Dear Sherry: Not Again

Dear Sherry:

I have a problem. I like writing. I like brainstorming. I like coming up with ideas for my characters and seeing where it takes them. When I write out my first draft, I know all the messy mistakes and wrong turns are going to be there. The first draft is where I let myself air the story out, do the things that writing workshops tell you *not to do*. In my first draft, I have more conversations than action, because I’m trying to find the story. And when I’m done, I’m totally happy that I’ve finished a novel, and then….

It sits there.

I know the next step is to sit down and edit the crap out of it. But for me, that means a rewrite. And frankly, I’m a little tired by that point. I want to move to the next shiny thing, you know? It’s not like I’m trying to send off my first draft to an agent or a publisher. I’m not even posting anything on my website! I’m writing for me and my friends, and the idea of having to go back and whip my first draft into shape is exhausting.

I’ve seen where I should be more economical with my first drafts. I could outline in advance, for example, but that sort of takes all the joy out of discovering what you do as you go. And I’ve rather made my peace with the fact that I’m going to have, for lack of a better term, a lot of “wasted material.”

I know I want to get published one day, but again, the idea of going back, whipping the book into real shape, is just so exhausting. Especially when there are newer, shinier ideas out there to play with.

How do I keep that spark alive?

Signed,
Oh No, Not Again….

Photo Credit: Nadine Doerle

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Dear Not Again,

Is there a way to keep that spark alive? Yes.

There’s another question you need to answer first. What do you really want to do with your writing? Are you really just writing for yourself and your friends? Are you satisfied with having drawers full of first drafts? If you are, then write down all those shiny new story ideas as fast as you can, share them, and love writing for the sake of writing. There is no law that says you have to pursue publication.

If, however, you decide you do want to send your manuscripts out to agents and editors, then you probably will have to edit your work. Editing often does mean revising it, and therefore rewriting it. Editing is a lot of work, and something a lot of writers don’t like to do.

Editing doesn’t have to be something you dread. You can foster as much of a love for the editing process as you do the first drafting process. Be forewarned, it will not likely be an instant love.

Think of writing as two distinct processes. The first process is the first draft is where you spew everything onto the page. In the first draft you get to discover the story, fall in love with the characters, and immerse yourself in a new and exciting world. You’re an archaeologist digging up the artifacts, discovering the buried pyramids. You’re a carpenter building a home, putting up the walls, installing the electricity and the plumbing, making it a functional living space. First drafting is fast and often the easier part of writing. It is also only the beginning of making any story great.

The second process is the editing. This is where you get to become the true craftsperson. This is where the archaeologist brushes off the dirt to reveal the true beauty of the artifact discovered. This is where the carpenter puts in those beautiful finishing touches like those luxury cabinets, the perfect paint job, the stylish lighting, to make the house not just functional but elegant and the perfect dream home. As a writer, this is where we get to make every action our characters take make sense so that anyone who reads it will read it all the way through and genuinely like it, not just politely say they do. This is where we add in all the details to that world we love so that anyone who reads it will love it too. This is where we get to make each sentence into a thing of beauty, making sure it has the most impact possible, so that anyone who picks it up will read it from beginning to end and think it is the best story ever.

Yes, editing is a lot of work. Yes, it often means re-writing most of the first draft. How is this keeping the writing spark alive? It all comes down to how you decide to think about it. You can dread it and think of it as tedious work, or you can think of editing as the chance to really dig in and make your story something special. Editing is hard, but it is also where some of the best writing happens.

Creatively yours, Sherry


Sherry Peters“Dear Sherry” is an opportunity to ask for advice on writer’s/creativity block, time management, the process of writing, and more. Sherry Peters is a Certified Life Coach who works with writers at all stages of their writing career looking to increase their productivity through pushing past the self-doubt holding them back. Her fiction has won the Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-book award, and been nominated for the Aurora Award, Canada’s top prize for Speculative fiction.

If you could ask a writing coach anything, here is your chance! Send her an e-mail at coachsherry@sherrypeters.com.

 

1 Comment

  • Lane Robins May 5, 2017 at 10:07 pm

    I think I’m an anomaly. I actually like revising. But one thing I’ve found that really works for me is to alternate. Finish the draft, set it aside, work on a new draft. When you’re done with that, go back to the old one. Generally, I find enough to fall in love with the story again, and enough wrong to want to fix it, STAT!

    Reply

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