“Learn to enjoy this tidying process. I don’t like to write; I like to have written. But I love to rewrite. I especially like to cut: to press the DELETE key and see an unnecessary word or phrase or sentence vanish into the electricity. I like to replace a humdrum word with one that has more precision or color. I like to strengthen the transition between one sentence and another. I like to rephrase a drab sentence to give it a more pleasing rhythm or a more graceful musical line. With every small refinement I feel that I’m coming nearer to where I would like to arrive, and when I finally get there I know it was the rewriting, not the writing, that won the game.”
I am not going to mince any words today – for my own or for your psyche, dear reader. So, be prepared for pure bluntness.
Are you by any chance one of those writers who conclude that the first draft of their text is perfect? If so, think again. For the sake of your readership foremost, but also for your own ego’s unbruised preservation.
Who among us is unaware of the American literature classic, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee? (I want to safely assume that we all have at least heard about this masterpiece, even if we have not read it cover to cover as of yet.) It is not at all difficult to assume that this great writing was completed in one single sitting session by the author. Based on the outcome – meaning, readers’ and critics’ responses across the globe. Not so! In fact, it has taken the author several rewrites over more than two years to arrive at the final draft of her novel. Several rewrites over more than two years . . .
How many of us have known that the first draft, published in 2015 as Go Set a Watchman transpired as one of the most effective lessons to a writer, to any writer who erroneously would consider his / her first textual drawings to be perfect? As it is stated time and again in- and outside the field of literature, without the help of an editor, without continuous hard work and without substantial editing, history may have never heard of the author of one of the “Great Books” in English.
Before we – any of us, published writers and / or author-candidates – even begin to entertain the thought that our text is complete in its first draft, we had better re-think our stance and re-evaluate as to what it is we are in actuality placing in the hands of our readers. One of us, maybe even several of us, may already be holding on to the material worthy of becoming another ‘great’ novel or short story, or the ‘great’ epic / hybrid / prose / narrative poem, or the ‘great’ play, etc. Without the help of an editor, without continuous hard work and without substantial editing, however, that initial text-drawing may never have a chance to take flight . . .