Charles Willeford died 19 years ago yesterday (March 27), so I found myself reading bits of Don Herron's excellent Willeford bio. A piece of writing advice jumped out at me:

"[The secret to writing is:] Rewriting. First, one word at a time. After you get enough pages done, you have something to read. If you can read it you can revise it. If you revise it enough times, you can come up with something pretty good. All writing is like that; it couldn't be any other way." (From Willeford's THE WOMAN CHASER.)

I know writers who do one draft, and never revise. I also know writers who'll put the same page through its paces 30 or 40 times.

What is it for you? Does the magic happen during that first draft, or does it happen with rewriting?

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Duane - The publisher drags the ms from my hands. No book is finished.
Isn't that the truth.
I get creative sparks and aggravation all the way through, at every stage, but around the 85% mark, they get smaller.
I do several drafts.

I've got to get a hold of that bio. I loved The Woman Chaser. For those who don't
know, there's a halfway decent version that was filmed some time in the last
ten years. Not sure if it's on DVD.

It's not yet on DVD, only VHS. Good adaptation on a lower budget; Patrick Warburton played the lead -- an actor born in the wrong time period -- his physicality and deep bass voice was tailor made for big-fisted, tough-talking noir.
I rewrite all the previous days' work, which is really slowing me down in trying to finally write a novel. How do you stop doing this with a novel if it's your style? Help!
Patricia--for me, I tend to rewrite/tweak just enough so that the situation/voice is fresh in my mind, then I plow forward. I guess I'd compare it to batting practice vs. taking real swings at home plate.

(Yes, Dave White, that was a sports metaphor.)

The important thing is not to get bogged down in the rewriting stuff. I know I'll never make it perfect in one session, so I move on.
I think about a story until I've got a good idea of the plot (though that can change) and I've nailed down a voice. Then I type. Lots of surprises along the way (heroes turn out to be villians, etc). At about the halfway mark, I might read things over. I certainly read it over a couple of times when it's finished looking for grammar troubles and things like that. If a character that started out as a hero turns into a villian, that may require changes in the rest of the ms. When I've cleaned up those inconsistencies, I mail it out... the ms, not the inconsistency.

I tend to write unified plots - everything happens in one day or a short string of days. That helps a lot.
Rewriting, rewriting, rewriting. I've never had anything published that hadn't been through at least 7 drafts. That's not a magic number. It's just the fewest number of drafts I ever did on a story that sold. My novels are all double-digit drafts. My first drafts are always crap and the part of writing I hate the most. Once I have a draft finished, the writing becomes fun. I can make flat dialgoue zing, and characters come alive with somethng to work on in the rewrites. It's also in the rewrite that I begin to think about the plot structure adn rearrange scenes for maximum effect. Of course my goal on every rewrite is to cut. I take the Michaelangelo approach--He's the guy that took a rock and cut away everything that wasn't David.
I hate rewriting. I do it, but I hate it.

For me, the first one is the "Vomit Draft", where everything just gets puked out onto the page. I just write. Keep moving and don't look back. Have to. If I go backward I want to fix things and that's not the time for me to do it. I break this rule a lot, though.

Everything's painted in broad strokes (mix that with the vomit metaphor for a particularly colorful image) and the front of the story rarely matches the back. Or whatever it was that I'd set out to do in the first place for that matter.

After that, everything gets torn apart and scattered around like Legos. Then I start from the beginning again and rebuild it from the ground up. I'll keep most of it, but I'll correct spelling, grammar, how I want things to read. A lot of rearranging of scenes, bring in new characters, ditch old ones. This is the part where I'll let some people read it.

The only god thing about this part is the fact that I'll inevitably despise the story by this point, so I'm happy to burn just about everything in it. Enough people tell me something's not working, out it goes. No attachment. Hell, I'm looking for excuses to cut shit.

Somebody tells me it would work better in a different POV, though, and they're going home in a bag.

By the time I get to the end of this part, I've rewritten a good fifteen or twenty times. Then, hopefully, it passes the "Doesn't Suck" test well enough and I can put a final polish on it.
I never look back until the 1st draft is finished. Then I go over it in hard copy. Put those changes back into computer. Next I print it out. Rewrite again. Back into computer. Hope it's finished. But I've never written a draft and thrown it out and rewritten as some writers (well, one writer) says he does.

I do think I'd be in trouble if I tried to rewrite as I went along. Sometimes I have to look back because I forget what I've said, but that's the only reason. Wait until you're 165 years old.


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