Thursday, March 25, 2010

Embracing the Rewrite

Most of us writers believe whatever we first put down on paper or type to computer screen should be fabulous, complete, amazing. One gets a bit of a pain in the gut when thinking of pruning the work, but, while we may spare a few of our darlings here and there the truth of the matter is Faulker was right. His point was on track. Writing the work is just half the battle.

Next comes the editing and rewrite. Now editing isn't just looking for grammatical and spelling errors, it's training your eye to watch for what is and isn't readable. What is and isn't clear. It's turning sentences around to give them more punch, watching for words you stuck in just to show off you know what it means and watching for inconsistencies or omissions.

Sooner or later you'll be working with an editor. Like any other field there are wonderful editors, okay editors and bad editors.  There are also personality clashes that can give each of you an opinion of the other that isn't necessarily accurate.  Hopefully you'll actually like the editor you work with and even if you don't agree with every suggestion and tweak, listen to them, filter them through your own style and you'll come out with a better book.

Many times you’ll find as you write, that your original ‘great idea’ is overwhelmed by the actual story. By that I mean you’ll range far afield from the beginning inspiration that got you moving in the first place. And you’re going to find that many of your truly great thoughts and ideas will occur to you when you’re actually writing – sitting at your computer or with your legal pad in your lap – not just daydreaming and thinking about writing. So, despite your greatest hopes that your material will emerge complete and awesome at the first stroke, don’t count on it. This tripping off in other directions creates a great story, but it does leave some bumpy writing that needs tidying and ideas that need completing or revising. Don't fight it, just do it.

Many self-proclaimed ‘writers’ want us to believe they carry all their ideas around in their heads until they can get the time to spew them down onto paper – no doubt in pristine form. However, how many of them actually do it? Presuming you’re one who actually writes, don’t get caught in that ‘romantic, artistic’ web of silliness where you believe you can work it all out in your head and write it all down later. There may have been one or two who could do it, but frankly I think they’re fibbing too.

Don’t make yourself crazy by believing there’s an entire army of writers out there who can turn out perfect work at first stroke while you struggle with every sentence. It’s self-destructive and it could prevent you from spreading your wings and doing the sweat work to make your writing sparkle like the gem it is. Hey, a  diamond  is just a rock until it’s cut and polished.

So don’t wail and weep when you confront your rewrite, celebrate. You’ve got the guts down on paper, now is the time to really shine and turn that heap of guts into a god.

Write, edit and rewrite - remember every writer started somewhere. Every writer (or almost every one) wanted to scream and throw things the first time his or her book ran up against an editor who suggested changes. Throw your little tantrum in private. The vast majority of us do. Then reread the editor's marks and suggestions and really think about it. If you're honest with yourself you're going to see some truths in there. And, if you're willing to do the work, and there is a lot of work to getting that book out, the editing process, no matter how you do it, will help you produce a work you're really proud of.

1 comment:

  1. I think that I once read that only 25% of a writers time is spent on writing new stuff. The other 75% is rewriting, editing, tweaking... Seems about right to me!


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