When I was a child and playing board games with my family, or running a race outside in the front yard with my best friend, or arm-wrestling with one of my brothers, I would often invoke the magic words, “Do over!” This usually meant that I had made a disastrous mistake in misjudging my opponent or—more than likely—was trying to disguise the fact that I was a sore loser.
Now that I’m an adult, I often find myself wishing that there was a do-over button I could press—just like that “easy” button in the Staples commercials. There would certainly be less awkward moments and a lot more hours spent sleeping instead of lying awake at night thinking about something I wish I hadn’t said. Or worn. Or eaten.
Maybe that’s why I like being a writer. Because of the joys of word processing, my characters can have the most sparkling and witty banter, but only because of the magic button on my laptop—the delete key. I can spend days working on a scene, thinking of more and more clever things for my characters to say, yet my readers will only see the end product. Which makes me look like a genius. If they only knew…
At the beginning of my career, I wrote two books—FALLING HOME and AFTER THE RAIN—for a small publisher. Selling to this publisher was a beginner’s career mistake as I soon learned. They paid me what equated to grocery money for a month, and then printed about 5 copies with really horrendous covers. Both books were out of print within a couple of months after publication. I soon parted ways with that publisher and went on to larger print runs, bigger advances, better covers, and the New York Times bestseller list. But I never forgot those two books. They were favorites of mine and it bothered me that my new readers would never have a chance to read them.
And then my agent made a real life do-over happen. According to my contract, the rights for both books would revert back to me after seven years. All we had to do was ask. So we did, and suddenly I had a second chance to birth these “babies” back into the world.
While keeping the characters and stories the same—since that’s what readers had loved so much—I reworked both books. I tightened the writing (since I’d written them ten years ago and I like to think that I’ve learned a thing or two), added a few scenes and points of view. I think the changes enriched both books and made them more like the books I write now.
My agent sold both books to my current publisher. FALLING HOME was published in November 2010 and AFTER THE RAIN was published December 2012, both with beautiful covers that nearly made me weep with joy. And the best part of this story is that FALLING HOME hit the extended list of the New York Times and AFTER THE RAIN debuted in the top twenty at number seventeen!
If only the rest of life could work out like that. The holidays are now over and I’m left to ruminate over everything I ate over the last month while I studiously avoid the scale. If anybody knows where I can find the do-over button, please let me know!