Monday, October 29, 2012

Craft - Revise - Revise - REWRITE - Revise

Something that has been mentioned in my Intermediate Fiction Writing course, and something I've come to learn as an increasingly important truth in the dogma of writing, is the importance of rewriting.  We all know that we have to revise a draft, one time, thirty times, sometimes a hundred times before it is worthy of being sent off for submission.  In our day and age, with technology to assist us, it's much easier to go through the revising process. However, something that is often neglected is rewriting a draft entirely.

In the past it would take years and years for authors to finish a manuscript, sometimes having to stop and rewrite the entire thing thing from scratch, not once but up to ten times. Since drafts were written on typewriters or in journals having more than one copy at a time wasn't exactly a viable option. To revise authors would need to cut out sections move them around, and examine the.  This could obviously create an astronomical mess and a lot more confusion. With word editors we don't have to worry about that so much now. Yet something that may afflict the 21st century writer is laziness.  With all these technological advances to help us, why should we go through all that effort?

Maybe it's time to drop the computer, leave the cellphones, and take a pen and paper out into the woods for a few days. What do I mean by this? I mean that we as writers in the 21st century would be well off (in my honest opinion) to just walk away from all our helpers and handicaps and explore our craft in the ways of old.  Hemingway and Dickinson, Thoreau and Emerson.  They didn't have word processing, they had time, patience, and an uncanny connection with nature that made their writing something unique and pleasant. Their writings are filled with imagery, characterization, and what many authors lack now, philosophy. Something was written because it was meant to be written, every word had room on the page, worked for the page, and the entire narrative arc. And writers from the 1900's and earlier, they had to depend upon their patience and whit to become published.

They rewrote, and they rewrote everything over and over before it was ready to send off to a publisher. Hundreds and thousands of pages of the workings and reworkings of their craft.  Perhaps we should follow their example, to take a short story, and just put it away, leave it for a month, maybe two, and then rewrite it without ever looking at that old draft. Once rewritten, pull out that old draft, and see what works, then revise and revise some more.  Many authors attest to this being a fundamental step in their best work.  So I would challenge all of us to do this. To consider rewriting when we make headway into our revision process.

Since it is hard to do this, I would suggest, write a one to two page story. Put it away for a week to start. Rewrite it, and just see what happens. You may be pleasantly surprised by the results.

1 comment:

  1. I like this post. It reminds me of RP sessions where in one or the other of us (or whoever we were RPing with at the time) has a computer glitch and loses everything they just painstakingly wrote about emotion and etc. There is always the "ARRRRGH!" and the growl of loss, but after the day or so of grumbling, when you finally sit down to re write it, it typically comes out better and more concise. I really like this exercise. I have thought of doing this with Cel and Al. Or at least some of the scenes for the story.