The more I’ve talked to other writers, the more convinced I’ve gotten that there are probably as many different ways to write as there are writers. The process is a lot different person to person. Even the parts that people enjoy vary a lot.
Personally, I love doing my first draft. I get an idea, and away I go. I don’t outline, I frequently don’t even know what my next sentence is going to be, I just forge ahead. That works for me, but I know even the thought of that makes some writers’ skin crawl.
What gets to me are rewrites and edits. Don’t get me wrong, I know they need to happen. I’m far from a perfect writer, as my large and growing pile of rejections reminds me every time I add to it. But I also know I have some skill, as my smaller but also growing pile of sales illustrates.
One of my big projects for this year is rewriting one of my novels. This book has been through two different writing groups, a few beta readers, and part of it got gone over by a workshop led by a NYT best-selling author (thanks again, Jody Lynn Nye). It’s had a lot of eyes on it, and a lot of suggestions. And that’s part of the problem.
You’ve heard the saying about “Everyone’s got an opinion?” Well, that’s nothing like what you get when you turn readers and writers loose on a novel. If you’re lucky, you get tons of comments and notes back, and have some ideas where to go. If everyone says roughly the same thing, or even a majority, there’s a really good chance that’s a change that needs to be made.
In this case, I have lots of conflicting opinions about the structure, pacing, and plot of the novel. And I don’t just mean they’re saying things slightly differently, I mean diametrically opposed, irreconcilably different suggestions. I always think my writing can be improved, and I respect the opinion of just about everyone who’s chimed in on this. So what do I do with such widely varying views?
What I need to keep telling myself (and other writers do, too) is that, end of the day, it’s my story. Unless it’s someone I’m trying to sell it to (and not all the time then), I’m the one who decides what’s right here. I’m doing my best to look at every single comment I’ve gotten, and weigh it in my mind. Does this make the story better? Clearer? Do I agree with it? Is it a change I want in my story?
There are a lot of choices to be made, and it’s going to take a while. I gave myself all of 2015 to get it done, and I’m already wondering if that’s going to be enough time. As you can see from the attached picture, I’ve got a big pile of notes, and that doesn’t count the comments from one entire writing group that functions online. For scale, that book next to the pile is a roughly standard sized soft cover.
So, I’m going to spend a lot more time rewriting than I am writing this year, at least on this front. Can’t say I’m thrilled about it, but it needs to happen. I’ll be sorting, rereading, reading out loud to myself, looking for grammar mistakes, pronoun errors, all that fun stuff. Hopefully, I make the story better. At the very least, I don’t want to make it worse. But that’s part of the “magic” that the casual reader doesn’t really get– writing is a LOT of work. And I’m going to get back to it. If you see me, send caffeine. It’s gonna be a long year.