Writing Myths: #1 Edit and Rewrite till You Drop
A first draft is a piece of raw material that has to be edited and rewritten and edited some more. Preferably all by yourself with some critique partners. After much sweat, blood, and tears, it’s finally something relatively good. Or that’s at least how the myth goes.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you should write “The End” on your first draft than send it to your editor, publisher, agent, beta reader! Well, betas maybe, especially if they like what you write enough to want to read as you write it. Yes I’ve done that a couple times, to get feedback on the overall story.
I do believe you should let your first draft sit there quietly, clear your mind, then go through it again and edit what needs editing. Then, especially if you are like me and can’t see your own mistakes because you see what you wanted to say, not what you ended up typing, have your betas read it for you and edit/rewrite some more based on their input. You can repeat this process as many times you need.
But! Yes, there is a but! Of course there is. The point I am trying to make, and it’s as much for my own benefit as it is for others’, is not to obsess about how much rewriting you actually do. We are different people, with different processes. Some require more rewrites than others.
I have just realized how important that is. I had a manuscript come back from my editor earlier and I went through edits, recommendations for changes and rewrites, the dreaded reddened document! There was valuable input and great insight, but it wasn’t bad, I did not feel like I needed to cry over it.
In all honesty, after reading a lot of posts and everything, I had hardened myself for a grueling, heartbreaking process that would leave me in tears. That was about a year ago, when my first edited piece was emailed to me. I then realized that I loved my editors. They make my work flow better and my writing sound better. They add just the spark I need to have amazing stories published.
Then, after more reading, I started to feel like a fraud again because I didn’t rewrite that many times. Once I am done with a draft, I go through it one more time. Maybe twice. This at times made me expect to cry after the editors saw it, or at other times had me wondering if I wasn’t a bit of a fraud. I mean… I did end up keeping most of my first draft. I have never edited the actual story, just the words used to paint it.
After a lot of puzzled thoughts, a lot of self-doubt, I just stopped and reconsidered my process. I never start writing a story until I have almost all the action down in my head. I may scribble some notes, but it’s mostly a movie being filmed in my head. I just sit back and watch it come to life. When I start the actual writing, the story is very clear to me, as are the characters and their interactions. I visualize everything up to the point where it flows nicely.
Did my characters act out midway through my typing the story (it is a furious undertaking and hurts my wrists, by the way)? Of course they did. Quite a few times. When that happen, I no longer write. I move back into my head and figure out what’s wrong. When the negotiations are successful and we have an agreement, I start again.
When the first draft is done, I let it sit for a while, and then go back through it. I should also point out I never go back to edit till I complete the story . After a couple rounds of reading and tweaking, it’s time for my betas or my publisher. Then the manuscript goes through the editing process, which is handled either by my publisher or the editor I work with for my indie published stuff.
Is what I do wrong? Nope. Is the fact other writers tweak their manuscripts more than me wrong? Nope. We’re different people with different processes and we should stop shaming or looking down on ourselves because we don’t fit into other people’s frameworks, methods, or style.
What do you think? What’s your process and how much rewrites do you go through?