With NaNuuNaNuuWhooHoo or whatever it’s called right around the corner, there’s the usual rash of posts on the glory of rewrites. The same of chestnuts are trotted out “There is no writing, only rewriting!” and “Writing is never finished, only abandoned!”
I read one last night that scolded authors who wrote too well on their first draft, declaring that a competent first draft might fool writers into believing that the work doesn’t need to be rewritten again and again to transform it from “competent” into “quality”.
I don’t want to tell anyone out there that they way that she or he writes is wrong. It would be nice if they would extend the same courtesy to me.
I don’t do rewrites. I do edit, and I have other people edit, looking for mechanical errors. (Clearly I should have been more vigilant in that process in my last book, but I can go back and update the file.)
However, when I write a story I sit down, I start at the beginning, I go to the end, and then I’m done. I don’t keep writing the same story over and over again–I don’t see any point to that.
Clearly some writers do. I can’t fault them for it, it is the process that works for them. It doesn’t for me. If what I write the first time isn’t any good, then why would sitting down and doing it again make it any better?
Maybe it’s because I spent thirty-something years writing before I tried to publish any fiction has something to do with my outlook. (I have published poetry before, and yes, all of my poetry is “first draft”, too.)
I will add in one exception–if I do research and find that something I have already written violates facts that I discover later, I will go back and rewrite that section to bring it into accord with the facts. I did that with my first chapter of my current work. Occasionally I run across details that need to be changed for the sake of consistency.
Other than that, what I write is what you see. I am quite certain that the words that I am writing now are the same words that will appear on the page when The Worms Of Heaven is released.
I can see how this could strike some people as arrogant, but it doesn’t feel arrogant to me. It feels honest. I think I have a pretty good idea of my skill level, and I can’t see the utility of writing something poorly the first time in order to write it well later on. Measure twice, cut once, you know? If something’s not as good as I can make it, why waste time typing it at all?
So I tend to write slowly, by most author’s standards. I work on a scene in my head until I’m sure that it’s the way I want it, then I sit down and type it out. On the other hand, once I’m finished, I’m finished.
Maybe I’m missing something, but when I read a writer talking about making radical changes in the structure of a novel during the third or fourth rewrite I have to ask myself, “Wouldn’t it have saved time to do it that way from the beginning?”
It’s a different way of working, I realize. I don’t understand it, it seems needlessly labor-intensive to me, but I willing to accept that for some people it works. I would humbly request that they realize the same thing about how I work.