My Writing Life: Rewriting

Published May 12, 2016

summer bathing


I have been away from my blog, working on my memoir, Her Widow.  A limited memoir, I call it, because rather than tell my life story, it tells what happen one year in my life.  One more pass, I tell myself each time I start another draft or rewrite of Her Widow.  Just one more pass, when I know very well after 35 years of wriing that it will be at least ten more drafts.   Every writer, student or professional, knows writing is rewriting.  If you don’t enjoy rewriting you aren’t a writer for long.

I am working on a full length play as well as my memoir.  Fifteen years ago After the Dance was a novel.  Ten years ago a play.  Last year a novel again.  And this year I am transforming it back into a play.  I have probably written six drafts of each transformation.

A piece of writing, be it nonfiction or fiction, story or play, can be looked at from two aspects:  from its Structure and from its Style.  Structure is everything having to do with plot and character development  Style is everything to do with language: syntax and diction, which might incorporate both exposition and dialog.  There are a million ways to say anything.  The English language in particular is designed for variety of word choice as well as phrase, clause, and sentence structure and order, and all that in service of the story.

There are many ways to structure a plot and develop a character also, which is to say there are a million ways to tell a story and draw a character and whenever there are a million ways to write something there is rewriting.  Choice leads to change and change is rewriting.

The First rule in creative writing is Show, don’t Tell.  The Second rule is anything that doesn’t serve the plot development or character development must come out.  Everything that lands in your story that perhaps is interesting or witty but does not move the plot along or does not show something about your character MUST be tossed.  You only have so many words and pages in which to tell your story.  Don’t clog it up with the unnecessary no matter how lovely the unnecessary seems.  Useful is the test.  Another way of putting that is Does it Work?  Don’t ever ask yourself if it is Good.  Good can’t be judged impartially.  Does it Work? can.

All right that is enough from me tonight.  I have put in a little time on my blog and now must hurry/speed up/ rush/run/ hasten/ press on over to Her Widow.  I am only on page 25 and have “miles to go before I sleep.”