Last spring I attended a writer’s festival where an author gave a talk about writing.
It was one of those talks I don’t usually like, because he gave us these iron-clad rules for writing:
1. Only revise your work three times.
2. Don’t revise unless someone pays you to do it.
3. Keep sending out your work.
I didn’t agree with most of his points, but one thing he said is still sitting with me. He said, “I don’t revise, I rewrite.” I asked him more about it, and he explained that if you revise a scene too much (which he said often happens in critique groups), you beat the life out of it. It’s better, he said, to start over and write the scene again, so you don’t lose that vitality, that force that drove you to write the scene in the first place.
Now I don’t think it’s wrong to revise. I do it all the time and often on the advice of CPs. But there’s been times where I couldn’t revise. The scene or the book was so flawed that I needed to start over.
That’s what I’m doing now. I recently received some feedback on a particular manuscript that showed me I needed to basically start over. It wasn’t something I wanted to do, because I’d already revised it plenty, and to me, all the words are in the right places.
Boy, did I hate staring at the blank page again.
But once I started, it was amazing. I already know these characters, this setting like the back of my hand. It was pure pleasure writing about them again, albeit in a different way. Besides, I’m a different person and a different writer since I first set down the first draft of them—18 months ago.
Now I’m realizing that it may not be just a couple of scenes, but the whole book that I’ll need to rewrite—that’s how much the tone and the voice has changed.
But I am not afraid of the work. Although my goal is to be published, of course, my first goal is be a better writer.
No matter what ultimately happens with this rewrite, I will get better, that’s guaranteed.