Tuesday, July 22, 2014

On writing and rewriting: the spinning wheel

Yes, it's another writing post.

Jonathan links to a post called "How I Wrote Certain of my Books," which is inspirational but also depressing (note the plural form on "books"):
And then there’s the drafting, my absolute favorite part of the process. At first I write a paltry few hundred words a day, but with the outline in place, the materials at the ready, and everything referenced exactly, I soon hit a stride and can write thousands of words a day. I get up in the morning excited to write, I go to bed wishing the night would pass faster so I could get back to it.
 See why it's inspirational? I thought no one but Anthony Grafton and Joyce Carol Oates could write this way.

But what about rewriting?

Let's take the piece I've been working this month on as an example. In looking at my Excel sheet where I track just word counts, here's what I found:

  1. I started with about 6,000 words already pretty polished and written, or so I thought. 
  2. I spent 2 days rereading and taking new notes on source materials.
  3. I spent 11 days, from 2 to 4 hours a day, just rewriting and re-looking at sources, moving the word count needle from 6500 down to about 5800 and back up to 7200. 
The piece is much better, several drafts later; in fact, I'm putting on the final edits before sending it.  And this wasn't a case of being stuck: I knew what I wanted and needed to write. 

But with rewriting, sometimes I feel as though I am standing at a spinning wheel and respinning the same wool. It has all the time-consuming properties of writing without the joy of writing hundreds (let alone thousands!) of words a day and, for you record-keepers out there, the joy of seeing those numbers go up in the spreadsheet. 


Fie upon this quiet life! said...

I'm in rewrites on an article right now. It's way harder than drafting. That's always been the case for me. But I know it will be better as a result. Keeping my eye on that positive outcome helps me buckle down.

undine said...

Fie--that's true, but still not as exciting as seeing word counts.