Rewrite, Then Rewrite Again

This is a subject I would adore some commentary on from fellow writers. Anyone who has been writing for the eyes of others for more than five minutes has come across oodles of advice regarding multiple drafts, rewrites, and so on. Whether you’ve taken a creative writing course, bought instructional writing books, subscribe to a writer’s magazine, attend conferences – or all of the above – you are constantly admonished to polish, perfect and pamper until each word sparkles.

I’m not talking about hitting the spell check function and then calling it a day here people; I’m talking hard-core, rip it to shreds, delete entire paragraphs, eliminate pivotal characters, change names,  add new background, and then some. Then it becomes rewriting it again from this new perspective. Then another rewrite, but this time trimming the adverbs and pronouns to a manageable level. (Seriously, I counted “her” 8 times in two paragraphs in the opening of something I wrote recently, and had to suppress the urge to barf. How I did not notice that through four rewrites is just too upsetting to even contemplate.) 

There are then anywhere from 2 – 5 more minor rewrites that eliminate a couple of words, add a few more, find yet another grammatical error, insert and then delete the same comma 14 times, and well, I could go on until you wonder what sorts of medications I ought to  be taking.  Did I mention the whole part about walking away from it for a while, sometimes for months, to get a fresh perspective and see it through new eyes?

Sadly, in terms of time and the urge to finish something and get it out there, that’s the real butt-kicker. My writing ALWAYS blatantly exposes its own flaws when I haven’t looked at it recently. The whole idea of blogging terrified me (Ok – still kinda does) because there aren’t any realistic options to constantly rewrite blog posts. That would be a OCD meltdown in the making. For the purpose of blogging, I need to be able to produce content that doesn’t benefit from many months/years of scrupulous attention to Every. Little. Detail.

The writing that I plan to pass off into the infinite however, does need to meet that criteria of perfection. Oh I know, it won’t ever be perfect. There will be plenty of subjective opinions about it, I will always see where I could’ve changed just one, or two, or fifty little things. But whatever I send out to a reputable source with the intent of having  published, I need to know I have done the best that I personally am capable of; that I didn’t just go, “Whatever, that’s good enough.” I need to know that I did the right thing by that piece of writing, and didn’t cut corners in any way.

As writers, do you have a set pattern for your rewrites? What do you think makes sense – or do you wing it and let the story lead you? And yes, as I write this, I have already gone back and changed several sentences.

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5 comments on “Rewrite, Then Rewrite Again

  1. Well, yes who doesn’t delete what they write? But I’m in for minor deletions. When I create a story it’s hard for me to wipe some characters out of the plot. I am attached to these things 🙂

  2. I am learning (slowly, painfully) to blitz through the first draft with little or no hesitation. Then to leave it a while – usually hours – then reread and start rewriting. I speak strictly of short and flash fiction here. This is hard for me to do, as I am the kind of person who can get obsessed with a word for extended periods on a first pass, which usually brings the writing to a grinding halt. Better to replace words, paragraphs, even whole stories after they are written than during (or even before!).

    • That has been the hardest thing for me to learn (still working on it!); to just do it already, and then go back and edit. I used to agonize over every single word and phrase, and either never finish anything, or greatly disrupt the flow of the piece. I think that’s what attracts me so much to the NaNoWriMo thing (see previous post) because of the very philosophy of getting through it regardless of what drivel pours out the first time, so that you can have something completed to work with. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. To brightoldoak: I know some who don’t like rewrites at all – I think it’s an excruciating process. Then there’s the “oh no – I can never, ever let anyone see that!” But it can be hard to delete forever sometimes – especially those characters we’ve become attached to. Thanks for your comment!

  4. Pingback: Perfectly Prompted!

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