The-Essence-of-Writing-is-RewritingI’m not a rewriter by nature. Whenever I started writing, I felt like it was a fait accompli—a done deal. And that nothing added or retracted could possibly make it better. After fifteen years of writing, I now understand, as my instructor told me again and again, “Writing is rewriting.”

It’s been hard for me to open my hand and let the words go that I have written. These are gems (at least in my mind) that I painstakingly mined that now must be culled from the manuscript.

The theory goes that the first draft is to spill your ideas and characters onto the blank page and breathe a story into existence. This can mean a quick jog to frame the story or a serious slog as you unravel the tale’s journey. Once that foundation is done–you have something on the page–the next step is revision. I find that my process starts even earlier, with each chapter getting a quick swipe of the pen before I leap forward to the next. During that process, the revisiting early chapters, I learn who my characters are and how each thinks and behaves.

Once I have a completed novel, then the hard work starts. Each character’s arc has to be scrutinized, each chapter arc gets a look. How are my secondary characters being treated? Are they strong enough or just taking up space? Maybe I should kill an extraneous character, add a plot line or rip out my very favorite line.  What’s the theme, can I reinforce it by adding or taking away something?

Chapters expand and contract, move around or sometimes die during this process. If a chapter doesn’t lend itself to the telling of this particular story, it must go.

After the structure is completed, there are additional passes: repetitive words search, language that jars, phrases that can be strengthened.

What I’ve described is not the entirety of the process, only a small part. But revision is the heart of writing. And while there may never be a valentine-like love between me and rewriting, I’m attempting to, at the very least, embrace the sucker!


~ by Gwen Dandridge on February 17, 2014.

2 Responses to “Rewriting.”

  1. When I first heard people say that writing is rewriting, I had no idea how much truth there was in those words. It is a painful truth that you don’t really comprehend until you’re there!

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