Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I have a writer friend who absolutely loves rewriting. And almost hates first draft. I have another friend who rarely rewrites, loves the 'rush' of the first draft and then just puts things away and starts a new piece.
Both of these have their drawbacks. The rewriting fiend can't send work out because it always needs one more rewrite. The first draft fiend sends things out occasionally and after one rejection, tosses it in the bottom drawer and moves on to the next story.
I'm somewhere in the middle. I don't enjoy fiddly rewrites, where I'm doing very little to the story, but I recognise they need to be done. It's where the sentences matter, where the language improves, where the characterisation deepens. But it can also be where I step too far back from the voice and the action and then I start to lose the depth of character. I try now in rewrites to imagine myself into the heart of the story and work from there. This is where the silent house is important. Nothing to distract me from the heart.
A few years ago, I listened to Adib Khan speak (he is an Australian literary author) and he says he does four drafts, but for the first three, he puts the previous draft aside, doesn't even look at it again and starts the new draft from scratch. Each new draft is like a distillation of the previous.
I have found this also to be useful. It helps to re-vision the story, rather than just fiddle around the edges.
But everyone is different. What to do with a new work that suddenly develops into something unexpected? That's where I am with a YA novel right now. I thought it might work based on emails, but the character has other ideas. This will be a novel where I do a lot of experimenting, on the basis that not all of it will work, and I might have to throw out lots of pages. But the central story and character excite me, so it will be fun. Even the rewrites sound promising already!

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