What I wish I had Known When I Started - Re-writes
Welcome to my mini-series on this blog on the things I wish I had known when I started. Some of the things I thought I knew, some things I was blissfully unaware of, and almost all of them are things that any new writer should think about in spades!
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You may have heard the phrase 'murder your darlings' before. It refers to engaging that critical side of your brain that tells you that what you have is not good enough, and forcing yourself to axe it and do it again. It's both the best and hardest thing you can do - and for writers, it's like trying to pull your heart out of your chest without causing bodily harm to yourself in the process!
The First and not The Last!
To anyone who has even remotely dabbled in writing be it fiction, poetry, script, or simply an essay, you know what I am talking about here. You've worked so god-damn hard on that initial draft and now it's finished, it feels like you have reached the pinnacle of the mountain.
Surely, SURELY, it cannot get better than this?! It's at that point where you look up from the magnificent view of the last page and realise - you just reached base camp! It's crushing to realise that there is still so much work left to do but you approach it like the soldier you are because in your state of elation, how hard could it be? You've been cautious, there won't be that much to do will there? That's until you read the first page of your draft and - oh dear me... That beautiful fairytale castle you thought you had created, well, it turns out that its a 1950's camper van with a wheel missing!
What Was I Thinking!
The typos, the grammar errors (and not the deliberate ones - see my blog post on author signatures), the plot holes, the 'what the hell was I thinking' moments. They all rush up to greet you like clowns from a horror film. Doubt creeps in, are you really cut out for this? There is that deadline, clawing its way towards you at first but it dashes into a headlong sprint just as you start to dither. So you write. You write because you must because sometimes you have to keep going or you will never see what's beyond the next rise and because there is that tiny light on the horizon that represents your readers' expectations. It's that light and a tiny dash of excitement that you plunge into the second, third, or even final draft.
The End is Nigh!
It's looking pretty good now. You've made it through the tundra-like wastes of re-writing and now you come to it the final draft. You're prepared, you attack the keyboard like a pro on a mission to delight and entertain. You've made it this far. Give yourself a pat on the back but don't think that it's all over yet! That palace you wanted is still a way off yet but it's not a dysfunctional Ford Fiesta anymore - more like a high-end condo with some sharp fittings (at least you are sleeping in a bed and not the back seat if you follow me). Some writers use this stage to send copies to their alpha readers (more on that another time). A fresh pair of eyes that will hopefully, pick up any little mistakes, loopholes, or more often, bits that make no sense because the explanation is still in your head! That's what this stage is all about. It's preparation to make the submission without embarrassment. You know this isn't the summit. That's still up there somewhere, but the final write up is the closest you work is going to come to it for now and with a document or manuscript that is tightly written and free from as many of the pitfalls as you have been able to locate, you've complete the first great hurdle. Time to send that e-mail to your editor (if you have one) and relax for a few days. The treacherous climbs of formatting and publishing are ahead.
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