Let It Go Or Revise One More Time?

This is a tricky one to deal with.

I’ve seen more than one full-time long-term writer who advocates write and forget it.  As in, write one draft, go back and fix up spelling and typos, and move on to the next.

And I get why they make that recommendation.

For me, sometimes a story gets locked into cement and the core issues with the story that make it flawed aren’t going to be fixed with rewrites.  I can polish a sentence here or there, but the story itself just doesn’t work. And I find I’m seldom able to do much when it gets to that stage.  Best answer in that case is to learn my lesson and move on.

(They actually advocate this for a different reason.  And that’s that the story is fresh and creative in that first draft and most people destroy all that makes the story interesting in subsequent drafts.)

But sometimes I think a story can benefit from a rewrite.  Especially for new writers.

(I tell myself as I’m accidentally 30,000 words into rewriting the latest novel pretty much from scratch.  I’m keeping the basic event structure the same, but retying each chapter using some recently learned writing techniques to hopefully improve the overall depth and pacing of the story.)

The problem with rewriting is that, especially as a newer writer, it’s easy to get stuck in a rewrite loop.  You know what’s in your head, you know that other people are capable of writing a story like that, but no matter what you do, you’re story isn’t as good as what’s in your head or what others have written.  And you convince yourself that with just a little more effort you can make THIS story that good.

Odds are, you can’t.  Because right now you don’t know enough about what you don’t know to get it to the level of that imaginary novel in your head.  And the only way to learn that is to keep writing and reading.

And to move on.  To try other stories.  To try other points of view, tenses, characters, settings, world building, and story structure.  To just keep playing and experimenting.

I get what the old pros are saying about write it and get it out there fresh before you have a chance to completely destroy any originality or voice in what you’ve written.  I do.

But I do think for a newer writer, a few passes are needed.  (Especially a pantser like myself who knows how the story begins and usually how it ends but no idea how A meets B until it’s all down on paper.  Maybe I should just consider my first draft a really, really long outline?)

Do I think you need more than ten?

No.  Let it go.  Move on to the next at that point.

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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