1. Malcolm Tredinnick on #

    You know, that isn’t just true for you creative, talented types. I do a fair bit of technical (IT-related) writing and the same thing is very true in that area. It feels like you’re writing something cohesive and clear. Put it aside for a bit and go back six months later to have another go and the original version looks wrong in a number of ways. Rewriting to fix the odd bits comes close to “restarting” by the end.

    It can’t all be due to just getting a bit better every few months, either. When our (humans’) brains get into the flow it helps productivity in the short term, but makes it harder to step back and reconsider alternatives. Probably why I’m impressed when I hear fiction writers talk about throwing out a chapter or 12 because they realised it just wasn’t working in some subtle way. Catching that early must be a relief.

  2. Rebecca on #

    that is why i rewrite so many drafts from scratch. i’d guess that comprises about 50% of them so far. besides, it’s more fun to write new stuff than to dissect that same damn sentence for the 43930753045th time.

  3. Cat Sparks on #

    You know, this makes so much sense. This must be why when I return to my earlier attempts at novels, I can’t clean them up and make them work, even though my writing is far better now than it used to be. Its cos the old ones have suck embedded!

  4. Diana on #

    It is an oft-repeated mantra amongst most of the writers I know: “don’t get it right; get it written,” followed shortly by Nora Roberts advice that “you can’t revise a blank page.”

    Frankly, it’s never sat quite right for me. I have a really hard time erasing what’s “happened” once I’ve written it and try to convince myself that something *else* has “happened.”

  5. Justine on #

    Malcolm: Good point. I reckon it’s prolly especially when you’re writing code.

    Rebecca: Yup and it makes Cynthia’s writing practise seem a lot more sane.

    Cat: Yay, for Bear!

    Diana: I think the “you can’t revise a blank page” advice is excellent for when you haven’t started writing yet. It frees you up to just type. I’ve certainly found it very useful for getting out of my own way and just writing.

    But in rewriting without realising I’m doing it quite a lot of my revision involves deleting chunks and starting over. And most of the time it works heaps better.

    Also I don’t think you’re ever revising a blank page. When I’m rewriting even when I’m starting from scratch I still have the original version and what was wrong with it in mind.

  6. Rebecca on #

    whoa, that was cythia who did that crazy thing, with throwing out the drafts! i remember reading about it, but that was before i’d even heard of her. that is so crazy. 😀

  7. Garth Nix on #

    It just confirms that no one piece of writing or editing advice fits all. Or all occasions. Sometimes you can revise old work, and get a great result. Sometimes you do need to start from scratch. Sometimes you just need to pick up a manuscript and put it in a drawer or the bin (trash)* and start something entirely different.

    * Actually I never get rid of anything. I save everything, just in case, usually on paper and in electrons, and on several occasions have been very glad I didn’t exterminate a decade-old story or piece of writing I hated at the time.

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