How I Learned to Enjoy Rewriting in 2018

Saturday, January 05, 2019
photo via Pixabay
I have often mentioned how I love the first draft, but every other draft afterward taunts me. The first draft is a beautiful thing. It's artwork. It's freeing. Then you have to rewrite it. That's when I usually waver. Rewriting usually starts with feedback from others (which is often not always delivered in a nice way). I used to see rewriting like a child would see a bright green bowl of broccoli - an unfortunate, gross necessity in the life of a living being. But somewhere along the way this year, I learned to enjoy this essential aspect of writing.

How did that happen?

I learned to experiment, first of all. With each rewrite, I would copy over the story to a new document and experiment with the story. Sometimes with the point of view. Sometimes changing the supporting characters. Sometimes with the main plot point. I learned to have fun with the rewriting process. By keeping an old version of a draft, I felt peace in realizing that I could always go back if I so desired (and sometimes I did).

I also realized not everyone is meant for every story. With each critique I received on a story, I read it knowing that this story maybe wasn't meant for them. However, as writers, we often support each other by reading things we usually wouldn't read otherwise. To help. To provide insight. Sometimes that difference in taste shows up in critiques.

The last thing that I appreciated hearing recently is something that the butt-kickers of WOW reminded me of - sometimes when people critique our story, they will often criticize the story because they feel they have to. And this point was helpful for me to remember when reading and assessing feedback. I also kept in mind this was only one person's opinion and I was under no legal obligation to change something just because they said so.

While I have more work to do in 2019, I have comfort in knowing that my perspective on the rewriting process has changed. It isn't as daunting as it once was. It isn't like sitting a bowl of broccoli in front of a child anymore. It's something I can see as part of the artistic process. It's something I'm actually looking forward to.

Nicole Pyles is a writer and blogger. You can follow her on her writing journey on Twitter @BeingTheWriter or visit her blog


Sioux Roslawski said...

Nicole--Your practice of copying each draft as a new document? I used to do that, and your post reminded me of it. I loved seeing the fruits of my labor represented in the stapled sets of papers. (I would staple each new draft to the previous ones, so there would be a thick stack in the end.)

Now? I guess I don't need to be reminded of how rough the first drafts are. I'm too aware of their condition. But, my drafts don't vary too much in tone, plot, etc. In the past, most of what I've written is creative nonfiction. I might change the ending, or add some sensory details, or some verb changes. You, on the other hand, truly transform your stories. I could be wrong, but I think your stories sometimes are so different--from one draft to another--you could even submit different drafts to different publications or contests... they are each unique.

With my WIP--my manuscript--I am saving each set that a reader has looked at. That way, I can compare the notes and suggestions they make.

I'm so glad you're embracing revision. I liken it to a sculptor and a huge piece of marble or granite. (Do artists work with granite?) It's crude and vague in the beginning, but with each chip and gouge, the artist's vision is made more visible.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Nicole ~ I've always hated revision until this past year, too! I used to just write something once and make minor tweaks to it, and call it done. Now, I realize that rewriting is the actual writing.

What Sioux said about your drafts being completely different is so interesting. Have you seen "Bandersnatch" on Netflix? It just came out and is part of the Black Mirror series, but it's a standalone. It's like those old Choose Your Own Adventure books, but you use your remote and make choices for your character. If your drafts are similar and have different outcomes, you could totally create that type of book with alternate endings. That would be so cool! :)

I know you've been working on these stories the past year, and revision is awesome and all, but are you going to be submitting soon? I vote yes! :)

Nicole Pyles said...

Sioux - I 've actually thought about that before in terms of going back to old drafts and re-using that old version for a new story! It would be fun to see how many different stories I could tell actually :) And I love your sculptor description - that's absolutely perfect!

Angela - Good idea on the different endings!!! I actually love choose your own adventure books ;) And yeah, realizing rewriting is the essential part of actual writing has changed me this year for sure. :) and this year submitting is ABSOLUTELY my goal!

Unknown said...

A very good idea on the different endings...!! good

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