Writing versus rewriting

After two years of writing like a mad dog (if mad dogs wrote a lot?) for the first time writing felt like work.

I’d written the first draft of Coral in a month. Then I wrote the sequel, and I realized that the characters I loved weren’t in the first book. A version of the characters were, but they didn’t have that spark of life getting into their point of view that was so clear in the second book. Where it poked through in the first book, it was murky.

So I decided to write a couple new scenes and “edit” the rest to fit. That didn’t work even a little bit. There were just too many places where the old funny lines just didn’t work with the new additions. I was pretty happy with the way the first book ended, but rewriting the beginning kept trying to attach it to the ending, but it kept getting farther and farther away. I was rewriting scene after scene, not changing the room size but redecorating from the studs up. It was a different kind of creative.

I’ve been to two different Donald Maass workshops and he always ended them with a hands on demonstration on how to take a single scene out of your book and ramp up either the conflict or the micro tension. While everyone in the crowd agreed that the new version was miles better than the old version, when Maass said, “No, go out and do that two hundred and fifty more times” the entire room groaned. The idea of that much work was overwhelming.

But the truth is, if you don’t do the work to make every bit as best as it could be, there is a writer out there who was. I may finish a book in a month or so, but I’m competing against people who have been writing that one book for twenty-five years. The reader, editor or agent doesn’t divide the sum total of their enjoyment by the amount of time it took to write to get how much they liked the book, the only thing they judge is the final product.

Put the work in to make every scene better. It’s worth it.

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