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This related question made me think. I love writing. I am never bored. I never have writer's block. I just enjoy exploring my imagination and following the unexpected turns of my creativity. It is one of the best things in life, and I can never get enough of it.

But.

I seriously hate re-writing. I despise having to go over the raw journal of my inner adventure and rework it into a readable novel. I have several complete first drafts, but I cannot bring myself to rewrite them, or if I try, it is torture.

What can I do to help me get through this boring and tedious process?


Edit after answers:

Thank you. Each answer has given me valuable and useful ideas. I would like to accept them all, because I think that the solution to my rewriting problem is a combination of them all:

  • take some time off my novel and return to it with a fresh mind (Kristina Adams)
  • in the meantime, write the next novel (Dale Emery)
  • change my view of rewriting: instead of wanting to continue to explore as I do in writing and feeling frustrated at what rewriting isn't, I should – and I can, because I love language – focus on what rewriting can be: a completely different experience (Chris Sunami & SaberWriter)
  • set myself small goals instead of feeling overwhelmed by the mountain before me (Kristina Adams)

I've been preaching Dale's answer many times on this site, and I believe that the skill to write so well that large scale rewriting becomes unnecessary comes with writing a lot.

  • I'd be interested in seeing some of your work. I actually love editing --perhaps I could give you a few specific tips to get started. – Chris Sunami supports Monica Jan 29 '15 at 20:37
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    If you love writing and hate re-writing, then maybe writing is all you need to feel fulfilled, so don't worry about revising. If you love writing and want to share your writing with readers, you'll need to think about what your trying to share through your stories. When you get into the habit of thinking about what you're trying to say to someone else, I think you'll find that revising will come more naturally to you. – Kit Z. Fox Jan 29 '15 at 21:33
  • Thanks, @KitZ.Fox, that's actually a very useful approach. – user5645 Feb 2 '15 at 8:08
  • Thanks, @ChrisSunami. I write in German, so probably this won't work. – user5645 Feb 2 '15 at 8:09
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    I'd like to ask a couple of clarifying questions: 1) What motivates you when you are writing? What makes you love it? 2) What's wrong with your drafts --the ones that you can't publish and don't want to rewrite? – Chris Sunami supports Monica Feb 2 '15 at 14:32
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Skip the rewrite. When you're done with the first draft, fix the spelling errors. Fix any other obvious errors. Then publish it.

If it isn't readable, nobody will read it. No problem. But maybe someone will like it more than you do.

Write more.

Yes, I'm serious.

[Edited to add:] For a more thorough treatment of this crazy idea, see Dean Wesley Smith's long blog post the myths of rewriting.

[Edited to add:] Also see my answers to Lauren Ipsum's interesting questions in the comments below.

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    1) but if you don't like to rewrite, how do you fix the "obvious errors"? 2) how do you know what an "obvious error" is? How do you define it? 3) if you don't spend time in rewriting, how do you learn how not to make "obvious errors"? Basically, "spellcheck and publish" doesn't lead to any kind of self-improvement, and you will never figure out how to become "readable." – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Jan 29 '15 at 17:43
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    @Lauren I think that's a self-correcting problem. If OP isn't motivated to re-write, then not having any readers might increase his motivation. On the other hand, if he's not concerned with having readers, then what's the point of re-writing anyway? Seems logical to me. – Kit Z. Fox Jan 29 '15 at 21:30
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    @KitFox Meh, there's a logic there, I agree, but if you don't care about readers, why bother publishing? – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Jan 30 '15 at 1:12
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    1. Instead of trying to edit the erroneous bits into goodness (which I suspect is what the OP means by "rewriting"), one alternative is to throw them out and write them as if you're writing the first draft. I did that when my writer's group pointedly objected to an ending where my MC simply ran away from the problem. I threw out the ending, and wrote another one. Technically that may be rewriting, but it was in creative mode, and not the kind of "boring and tedious [editing?] process" that the OP talks about. – Dale Hartley Emery Jan 30 '15 at 3:12
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    2. First, "obvious" was a poor choice of words. Second, I left out a step: Have a trusted reader (or several) read the story and alert you to errors. Fix the ones you agree with (as in #1, above). 3. As first readers point out errors (or as you notice them yourself), you learn the kinds of errors you make. You can practice doing that kind of thing better in the next story, and the next. – Dale Hartley Emery Jan 30 '15 at 3:21
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It's a great question --writing and editing are definitely two different skills. I think the editing quits being boring and tedious when you start to take pride in it as its own thing, not just the hoop you have to jump through to get your work out there. Perhaps think of it this way: When you dig a diamond out of the ground, it just looks like a rock. It's how you cut it and polish it that makes it into a jewel. Similarly, when you have finished your rough draft, you have all the raw materials to make something wonderful. Now, all it needs is to be cut down and polished.

