where the writers are
NOTHING IS ETCHED IN STONE
"Time After Time," the original book

Recently, my editor gave me a January, 2010 pub date for the reprint of my first novel, Time After Time , the basis for the Warner Bros movie starring Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen. I think more as a courtesy than anything else, he asked if I wanted to make changes in the original edition. “Sure,” I replied without hesitation, “Get rid of the dedication to my ex-wife.” Other than that, I wondered, why bother? The book did well; people still talk about the movie; everybody’s looking forward to the sequel coming out in the fall…. Then I had second thoughts. Do I want Time After Time published as a historical oddity? Or do I want readers to appreciate a classic story honed for a new century? I would never presume to rewrite another writer, but I don’t have a problem with myself. If I can’t improve my craft, then it’s time to buy a rocking chair and take that fly tying course. Moreover, we have a new generation of readers, many who weren’t even born when the book was first published. Therefore, why not? Like their parents, they deserve the best that I can do. So my editor sent me an enlarged Xerox of the book, and I dove back in for the first time in thirty years. Good Lord, who wrote this? Granted, I was trying for a quasi-Victorian prose style because my characters were time-travelers from 1893, but Good Lord, who wrote this! What seemed vivid and profound in 1979 came off as overwritten and sometimes embarrassing in 2009. I cut sixty pages out of the original. Yet that’s not really the point—I trust any veteran of the literary trenches would do the same if given the opportunity. The point is, the month I spent hunched over the ms. with pencils, ruler and eraser were drudgery from another lifetime, and I longed for my keyboard, screen, and the book in electronic form. No such luck. Time After Time had been written in longhand, then pecked out on an IBM Selectric. If the book had been in my laptop, I’m thinking that the edit would have taken half the time. Okay. Thank God for computers…? Not necessarily. Yes, computers definitely make editing easier, but I’m not sure that they make the creative process—writing—any easier. Computers save time, but the Muse doesn’t wear a watch. All of those bright-eyed and bushy-tailed grad students in MFA programs might disagree, not realizing that opening up their laptops in Starbucks doesn’t necessarily make them writers. Regardless, I suspect that the computer—the economy, notwithstanding—is the reason more people are writing these days. Pencil and paper is more painful, but it’s cheaper. At any rate, if your editor ever gives you a shot at rewriting a reprint, take it—laptop or not. Karl Alexander