3rd February

Writing is re-writing

I think the above is the biggest lesson I have learned as a writer.

It’s also the lesson I am struggling most with.

Looking back over a couple of years of concerted writing I can see a vast improvement. Firstly, the basics. Sentence structure, use of grammar, &etc. Having been an avid reader from the age of four, and blessed with a decent level of intelligence I was shocked to realize how much of these basic things I just wasn’t really aware of. I’m still no perfect and more than capable of splitting an infinity or dangling a participle. But less so, and I remember to attribute action and speech correctly on a much more comprehensive basis.

On the story and plot front, that seems to be okay – especially in the world building department, I keep getting compliments on that – though I still have a tendency to have things move to slowly at the front end, or even start in a place that doesn’t serve the story best.

Which brings me to the issue of the re-write.

I really struggle with it. I struggle with stripping a story down to the bones, and re-assembling it to resemble something different to the form I envisaged when doing the initial write.

A good example of this is a current story geefourdotalpha.  I love this story, the tale of a robotic war machine that is mostly destroyed, that lies for centuries in rubble and a growing forest, that develops full sentience, that is discovered by a woman who chooses to live far from the hubbub of life, who then destroys the AI because it threatens her peaceful existence. This story has been around for about 9 months now. It’s been rejected six times (I had thought it five, but forgot the original prompt supplier had been the initial rejection). There have been some kind words on it, but I the most comprehensive response suggested I started the story in the wrong place. I couldn’t figure a way to change it.

I supplied the story for critique as part of my writing class by Cat Rambo and included my rejection notices. The basic agreement was to start the story elsewhere. Mark was very helpful in suggesting what scene to start with and, more importantly, why. But it is still difficult. Now I feel like I am writing a whole new story, but with a more comprehensive prompt. The difficulty is I know why I structured it in the way I did. So I am having to remove that backdrop and re-imagine the whole set up of the story.

This is a thing I am struggling with.

Especially as I know it is an exercise I am going to undertake with a lot of the other stories I have written in the last 12-18 months. At the same time, I’m still trying to produce new output, but hopefully of a nature that reflects he lessons being learned here.

But I also know that if I want to be more than a semi-enthusiastic dilettante then the re-write is a skill i must develop. It is a major item in the writers toolbox, to refuse to use it would be like a carpenter refusing to use a plane and sandpaper. The basic quality of the item constructed may be good, but it will always look unfinished, and therefore undesirable. Finishing a story is one thing, completing it is another. Presently I have finished a number of stories. Now I need to complete them, to polish them so that the grain is revealed, to add the lustre and shine which can add warm appeal.

I have written.

I must re-write.