Tag Archives: rewriting

Not a Rewriter

If you ever need evidence that Kelly and I have very different brains, just read her post on rewriting from last week. I could copy it word for word and title it “Exactly the Opposite of How I Feel”.

Writing first drafts is awesome for me. I have an idea where I’m heading because I’ve started dong outlines, but even before then, the discovery was the fun part. (Doing outlines has made my first drafts less fun, but has made the books a thousand times better. And it’s the fun of discovery without the work of writing!) My words might be dreck, but the story is brilliant. My characters are fun people. And setting–that’s for draft two.

But I finish it. Then it’s time for the slog of revision.

My plot has holes that, as my high school marching band director used to say, I could drive a Mack truck through. Characters are real in my head but absolutely flat and bewildering on the page. The setting still needs to be worked out, because even if I developed it during draft 1, it will have major problems. And the style and prose and voice? Oddly, they didn’t magically fix themselves when I wasn’t looking. My novel will be broken, and I don’t know how to fix it.

I think what’s going on here is that my revision skills are several levels below where my writing skills are. And–along with patient critiquers–I can think of only one way to fix that. Well, two. This is why I started outlining: it helps me fix problems before they start. But the best solution? More practice.

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Rewriters ‘R’ Us

I’ve had a saying for a long time: I don’t write, I rewrite. I’m not sure where I picked it up, but it stuck because it’s so damn appropriate.

Writing first drafts are like pulling teeth for me. While I’m excited to get back to the story and pick up where I left off the day before, half the time I don’t know where I’m heading. (The only thing I like doing less than first drafts is outlining, so you know … there’s that.) I feel like my words are dreck. I’m not 100% certain about the characters or their arcs, let alone their motivations. And setting–sure, I have one, but it’s a big nebulous thing that I don’t know enough about.

But I get through it. I scrap and crawl and write and delete and ignore my internal editor and write some more. I moan about how I’m not good enough to anyone who will listen and procrastinate and get back in the chair and write until I have a completed first draft. Then I get critiques on that first draft.

Then, as they say, it’s time to party.

Plot? Now that I have the entire work in front of me–and I’ve been shown where the holes are–I can make it better. Characters? Not only do they have motivations, my subconscious has shown me what their arcs should be–I just need to change a few bits in chapter four and another in sixteen to bring it together. Yes, the setting might be vague, but a sentence or two here and a cool bit of worldbuilding there and presto! That’s shaped up. Oh, and hey, look at that. the style and prose and voice isn’t bad either. Just needs a bit of tweaking. I have a whole list of issues that need attention, and it feels massive, but when I take three steps back it’s completely reasonable and not at all intimidating. My novel might be broken, but I can fix it.

For me it’s an odd mix of artistic angst and work ethic. When I’m getting the first draft down my perception is skewed–I’m not good enough, this is too ambitious, I’m not doing the story justice. Then once I have a workable draft, I can see that yes, it’s a bit rough in places, but it’s not awful. Far from it. It’s just a matter of putting in the work to make it the best I can make it right now.

I said all that to say this: the draft of my novel needs to be posted to my workshop next Tuesday. This week is all about rolling up my sleeves and tinkering with the engine. If you need me you’ll find me in my happy place.




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