Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ask O: What's the Point of Re-writing? Can't it be Perfect the First Time?

Happy Wednesday, my writing friends! Today’s question comes from my sweet little cousin Jesse’s mom. He's struggling with taking correction about his writing projects. When mom points out areas to fix or improve, he feels frustrated and sad, wants to give up.

It’s a good thing we grown-up writers never struggle with this …

Of course I’m joking! Even after thirteen years of critique-group suggestions, rejection letters, and a spouse’s well-meaning “thoughts” on my writing, I still cringe over constructive criticism. I’m learning to handle it better though, and here are four tips that help me.

Remember the Importance of Rewriting
The first time I puke my thoughts onto paper, my creative side takes the reins. I focus on the next exciting obstacle to stump my hero (in a novel) or the brilliant point I must communicate (in a non-fiction piece). The details don’t matter at this point; therefore, I miss stuff—lots of stuff! Everything from clarifying details to commas to repeated words to repeated words (heh heh). I snazzy up these finer points in the second (and third, fourth, fifth…) edits.

If I published my first drafts—bluck!—my raw, unpolished mess would surely cause readers to quickly click away. Remembering how much rewriting boosts my writings’ “sparkle factor,” props up my courage to engage in the hard work of making it better.

Fresh Eyeballs
No matter how many times I check and recheck a manuscript, mistakes—everything from misspelled words to accidentally using the wrong character’s name!—still creep by my notice. That’s why I need someone else’s eyeballs. My critique friends (McCritters) and editors fill in where I lack. Sometimes their honest impressions hurt--I’m not gonna lie. But, they make my writing much better. So even if it stings a bit at first, I’m grateful for their help in catching my mistakes, big and small.

Even You?
Another way to conquer those yucky feelings is to remember everyone has to rewrite. Everyone! Even published authors. You wouldn’t believe how many red marks my editor found in my manuscripts. It looked like a cherry pie blew up on the pages. I’ve edited a lot of books in my day, and I promise even the best authors need help. A less-than-perfect first draft doesn’t mean you’re the worst writer ever—it means you’re in great company.

As Unto Who?
Sometimes I labor and toil over a chapter, pour my heart into it, and the doggone thing still lacks that “wow” I so long for. I may be bummed, but if I remember I’m not writing to feel good about myself or to impress others, but “As unto the Lord,” it’s easier to roll up my sleeves, go back, and rework it. I want my work to shine because I love my heavenly Father, and I desire to do my best for Him.

I hope that helps, Cousin Jesse. Don’t give up!

Happy writing, my friends.


PS Don’t forget to leave your writing questions for Ask O in the comments or on my website

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