Here's a second metaphor for you. Picture yourself filming a documentary. You collect hundreds of hours of footage. Now, even though it's drawn from life, you need to make it express a narrative. You only have 90 minutes, so you have to be brutal about what stays and what goes. Does it illuminate the character, provide some context, advance the story? If not, it probably needs to go. Remember, the readers don't have the same connection to the material that you do, so if you want them to have that connection you have to build it, consciously and conscientiously. You might be glad to luxuriate in the world you've created, but you owe it to the reader to make sure every word counts.

EDIT: One other thing that can help is to remember that the work that doesn't make it onto the final page isn't wasted. I recently read some writing advice by the great science-fiction grandmaster, Samuel Delany --he quoted Theodore Sturgeon as advising writers to first imagine all the tiny details of the room the characters are in, but to only include in the final writing those details which the characters actually notice themselves. There's a certain richness writing gains when what is on the page is backed up by a wealth of detail that isn't on the page. Your long draft builds a world, your final version lives in that world.

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  • I understand. The problem is that I love digging up the diamonds, but I dislike polishing. I love traveling the world and shooting footage, but I dislike sitting in a cutting room and cutting. I'm the camera man writer, not the cutter writer, so to speak. Problem is, in writing you don't usually work in a team, but have to have all the skills yourself. Maybe I should do as you suggested in a comment and find someone who loves rewriting stuff. – user5645 Feb 2 '15 at 8:12
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    It's probably a better problem to have than the other one --there are more successful writers that write too much than that write too little! – Chris Sunami supports Monica Feb 2 '15 at 14:30
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I think the real answer is, fall in love with the nuance of language and how it works in the reader's mind.

I often mention the book, Make Your Words Work, by the late Gary Provost -- amazon link, because it is the book which most helped me fall in love with how words on the paper transform into images in people's minds.

Don't view the editing process so much as a work to do, but more as a research project where you are attempting to answer the question:

"How do I write this more clearly so that an FTR (First Time Reader) will see it the same way as I do?"

Don't you love reading a book which does something to you so that at some point you are no longer reading, but watching the story play out on the Movie-Screen of Your Mind?

I believe great fiction writing like that occurs because of what Jack Bickham talks about in his book, Scene & Structure -- amazon.com, related to stimulus / response.

He provides an example which shows the flow something like the following:

Incorrect

Joe threw the ball to Tom.

Tom said, "Hey, have you ever eaten oysters for breakfast?"

That is incorrect, because in the reader's mind the ball hangs in the air.

Correct

Joe threw the ball to Tom.
Tom caught the ball and said, "Hey have you ever eaten escargo for breakfast?"

It's a very subtle thing, but if you really apply this to your writing where one sentence stimulates another you get great transitions which make your reading flow really well.

All of this adds up to concentrating on one sentence at a time as you do your edits and you'll get a lot more done than if you concentrate on the overwhelming large number of pages. Good luck.

John Grisham: The Partner

Here is an example of great writing that definitely came from an author who thought about all these things. No matter what you think of Grisham and his novels I believe if you read one sentence you will want to read more so it is a great example of this stimulus / response and using the exact right language.

They found him in Ponta Pora, a pleasant little town in Brazil, on the border of Paraguay, in a land still known as the Frontier.

They found him living in a shaded brick house on Rua Tiradentes, a wide avenue with trees down the center and barefoot boys dribbling soccer balls along the hot pavement.

They found him alone, as best they could tell, though a maid came and went at odd hours during the eight days they hid and watched.

You can read more of the excerpt at : John Grisham - The Partner (amazon link)

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I hate rewriting too. I like to separate myself from the project until I feel ready to attack it with a fresh pair of eyes. I'm always thinking about said project - working on ways to improve it, things I'd change, things I don't like - but I don't reopen the document until I feel ready to.

If you have someone to send it to, send it to them and get their feedback before you look at it again. That way you'll have an idea of what works and what doesn't, and some suggestions to get you started.

Another thing I'd recommend is setting yourself goals - editing one page a night, for example. If you do more than that, it's great. If you don't, catch up the next night. The smaller the goal, the easier it is to achieve. Once you get into a habit of editing on a regular basis, it becomes much easier to achieve and less of an intimidating task. Good luck!

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I pretend that someone else wrote the first draft and it's my job to fix it. That gives me the emotional distance I need. Probably because I like to point out where other people went wrong.

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