Behind “The Process”: Rewriting

Hey fellow writers!

While writing my book, my friends and family constantly asked me: “Are you almost done yet?” They, like most people, don’t fully understand what “The Process” entails. They think you just write something and there ya go. Donesies.

Not quite.

I mean, you could write that way. But, as Truman Capote said, “Good writing is rewriting.”

People talk about things like “style” and “voice” when they talk about writing and writers.

“Her style is so great. The words just flow.”

“I love reading this guy; his voice is so authentic.”

Ya know, stuff like that. But where do style and voice come from? The long answer is something like this:

When you’re read to as a kid, you develop certain sensibilities, which are then developed further as you become a reader yourself. Those sensibilities are developed and refined as you become a student of the craft and blah blah blibbity blah…

There’s something to all that, sure. But that’s not really insightful or helpful. I hear from people all the time who say things like, “I’ve tried to write, but it just never works out.” Or, “I feel like I have a story to tell, but I don’t know how to do it.” Relax…

Writing is easy, dude!

Well…no, it’s not easy. Doing it right takes time, but it isn’t as difficult as some might believe.

To start, as I mentioned in Behind the “Process”: Handwriting vs. Typing, you should (at least try) writing your initial draft by hand.

No spellcheck, no social media, no email, no distractions. Actual writing is the way to go for your initial draft.

Write it out without thinking about spelling, paragraph breaks, or any of that stuff. Then you can read it back. As you can see above, this is where the first bits of editing happens. You can insert words, remove words, change/add/remove sentences or whole paragraphs. Then type it out, changing little things along the way.

Once typed and printed, I read it again, this time looking for all the things I ignored in the pen-and-paper phase. Style and voice really begin to emerge here. When I read something and think anything less than, This is good stuff, I start asking myself a few questions. This includes, but is not limited to:

  1. Am I using the right words?
  2. Are the words in the right order?
  3. Do I need this sentence?
  4. Do I need to add or delete something?
  5. How can I say this in a way that makes more sense and flows better with the rest of the sentence/paragraph.

If you look at this early draft sample, you’ll see that it’s rare that things are how they should be after one round of rewriting. I took out words, reworded sentences, added/deleted things, made notes for the next rewrite. That kind of thing.

Wanna know the secret to getting a good looking piece of creative writing?

KEEP REWRITING UNTIL YOU’RE SATISFIED! And even then, maybe one or two more times.

My book is a little over 300 pages. These are SOME of my notebooks and printed drafts.

A lot of people have this idea that writers are simply gifted people who just know how to get it right the first time. Famous author Jack Kerouac said he never rewrote anything, but that was total bullshit. Go ahead and Google “Jack Kerouac lied about rewriting” and you’ll find tons of articles about it. If you want to write something worthwhile, you’ll have to write it, rewrite it, rewrite it, rewrite it, rewrite it, rewrite it, rewrite it, etc…

So, please–don’t get put off by how much “work” goes into writing. It should be fun. I rarely ever felt like, Ugh, why am I doing this?! I actually got to the point where I enjoyed editing and revising as much, if not more than, writing. The hard part is coming up with the idea in pen-and-paper phase. The fun part, the art, is polishing that bad boy off until it totally kicks ass. And when you’re finally done, those pages will be oozing with style and voice!

So write, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite…

And–most of all–have fun doing it!

Time for me to make like a tree and get outta here.


ps–Let me know if you think I missed something, got something wrong, or whatever. I’d love to hear from you!

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