Writing and rewriting

"Writing is rewriting" is a common phrase in the writing business, in forms like "the best writing is rewriting" or "the only kind of writing is rewriting", attributed to various famous writers. Some thoughts occur multiple times, writers steal from each other, and famous names collect attributions to things other people said, so it doesn't matter who first wrote it.

For me, this is more true than for many other writers. No matter how hard I work to get a workable, clear, and functioning structure for a story (and I do spend a fair amount of time at it), what I get when I'm done with my first draft is something that doesn't make much sense.

It doesn't help that my inherent cast of mind is twisty, complicated, devious, and somewhat illogical. The plots that vibrate with energy in my mind tend to be baroquely extravagant, not episodic or straightforward. I wish it were not so. I love reading many things where the plot is clear, and something you could explain to someone else without diagrams.

But in writing, at some level, you take what you have been given. Some ideas just have more energy than others, even as you pick them up out of the muck of your mind to see if they are even possible to work with. To get anything done at all, you have to take the ones that will help you turn them into stories. For me, anyway, a simple, uncooperative idea is still harder to finish than a complicated, "please write me" idea.

I write slowly, and revise even more slowly. So it's no surprise that it takes me a long time to get something done. I write story. I reflect on it. I revise it. I send it to my workshop. My workshop is perplexed, but professional, so they tell me what works and what doesn't. I reflect some more. I rewrite it. Sometimes, with a particularly troublesome story, I go to another workshop, and they (usually unaware of how much work I've already put into it) assume it is a confused first draft and give me more useful information.

Then I sit and really reflect on each part, and prepare to rewrite, taking comments into account. That's what I did this last week, on a novella that is the first of a planned series. Yesterday I spent nearly all day getting things to make sense.

And that's before even starting to do actual prose.Today Faith and I are off to visit her brother Simon in New Hampshire. Tomorrow, Labor Day, the actual prose goes into the furnace. That's good, because, though I haven't been in school for decades, Labor Day, when the first cool days return, is what I feel is the true beginning of the year for me.

And an editor would like to see that story, but has a tight deadline on when. Wish me luck.