Friday, January 18, 2013



I am rewriting my novel, and -- for the first time in my life -- have said no to EVERYTHING else while that's going on.

I'm very lucky to have that luxury, I know, and it is absolutely amazing what a difference it makes.

At some point, the author (good editors do this too, I think?) has to look at the book as a whole. To do that, for me, anyway, takes uninterrupted (and unworried) time and solitude.

I've never had that before; and I only have it now until the end of the month, so I hope to get everything that requires this kind of time done by then.

Polishing the language can wait for the next draft, but this time I do need to nail things I can only see in this state: how everything contributes (or, sadly, DOESN'T contribute -- those things all have to go or be fixed!) to the story.

First drafts, for me, anyway, are like catching a wind--I have to just sit there, with the sail loose (flapping? luffing? what do sailors say?), until one comes. If I write without that inspiration, I produce pages and pages of chatter.

A large part of rewriting is getting rid of all that. So far in this rewrite I have been able to see what belongs there instead. Usually, something does: I just couldn't see what.

The best parts are the scenes that just came to me: and that's why (for me) first drafts are hard. I can't control what comes. (Or could I? If I just sat there long enough without chattering, sail flapping and waiting for the wind?)

But rewriting is different -- again, this  may be just me, but I can sit down and make myself do it, and do it for hours and hours. When it comes to REwriting, what Thomas Edison said --

"There is no substitute for hard work" -- is true. But first drafts, I do think depend upon inspiration (that wind).

I've learned a lot from this book, though, and one thing is to test my idea before writing -- for months if need be -- and then do the entire first draft with the same kind of uninterrupted time, if I can find it, and not stop until I get to the end. If I can't, I think the best substitute is sitting down every single day at the exact same time and trying to get into the same state.

How do you find, or make, the time?


Anna Alter said...

Well put! I find it all happens for me in a similar way... the first draft needs more inspiration than work and the re-write vice versa. But I do find that when I'm in that state of concentrated focus, that inspiration for other things pop up readily. Maybe as a form of distraction? I try to keep a notebook close by to catch those ideas so I can come back to them later.

Naomi Canale said...

Yes, very well put! I must leave the house to write (probably because I live in a cottage with three children and a husband), but coffee shops are a big part of my life. I usually think about what I'm going to write during the day during house cleaning, homeschooling, and everything else that comes with life--then my thoughts for my story will be pretty well thought out before I sit down to write that night.

Best of luck finishing this month!

Elaine Magliaro said...


Good luck with your novel. I hope you finish your rewrite by the end of the month.

I write poetry--not novels--so my rewriting process may be a bit different. There are times when I get stuck rewriting some poems in a collection and can't see to move forward. That's when I find that I have to step away from my writing project for a while. Then I can come back to it after a time and reread what I've written with "new" eyes. That often helps me get a "fresh" start with rewriting the poems/making changes to the collection.

Libby Koponen said...

Thank you, Elaine, Naomi, and Anna for the good wishes and good ideas.

And good luck to all three of you on your writing and processes too!