TMM: Writing is Rewriting

When I was young I used to loathe having to rewrite my stories. So much so that sometimes I didn’t even want to read them. Because you see, I wrote during the moments of intense inspiration, when everything seemed perfect. And when I’d read over the stories, there were many mistakes, many things to change. Somehow, the magic was gone.

And I used to imagine myself, older, wiser, and a better writer. I used to imagine that I would become good enough to write fantastic first drafts, just so I wouldn’t have to write draft after draft. It took me a while to realize that there are no brilliant first drafters.

Oddly enough, now I enjoy rewriting more than I do writing a first draft. It’s an entirely different process. Because it requires are different touch and a different set of skills, to be honest. I have a first draft, a starting point, a basis for my story. You know, like a diamond cutter… yeah, cheesy analogy, I know.

When I was young I used to love writing first drafts. Because I was stupid. Only stupid writers aren’t afraid of a blank page, a page that doesn’t know nor cares who they are. Now, the blank page terrifies me. I can imagine myself taking a deep breath before writing each and every sentence, like a diver. It’s not like that. I walk around the room, I stare out the window, then I write one sentence. Most often, I delete it after staring at it for five seconds. Then I write another one. It’s such an excruciating process.

But rewriting… that’s what makes the difference. You sit down and you have to be the reader. You have to see what works and what doesn’t. You have to see past beautiful writing… you have to analyze the story as a whole, to see what needs more work, what has to be patched up. Plot holes, inconsistencies, style, all that stuff.

And I like doing all that stuff. I like reading my stories aloud, changing this or that. Because, no matter how bad the first draft is, I know I can make it better.

Writing is reversible. I know I can change what doesn’t work. I can add or remove to my heart’s content.

I once told a fellow writer that I have a lot of unfinished projects, a lot of lousy first drafts that I was afraid to work on, and she said that I have no balls. Yeah, that’s what she said. And it’s true.

One of the biggest mistakes any writer can make is to feel depressed because their first drafts are bad. All first drafts are bad, that’s why you shouldn’t let anyone read them. Work on them a little more, read them aloud, do whatever has to be done to change that lousy first draft into a brilliant one.

But I have to admit. Writing a first draft, venturing into a fictional world for the first time, is a fascinating process. Outline or not outline, you never know what’s going to happen, where the story might lead you. When you finish writing your first draft, that’s when the whole process loses a bit of its charm.

Which process do you like best? Writing the first draft or rewriting?

16 thoughts on “TMM: Writing is Rewriting

  1. Without doubt, the best bit is the rewriting and the editing. Being faced with a blank page is the scariest bit. Sometimes the first draft is a hard slog, but the fun comes afterwards. Editing and polishing is where the craft of writing is. Great post.

  2. For me, I enjoy both parts of the process.

    Start a draft – because I have to start somewhere.

    Editing and rewriting – it gives me an opportunity to explore other ways in which I can present my original idea. 🙂

  3. I prefer rewriting these days. The first draft is a big chunk of marble, pretty enough in its own right, but then I start chipping away and chipping away in just the right places until the story itself emerges. (Yes, I stole the metaphor, which has been attributed to so many different artists, I won’t bother to cite the source.)

  4. Reblogged this on John Barleycorn and commented:
    I always look at first drafts as a collection of random thoughts or brainstorming. From there you refine and sharpen to achieve the desired effect. JMHO

  5. The first draft is my favorite, but the best feeling is when you rewrite and edit over and over again, and then finally reread the whole thing. After the last sentence I always get chills, and then I know I’ve finished it.

  6. Cristian, I like them both, though rewriting is easier for me. I love getting caught up in the moment, pulled by some unknown force of imagination and just writing. Forgetting about what’s around me and getting it all on paper. Dessert is going back and rewriting to make it shine. Then rereading and getting caught in the imagination again.

  7. Pulling the first draft out of your mind is the hardest and most time consuming part. Rewriting is indeed fun. It’s about ironing out little inconsistencies while improving some stylistic and grammatical anomalies.

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