The Joys of Rewriting

I forgot how much first drafts suck. There is nothing like having to carve out that first pass at your story from pure nothingness. I swear it’s an act that would be considered madness in any other context. Basically I cram as many voices as possible into my head and then collaborate with them to tell a 100,000 word long lie that I expect people to spend their free time reading.

Makes perfect sense.

But rewriting? Oh, sweet sweet rewriting avoids so many of the crappy parts of the first draft. Everything is set. That’s the big one. Sure I may need to change a ton of things in a ton of scenes to get my work where I want it, but the basic framework is already down. The first draft is like staring at a giant block of stone and trying to figure out what it’s going to be. You have no idea, it has no idea, you have to literally carve everything out of nothing with no path to follow. Rewrites are like having your basic sculpture in place, you can see that that it’s a guy standing on a rock, and you know that maybe his feet need work or the rock doesn’t look right and needs detailing done, but it’s not like you’re going to have to go in and make the rock into a zebra and turn the guy into the Amazon river. Which is pretty much what you feel like when you’re turning nothing into something during that first pass.

There’s also a nice built in end-point. Sure I may need to lengthen some scenes and some chunks might be more work than I realize but for the most part my page count is my page count and I know that X number of pages a day times Y number of days will bring me to the end of one whole read through. A handful of those and suddenly we’re releasing in beta. During the first draft you have a vague idea of where you’re ending is but until you write “The End” it’s never actually there and the words could keep coming and coming for weeks and weeks for all you know.

Finally there’s the new-found freedom. A first draft requires a stupid amount of discipline. There’s a belief that writing is an ethereal process that can take place anywhere and is full of inspiration and magic and marshmallows. I’ve never really found that to be the case. I dunno, maybe I’m doing it wrong, but in my experience the ethereal and joyous part lasts for, at most, the first third of a book. After that it just becomes a desk job. One that requires you to be at your desk at a certain time every day or else you lose your thread, get punished by the writing monster and are then forced to reorganize your brain so that you can pick up your storyline again.

Rewrites have none of that, you can read through ten pages here, ten pages there, and if you have a hangover during one part you can count on yourself to fix that part up better on the next pass. The odds of being hungover for the exact same parts for every read through are quite slim.  With a first draft if you start taking that mentality, if you start leaving chunks to be finished later, then you don’t really wind up with a first draft, you wind up with an outline. And that’s not the same thing at all.

Anyway, we’re off and running on the final leg of this process and I’m enjoying it immensely. At least I’m enjoying it so far. Sooner or later it’s bound to become mundane and the newness is bound to wear off and then we’ll get a post listing all the things I hate about rewriting…but for now, “Huzzah for the Land of Rewrites!”