Does rewriting ever end?

I am not sure I know any writers who live for editing and revising their work. It’s not that there isn’t a huge amount of satisfaction to be gained by polishing a scene or a section of dialogue, but it is a tedious process filled with a lot of rewriting and moving things around and slashing what you once thought were brilliant moments. You might, as I am doing with my current writing project, end up taking a completely different approach and focus to the general story. This makes for a good deal of extra work, which I hope will be worthwhile in the end. (I will say this: I’m quite pleased with my thesis at the moment.)

cersei screams internally

How I usually feel about the revision process.

One of the textbooks for my thesis course is Walter Mosley’s This Year You Write Your Novel. I highly recommend this book! It’s a great resource, and it’s easy to absorb. In the mini-section “when am I finished rewriting?”, Mosley says:

Never. The novel never attains the level of perfection. No matter how much you rewrite and rewrite again, you will still find places in the book that don’t do exactly what you want. You will feel that some characters are hazy, and plot connections unsure. There’s a subplot that will seem to get lost and a fairly important character that will change but not as much as you might have wished.

This is true for writers in all forms. Books are not pristine mathematical equations. They are representative of humanity and are therefore flawed.

“So when will I know to stop rewriting?” you ask.

When you see the problems but, no matter how hard you try, you can’t improve on what you have. That’s it. You find yourself reading through the book for the twenty-fifth time, and as you see problems, you try to fix them, but the attempt only makes things worse….Then you know you’re finished.

Congratulations. You have a novel. This one is good. The next one will be better.

So there you have it.

For someone like me who is an admitted perfectionist, I felt so much relief reading this passage. Writing, like life, does not need to be perfect. Isn’t that great?

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First Drafts and More from Neil Gaiman

The following short video includes some of Neil Gaiman’s thoughts on writing, especially on the importance of writing in order to become a writer. He also touches on reading, first drafts, and more. The audio is from a Nerdist podcast, but the video was put together by YouTuber Brandon Farley.

How do you go about writing?

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Narrator and Narrative

I know what you’re thinking… Two blog posts within 24 hours. What could this mean?! (#doublerainbow)

I think I’ve hit a long awaited writing episode where all I want to do is write. Additionally, my thesis course has been inspiring me, and that makes me want to post here as well. I have two related items to share here. The first is about narrator, and the second is about narrative.

This last week in my class, we were looking at POV and narration, so our professor gave us a link to Steve Almond’s article “Once Upon a Time, There was a Person Who Said, ‘Once Upon a Time’ | The New York Times” (The New York Times Magazine, January 2013). I won’t do Almond the injustice of trying to summarize his article, but do go read it. I felt that it was especially poignant in light of the chaotic world events of this last week.

In turn, this article made me think of Chimamanda Ndozi Adichie’s 2009 TED Talk called “The Danger of the Single Story | TED.com.” I rewatch Adichie’s talk every other month or so and never tire of listening to her wisdom and experience. I will embed the video below in case you don’t want to click through to the link.

I hope you enjoy these two perspectives on narrator and narrative. Let me know what you think in the comments!

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Why Writers’ Search Histories are Odd

I’m working on my thesis right now, and since I am majorly revising a prior draft, I have been including many more details and fleshing the story out as I go. As a direct result of this slowed down process, I have been doing a lot of research. Tonight, I have searched for and learned more about the following things:

  • morphological traits of predatory fish
  • fish eyes (and octopus and shark eyes)
  • color names of opal variations
  • how long it takes for blood to dry or congeal outside of the human body
    • This search resulted in subsequent searches about rigor mortis, which led to further discovery of “lividity” and an understanding of what congealed blood inside the body looks and feels like. (Apparently, it’s like red currant jelly?)
  • how far a “league” is
  • how far the human eye can perceive a candle flame
    • Fun fact: a league is about 5.5 km, and a human eye can see a candle flame at about the same distance because any further away would drop the flame below the horizon due to the curvature of the earth.

Themoreyouknow

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why writers’ search histories are odd.

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