Writing and Rewriting
It’s been a while, what with all the hospital shenanigans … and more to come … so I thought I’d do the writer blog about, oh I don’t know, writing.
And yes, I heard your sarcastic gasp. There is truly no pleasing some people.
Anyway, if the big writer truism is “write what you know,” its kissing cousin is, “writing is rewriting.” In fact, it’s a truer truism than the first one.
Here’s why. With very few exceptions, no one really writes only what they know. John Grisham, for example, was a lawyer. Maybe still is. And while most of what he writes revolves around law and lawyers, I’d be willing to bet he never crossed the mob and yet somehow convinced them he was on their side like Tom Cruise did in The Firm.
Instead, he crafted a story around personality types and settings he was familiar with.
So, did he write what he knows?
Yes and no.
But he for sure didn’t publish his first draft. He wrote and rewrote and fixed and tweaked until he was satisfied. Then his agent gave him notes, and he rewrote some more. Ditto with his editor, who probably said something like, “John, this is a great read. Here’s some things to look at and massage a bit to make it truly awesome.”
And boom, he’s a best-selling author with more books and movies under his belt than you and I have sick days in a calendar year.
Because writing is rewriting.
It’s the reason writers acknowledge their editors and agents and friends who critiqued early drafts. Because those folks suggested or questioned or otherwise caused rewrites that made better books.
It’s the main reason I praise my own agent. Because she recognized something good and gave me insights that made it better.
That’s the smoke up your skirt part.
The other side of rewrites is that they’re hard.
Insightful notes from smart people make you think differently about this manuscript that you’ve lived with and bled over for months or even years. You’ll have to cut or change things that you are in love with. Monuments to your own brilliance as a writer. And sometimes losing them seems like a family member has died and instead of mourning, you’re dancing on their grave.
Rewriting is surgery. And surgery hurts. It’s scary and painful and anxiety causing but it’s necessary. And if you don’t die, it’s better once you’ve gone through it.
Even if it feels like it.
Writing is a craft. Rewriting perfects it.
Don’t be afraid.
You have nothing to lose but mediocrity.