In my early days of writing, I was so precious about my first draft I didn't want to change anything, afraid if I took something out, corrected, or added something, it wouldn't be the story I wanted to tell. I became very attached and very sentimental about my words and characters, but as I grew and developed, I realised the enormity of my imagination and steadily realised editing or rewriting is absolutely everything.
It took me almost 12 months to rewrite A Love That Makes Life Drunk, a 120,000 word manuscript I basically tore apart, and put back together; At the time I was anxious and unsure, wondering if I'd done the right thing, had I ruined what I originally set out to do.
In 'Rewriting', Kaplan (1998), describes this first draft as a "warm promise of glory", he also goes onto explain that after basking in finishing the first draft, often rewriting is the last thing a writer may be thinking about, that a "few brush ups...punctuation, typos and spelling..." is enough - it's not.
I can't emphasis enough that rewriting is everything. It turns "a promising piece of work, into a sharp, precise manuscript that hopefully won't end up on a slush pile". Kaplan (1998) says one of the essential attributes to being a good writer is "ten per cent inspiration and ninety per cent perspiration", yet still there is a reluctance to rewrite in full, that means, as again, Kaplan (1998) suggests, "maybe we're just too easily satisfied, too much in love with our own words, or too 'frozen' by them."
I was one of those "reluctants" and had been for years, until I became very serious about my work being published. People were actually going to read MY words, and therefore, I can only be judged by what's in print, and since I've spent years trying to master this incredibly difficult thing called "writing", I put in that ninety per cent perspiration Kaplan talked about with a lot of sacrifices along the way.
So, what about finding the time, because there's work, kids, family, the house etc, and your "hobby" can no way been seen to be coming first (!) I was on maternity leave with Little Fella when I wrote the first draft of my published novel. It took about 6 weeks. I'd grab an hour or so during his naps, forgoing the chance to kip myself because "Jefferson Howie" was pestering me more than sleep, and pretty soon it became obvious to me this manuscript was something special.
With negotiations, sacrifices and fantastic support from Big Fella and the Parents, I stole 3 days a week to start editing. From my hubby's point of view (because he isn't really interested in writing), I could be onto something lucrative, so supporting me emotionally and financially to do this most amazing thing, could benefit us in the long term. From my Parents' view, they got to have Little Fella every week to give loads of love and fuss.
I set up my writer's space and started my new "job". It wasn't easy. I was often very tired, a bit grumpy, frustrated at reading over the same damned sentence fifty times and still not knowing why is sounded clumsy. I missed out on Little Fella's bathtime, evening drinks in the garden with Big Fella and totally neglected my appearance.
Then a bombshell struck. Money was tight. I had to go back to work.
This complicated things, but not one to be defeated, I came to a compromise with Big Fella, and I worked on the book 3 evenings a week instead - which was even harder. I look back now and wonder how I did it, how I survived, or how the book flowed and read as easily as it does, but I know one thing, those long and sometimes excruciating hours of editing had a hell of a lot to do with it, and those 10 drafts I spent 12 months working on, is now a published novel.
I have to say, revising the Opening was the most frustrating part because it determines whether a reader will continue reading your story, short or novel, and now when I read over those old drafts, it's not the same chapter, I tore it apart numerous times, talked myself out of sentimentality and went for it, without regret, because I know it was the right thing to do.
OK, so I could go on for hours about this revision stuff, but instead I'm recommending you read "Rewriting - A creative approach to writing fiction" by David Michael Kaplan. It is essential reading for anyone serious about sending off a manuscript in the hope of being published. It addresses issues such as: Why revise?, First Revisions and Openings, Cutting out what's not essential, Adding what's essential, rearranging the plot and endings, and plenty more to give you that really special manuscript.
I hope I haven't put you off, because I actually found revising totally inspiring. I fell in love with my characters again, and got to go back and add things, refuelling my love for London and Paris. It opened doors to new inspirations and characters that have subsequently developed into new stories and interests, and even people and friends, and you do not have to be the most academic person to do this job, or have (or had) a trade in Publising or Journalism, because it wasn't really until my mid to late twenties that these things clicked in to place for me either. Self belief and constructive criticism is what you need, there is no room in this competitive career for sensitive souls, numerous rejections will put pay to that, be strong, pick yourself up, and start again. You are a writer remember, so write.
Have a good Tuesday