Friday, August 11, 2017

Rewriting is essential. Professional writers know this.

Rewriting is the most important thing you can do if you want to become a published, professional novelist and be paid for your work.

In his excellent book, Dare to Be A Great Writer, Leonard Bishop wrote: “Writing must be rewritten. No writer alive should ever permit his or her work to be considered for publication without rewriting.”

As author Robert Cormier points out, “The beautiful thing about writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, brain surgery. You can always do it better.” And E. B. White said, “The best writing is rewriting. You can always write better than you write.”
Rewriting is essential. Professional writers know this.

Amateur writers often think their writing is good, simply because they wrote it. Professional writers know that everything we write is not perfect and that anything can be made better through rewriting. Revision is far easier than inventing something in the first place. It goes much faster than creation and it makes your work better. Rewriting is even more fun than writing.

Once you have finished the secret draft, you can start the fun.
As writers, we've been involved with the book on a day-to-day basis for so damned long that we're like actors with a script who have only learned our own lines. We're too close to our work to be able to see it clearly. We need some distance.

One of the best things you can do once you've finished your book is to put it away for a while.
The good thing about putting it away for a while is that you get some distance. By the time you return to that work, you were so proud of you'll see it in the clear light of reality. Faults will be easier to spot. Gaps and missing links will be more apparent. (You may even find yourself saying, “I can’t believe I wrote that.".)

The problem with the “put it away for a while” method is that most of us don't like to lose the time. If you're too impatient to put it away, then read it aloud. 

Reading it aloud (to yourself, to a friend, or to a recorder) gives you another kind of distance from what you've written. Clunky prose and untrue dialog which doesn't sound like people talking become especially apparent in this kind of reading.

If you choose to read it aloud to someone else, you will become painfully aware of boring stretches (things which go on too long for what they do), dramatic moments that don't work, missing links or gaps in narrative.

To answer questions about your own work honestly and accurately, you need some basis for comparison, a sense of what the competition is like, and what the winners (and for that matter, the losers) have done. You need to read other books similar to the one you're writing. In other words, you need to know how to tell when your book finally reads like a book.

I can still remember after my agent read the manuscript of my first novel, my first question was: “Does it read like a book?” That was more important to me than anything else at that early stage in my career because I had tried to write a mystery novel and I wanted it to read like a mystery novel; a book which read like a book.


Lary Crews