What If? – Part Eleven: Rewriting is Writing

I’ve been reading more and writing, working on writing, less, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This section, rewriting, is good because I have trouble with rewriting. I get attached to things – not a first draft, necessarily, but the way I approach something, or certain scenes, and I have a lot of trouble letting them go when that’s necessary on rewrites to make the story better. Fact is, it’s part of my goofy aesthetic, I like things that aren’t good and I’ve really struggled with that. Lately I’ve been struggling with getting to the point of having a first draft – I keep writing one or two sentence blurbs, things I might like to turn into a story some day, but I haven’t been working on any of the stories I had going a few weeks ago: “I see Dead People,” “Li-Su Learns to Cook,” or the mourning mom story. A lot of it is that I’m just struggling with everything, like getting out of bed and taking a shower. Some of it is that I think maybe I’m writing the wrong kind of story, that humor is where I should be, I read “Then We Came To The End” or some such thing and I think, hey, why don’t they let me do that, and I wonder who “they” are and just how they are preventing me. I do have a humor story out and it isn’t exactly a hot property, so maybe that’s how.

And some of it is just that I’m tired of writing crappy stories, and I don’t know how to write good ones so I’m working on getting to a point where I can actually write something worthwhile. And then we have the holiday season which of course has everyone’s head up their ass.

Anyway, revising. I read something interesting in the intro, that each draft should leave earlier drafts behind, the idea is to move forward with one story, not a bunch of versions of one story. Uh oh. I wonder if they know I have three versions of “Drowning.” Not that it matters, none of them is any good. But the advice I got was to go third person and leave out the backstory and the convoluted flashbacks, keep it all in the moment, and I didn’t like what I ended up with, the story didn’t make sense that way. This leave-the-last-draft-behind is a big deal for me. I don’t want to let go because I like my mistakes, wrong as they may be.

But I do want to get back to doing an exercise a day out of What If? so I’ve started again. There’s no exercise in the introduction, but at least I’ve made some forward motion.

2 responses to “What If? – Part Eleven: Rewriting is Writing

  1. When I was in the BFA program at the University of Maine Farmington, my professors would often say that revision is a re-vision–a new way to look at things… and that one good way to go through a revision is to do it as a series of waves…first time through do major revisions like the main character is a boy instead of a girl or you move from first person to third, etc. Then the next wave tackles something a little smaller and so on until the last waves are finishing touches. They always complained that students wanted to start with little changes, little waves and would never go on to anything larger. I agree with them, start with the major stuff and then refine. So what if you have one, three or ten drafts of the same story as long as each one gets better and better until it’s just right.

  2. Thanks ! There’s a later chapter in this book of exercises that pretty much says what you’ve said here – use early drafts to explore the big ideas, the overview, and then later drafts start to get down to small details and finally turn into tweaks and edits. I wonder if the students who want to start with small changes are, like me, just resisting changing much – or even if it’s just easier to do what amounts to line edits than it is to rewrite in another POV or another tense.

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