When I was young I used to loathe having to rewrite my stories. So much that sometimes I didn’t even want to read them. Because you see, I wrote mostly during the moments of intense inspiration, when everything I wrote seemed perfect. And when I read over the stories, I found many mistakes, many things to change. Somehow, the magic was gone.
And I used to imagine myself, older, wiser, and a better writer. I used to imagine that I would become good enough to write fantastic first drafts, just so I wouldn’t have to write draft after draft. It took me a while to realize that there are no brilliant first drafters.
Oddly enough, now I enjoy rewriting more than I do writing a first draft. It’s an entirely different process. Because it requires are different touch and a different set of skills, to be honest. I have a first draft, a starting point, a basis for my story. You know, like a diamond cutter… yeah, cheesy analogy, I know.
When I was young I used to love writing first drafts. Because I was stupid. Only stupid writers aren’t afraid of a blank page, a page that doesn’t know nor cares who they are. Now, the blank page terrifies me. I can imagine myself taking a deep breath before writing each and every sentence, like a diver. It’s not like that. I walk around the room, I stare out the window, then I write one sentence. Most often, I delete it after staring at it for five seconds. Then I write another one. It’s such an excruciating process.
But rewriting… that’s what makes the difference. You sit down and you have to be the reader. You have to see what works and what doesn’t. You have to see past beautiful writing… you have to analyze the story as a whole, to see what needs more work, what has to be patched up. Plot holes, inconsistencies, style, all that stuff.
And I like doing all that stuff. I like reading my stories aloud, changing this or that. Because, no matter how bad the first draft is, I know I can make it better.
Writing is reversible. I know I can change what doesn’t work. I can add or remove to my heart’s content.
I once told a fellow writer that I have a lot of unfinished projects, a lot of lousy first drafts that I was afraid to work on, and she said that I have no balls. Yeah, that’s what she said. And it’s true.
One of the biggest mistakes any writer can make is to feel depressed because their first drafts are bad. All first drafts are bad, that’s why you shouldn’t let anyone read them. Work on them a little more, read them aloud, do whatever has to be done to change that lousy first draft into a brilliant one.
But I have to admit. Writing a first draft, venturing into a fictional world for the first time, is a fascinating process. Outline or not outline, you never know what’s going to happen, where the story might lead you. When you finish writing your first draft, that’s when the whole process loses a bit of its charm.
Which process do you like best? Writing the first draft or rewriting?