E.B. White once said that “the best writing is rewriting.” I think old E.B. and I have different definitions of the word best. For me, rewriting has always been difficult. When I set something down on paper, or get it typed out just the way I want it, I’m reluctant to change anything. I know, of course, that rewriting needs to be done with virtually everything you write, but I’ve always struggled with it.
At the moment I am in the midst of a rewriting project, and it’s definitely coming along slowly. However, I’ve begun to see some of the “best” that E.B. White was talking about. There are chapters that I’ve taken notes on about what needs to be improved, and sometimes those chapters feel like writing for the first time. There are also areas where I’m able to expand on characters and dialogue because I know the plot was taken care of in the first draft.
This increased opportunity for creativity is something that I had not expected to encounter when rewriting. It’s also something mentioned in a recent Writer Unboxed article by Brunonia Barry called 10 Tips about Process. In the article, Barry says, “I’m never happier than when I’m revising. There may be bits of good writing that come earlier, even ones that inspire the story in the first place, but the poetry, if there is any, comes at this stage for me. There is something about having the initial story down on paper and knowing that it holds together that frees up my creativity.”
I think Barry makes a good point here when she says that rewriting is when poetry comes into the mix. When you have already written the story once, and have the main components of the plot in place, then you can concentrate on the words you’re using. You can be more careful about how you’re describing things, and what your characters are saying.
What are your thoughts on rewriting? Share your thoughts in the comments!
— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan