I’ve been so frustrated with the process of rewriting that I decided to head on over to Dean Wesley Smith’s page to see what he’s talking about these days. He had a number of posts about rewriting, so of course I was drawn to them like a lamb to the slaughter.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that good ol’ Dean says that all the hell I’ve been putting myself through isn’t necessary. In fact, it might even hurt my book and my chances of getting published.
Of course, as the man himself would be quick to say, all writers are different. But all I have to do is look at how unhappy rewriting makes me, how much I dread it, and how much I procrastinate to suspect I’m one of the writers he’s talking about.
His point is simply this: when we write a first draft, we’re using the creative side of our minds. And when we rewrite–unless we’re really, really experienced writers–we’re using the critical side. Here I am, killing myself rewriting the first chapter, and why? Because another writer told me it was too “light”. Because her agent told me the voice wasn’t strong enough.
What if they were the only two people in the world who felt that way? What if there were tons of people who liked it the way it was? What if I’m actually making it worse by trying to add more voice and darkness?
I do think I have some work to do on my novel. I need to flesh out my protagonist and not be lazy. I need to add more to the setting without turning it into the modern-day version of a Dostoevsky novel, because that’s not what I write.
But somehow, I need to tune out all the well-meaning voices that worry my protagonist isn’t likable when she says this, or that ending is too fluffy, or the voice isn’t strong enough in the beginning.
How can you tell if rewriting is hurting you? Dean had a good suggestion. If your rewritten work isn’t selling, send out a first draft–checked for typos and factual errors only. See what happens. You may get your answer. This is how I write all of my journalism articles, and I make a good living that way.
I think how I approach my writing is going to change a lot with future books. We don’t learn to be a better writer by rewriting–we learn by telling stories. After all, as Dean says, we really are the worst judges of our own work, so going over it ad nauseum isn’t doing us any favours.
And that I believe.