On Rewriting, or as Writers Call it, “Writing”

I am in the process of editing the third draft of my first novel, Stronghold. The first draft was all about finishing. The second was about correcting obvious errors that emerged when reading the first. This draft has been about everything else; and that covers a good bit.

Adverbs. Verb Tense. Sentence Structure. Tone. Oh, how the little nuances of inefficiency are peppered throughout an early manuscript. I cannot count  how often my characters “began to” do things rather than do them, or how they “just”,”barely” did them while “still” “doing” something else, “so that” the action would “feel like” something entirely different but wholly similar. Ugh. This latest rewrite is the kind that makes one ask, “should I even be writing at all?”. Yes, it’s been that bad. I am finding, however, that the process has been more fulfilling than those that preceded it.

The first draft was exciting. The ideas flowed; the story unfolded. Characters surprised me, and themes emerged. As both a first-person protagonist and a first-time novelist, I went on a wild ride. The second draft was inspiring. I had run through the text, and it actually proved readable. And well-paced. And engaging. At least I thought it was. Correcting typos was a small price to pay for the realization that I had a manuscript.

I then read the second draft, and the sheen began to disappear. Sentences began to catch my eyes in all the wrong ways and on every page. Run-ons were rampant. Ideas were dropped. Glaring mistakes were everywhere. The manuscript was incomplete (or at least unpresentable, which means incomplete).

Thus, I went to work. One small step at a time. Pulling out the just’s, the already’s, the still’s, the begin-to’s, the continue-with’s, the feel-like’s, and the again’s. This of course required the re-write of phrases, then sentences, then paragraphs, then sections and more. Then came the onslaught of questions on minutea: “why are they doing that?”,  “how did they know that?”, “why did he say that?”,  “can this be shorter?”, “should this be longer?”, “how can I word this and should I even bother?”.  And then there’s the dialog. Oh, wonderful dialog.

During this process, one thing became clear, and it changed the way I approached every session. I am a writer now. A real writer. I sit at the screen and write and read and re-write and re-read until nothing makes sense. Then I do thirty push-ups and start the process anew. I get up early and I put in time–any time–to make sure I don’t get too distant from the book and its needs. I look up rules I should have learned as a child. I ensure that I am constantly reading other authors. I think about corrections I need to make when I am nowhere near my computer to make them. I am in a constant state of writing–of editing, correcting, and slowly perfecting. The process is tedious and tiresome. And I love it. I find myself more excited to do it each day, for with each surgical change, my novel improves, and it can only get better (no really, it has to only get better).

Here’s to draft 4…and the many drafts to follow!

Thanks for reading,

PS – I didn’t do a dozen drafts on this post, so I promise the novel will be better written than this is. Just sayin’.