When I first started to get serious about becoming an author, I bought The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published—no, I’m not ashamed to admit that. I browsed through it and came across the subheading “Writing is Rewriting” and nearly choked. I’d spent over a year, writing away with one hand, no less, and you’re saying I have to do it again?
As a stubborn twenty-one-year-old, I refused to believe it. Sure, I had it proofread and made some minor edits, but I liked what I wrote and hoped others would, too. Little did I know I’d rewrite that story three or four times before it’d ever land in readers’ hands. (See Forgetting My Way Back to You Release: Twelve Years in the Making)
To this day, however, I still think it’s a bit extreme to do a complete overhaul and start back at page one. Even so, I’ve come to appreciate the value in stepping back and looking for ways to improve your plot. You have to take more time and set aside your ego, but in the end, you’ll likely be satisfied with the results.
I’ve found this to be the case time and again. When I began to rewrite my first manuscript, I couldn’t believe how much I wanted to change. How had I not noticed all the unrealistic elements and awkward phrasing?
Having been so young, I’d matured, for one thing, which allowed me to understand such flaws. I also think the months I spent away from it helped me look at it more objectively. After all, we devote so many hours to our stories. We’re bound to lose our unbiased focus by the time we finish.
During that break, I’d continued writing, as well, giving me experience to accompany my growth. Regardless of age, I believe experience is the best reason and aide to keep revisiting past manuscripts and fine-tuning them. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with two publishers and their editing staffs, and each has enhanced my craft. They’ve given me new techniques and uncovered weaknesses I didn’t realize I had. I may have once thought I had no need to make any revisions, but now, I find something every time I look back.
Moreover, my fellow authors, don’t despair that your first draft comes out like a first draft and requires more attention. Think of a sculptor and the hours he/she spends perfecting his/her piece of art. After a certain point, it may look good, but it doesn’t take on true beauty until he/she uses a chisel to smooth out some edges and define others. Likewise, don’t rush your process and rob yourself of the chance to create a masterpiece.
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