by David Sharp
I've heard it before, and so have you. Most of writing is rewriting. This is not a mystery to you, and if you've been to any number of workshops on writing, you're probably rolling your eyes right now. Here we go again!
|Ensign, set a course for the|
Drawing Board. It's high time
we returned there.
Recipients of this message responded with deep sighs and drawn faces. Of course, what we all want to hear is, "This is brilliant, Brilliant, BRILLIANT! Sign here, please!" So far, I've only seen a reaction like that one time, and that was interrupted when my alarm clock woke me up.
|Look at that blank paper. |
It's so smarmy!
I rarely like the old version better: When I scrap a scene, I always keep an old version around. Just in case. Know how many times I slotted those old versions back in place? Never. The rewrites are almost always better. No matter how resistant you are to the suggested changes, you'll find yourself falling in love with the new edition. Scenes that I feel protective over now are the same scenes that ousted their predecessors.
You still have the old version: It hasn't gone anywhere. Worse case, your bestseller isn't your favorite edition. Oh, well. You can always read the edition you like. And when you tell your readers that, they'll be so jealous you'll have to publish an 'Author's Preferred Text.' The fact that APT's exist at all is a testament that even established authors don't always get their way.
I can't stop myself: When I don't feel like rewriting, all I have to do is start reading my manuscript. Pretty soon, the game is afoot. Sometimes, it's just restructuring sentences. Sometimes it's re-configuring entire scenes. Either way, I'm improving it. If you share this unfortunate condition, guess what? You're a writer.
|Ha! Take that,|
you smarmy paper!
Be aware rewriting is more than grammatical polish. It's redrafting scenes, working in thematic elements, turning characters who used to be sultans into potted plants, whatever. Don't get down about rewriting. Easier said than done. But it's actually one of the perks of our art form. We have the luxury of rewrites. Marble sculptors have to get it right the first time. They don't get to glue slivers of stone back onto the slab.
|It's very lovely, yes. But could you|
try it again from another POV?
For resources on how to conduct your rewrite, check out:
How to Rewrite
- this one has a nice list of over-used words you can watch for.
True Writing is Rewriting
Writing a Book: What Happens After the First Draft
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamot.
Revision and Self Editing for Publication by James Scott Bell.
Share some of your own tips in the comments below.