This is probably boring to all you non-writers, and I'm not sure other writers have the same experience, but this is how rewriting seems to work with me.
Did 20 pages of rewrites on Tuskers III yesterday. This is the first time in a long time that I've systematically sat down to revise a novel from beginning to end. Partly because the book needs it, partly because I've decided that I need to do it to every novel from now on.
Many of my first drafts don't need this, or only need it in parts, but all could probably benefit.
Thing is, I've written more than 20 pages of brand new, original material in a day and not felt anywhere near as tired.
On first drafts, the only limiting factor on how long I write is how much inspiration I can bring to it. So I've spent up to 10 or 12 hours just dreaming and writing, writing and dreaming. I've worked on scenes that felt like they took 5 minutes, only to look up and realize 4 hours passed. It's as though I'm visiting a different dimension, where time flows more slowly. Fairyland, indeed.
I can walk away from a first draft feeling pleasantly tired, but not exhausted. Writing is an energizing thing to do, an exciting thing to do. I'm discovering what's happening just like the reader is, I get excited by the creative world that flows through my mind.
Rewriting is different. There is a creative element to it, of course. But it is always directed by the more rational, thinking part of the brain. I'm thinking about each word I'm changing. It is very much an immersive game of concentration.
It's drains my brain. I find that I can do somewhere around 5 pages at a sitting, maybe a couple hours worth, then I have to step away. Generally, I'll go downstairs and listen through an entire album (sometimes two albums) of music, maybe play some solitaire. In between, I browse the Internet.
Only when I've felt some distance, do I come back and start again. If I'm lucky, I've got three of these spurts in me per day.
It really is like doing a job. Like having to weed the garden, or go to work, or clean the house. Something I need to do, but which I'd rather be doing something else.
I often find that I have to check the last couple of pages I rewrote the next day, because by then I'm flagging. I'm fresher at the beginning and can fix things fast. Then the slog begins.
It's a constant struggle to say what I'm trying to say in the best possible combination. Making it more active, more personal, more original, more informative, more detail oriented, more moving, more telling, more everything.
It probably never ends. I could probably set this book aside and come back in a couple of months and do it again, and then come back and do it again, but for smaller and smaller rewards.
Today I came across a couple of chapters that I'd already revised earlier, and sure enough I found that I had to change less. I'd already done some of the hard work.
What is very clear, though, is that it really does improve the book. And whenever I'm tempted to scrimp on the process, I remember that once released this book will be out there in the world next year, and the year after, and for however many years it holds any interest. So spending these hours trying to make it better isn't wasted. It's really my duty.
I need to be mature and patient about it. (And damn that is hard.)
6 days ago