Tuesday, October 11, 2011


I recently encountered a writer -- and I'm a little loathe to use that word, writer -- who said to me that he refused to do rewrites because he felt that a piece ought to be perfect the first time it's written. My first thought was, "Someone has been reading too many parables about Faulkner." My immediate second thought was, "I have no rebuttal." I am going out on a limb here to say that this person is not a writer.

Why? Because rewrites are almost mandatory in our line of work.

I have never had a piece published that didn't require a rewrite. Even "In A Flash" -- a piece that is only 263 words -- got a rewrite to change a whopping six words from the original. If you're a writer who believes in self-improvement, rewrites are almost part of your fiber.

So here are some tips I give to folks at the Milwaukee Writers Workshop who might not be as well-versed in the art of rewriting.

1. Read your piece like a reader. It's a difficult trait to master, but it's essential. Be subjective about your own work in order to create the best possible piece.
2. Keep the goal in mind. Your story should have a resolution; every story needs one. Is your rewrite getting you to that resolution?
3. Don't over-correct: if you find yourself substituting words, put your pen down.
4. Allow yourself time. A lot of times you can spend too long on rewrite a piece. Sometimes put it down and work on another project (or better yet, submit it).

Just a few thoughts on revision and rewriting. What are your thoughts? What's your process?

No comments: