This is How It Goes

I am a better editor than a writer, I think. Or rather, it comes back to the “writing is re-writing” thing.

I write a scene and it’s usually pretty bad. And I write another scene and it’s also maybe pretty bad. And by ‘bad’, I mean it all seems too contrived. You can see the strings being pulled on the puppet. But then I write a string of scenes and I see how they fit together, and I start working out the mechanics of the plot.

After the first draft, I start over again from the beginning, filling in scenes, linking up frayed ends and lost pieces. I go back over the previous scenes and edit them before I settle in to write a new one. I will, without second thought, lift and discard scenes wholesale if I find they don’t honor the continuity of what came before, and what came after. When they were a bad link. Even though I might have liked the scene itself.

Then I let it sit for a while. How long? Long enough to forget. Then I re-read it.

Some things stick out as needing a fix immediately. Other things need to be felt out more carefully – there is a feeling of something being off, being not true – a wobble, a disturbance in the force. I follow the threads back in my mind – not reading, just thinking – until I figure out which ideas need to be excised. Which parts need to change.

I go back over this process many times, until it all rings true.

Sometimes, if I’m lucky, the pieces that I wanted to fit but couldn’t will fall into place in the re-write. Sometimes new things show up and surprise me with their realness. That’s when I know I’ve got it right.

2 thoughts on “This is How It Goes

  1. That would make it easier! I think I’d also draw a distinction between the re-writing that we do as we go, vs. the kind of edit that would happen after getting an editor involved.

    I checked out the article on your site via the #litchat link :) It sounds very similar to my process, except I find I usually have a strong idea of what the end scene will be.

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