. crappy. Too much re-writing is not good also, you may end up scrapping the piece altogether.

James Frey didn’t just rewrote a book, he ended up publishing an altered version of his life. Talk about having full creative control.

When the book was finished, he touted it around various publishing houses in New York. It was rejected by 17 in all, including Doubleday, which would eventually become his publisher. The problem, it seemed, was that Frey was promoting it as a novel, a work of fiction. “People asked me, ‘How much of it’s true, how much of it’s not true?’ ” he says. “Initially I said, ‘I want it to be published as a novel so I don’t have to get into all that. I don’t wanna have to go through picking it apart, talking about what was changed and why.’ Things were changed for all sorts of reasons: effect, for respect, other people’s anonymity, making the story function properly.”

Reading that Guardian piece makes me want to check out Frey’s controversial book.

I think it is not wrong if you want to write your life story and publish it as fiction. We have wrestling on tv, don’t we? Many thought (and some, still think) the drama and whatever stuff they do on those shows are actually real and not rehearsed.

It is when half-truths or outright falsehoods are made known as the whole truth that people should be outraged, as Oprah was when Frey admitted that he embellished some parts of his so-called memoir. At least he admitted it, rather than trying to cover it up with some other falsehood.

Rewriting is to enhance a story – to tighten lax sentences, give it more focus or make it easier to understand. If it is factual, then stick to the facts and do not add a dash of fiction, no matter how tempted you may feel.


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