Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Your sock drawer can enhance the joy (yes, joy) of rewriting

“When you say something,
make sure you have said it,”
says  E. B. White.
“The chances of your having said it are only fair.”

He’s right. Rarely can we write a clear message the first time, or even the second or third time.

That means we communicate accurately only 20 percent of the time.

That’s scary.

Several of us are using these summer months to rework our memoirs’ rough drafts because (1) our stories are important and (2) we want to be sure we’ve said what we meant to say.

We want our stories to be clear to other people.

“You write to discover what you want to say.
You rewrite to discover what you have said
and then rewrite to make it clear to other people.”
Donald Murray

Let’s pin down a definition of rewriting.

Scott Edelstein says, “Rewriting, revising, and revision all mean the same thing: looking at a piece again and writing it over, using a fresh approach or perspective. The result of each rewrite is a new draft of your piece.” (1,818 Ways to Write Better & Get Published)

“… There are many different ways to rewrite, and many different legitimate approaches to it,” he points out. “Feel free to do whatever seems best for your piece.”

How many times must a writer rewrite? Edelstein’s answer: “There is no ‘right’ number of rewrites.… Do however many revisions are necessary to get your piece into finished shape.”

Get used to rewrites,” advises Dr. John Yeoman. “Make [your stories] as good as you can, and then drop them in your sock drawer for a month. They’ll develop errors, dull interludes, and patches of downright ugliness all by themselves. That’s the time to fix them. Then drop them back in the drawer for another month and do it all over again.” (Five Winning Habits of Successful Writers

Donald Murray acknowledges the joys of rewriting. “… The act of revision is central to the pleasure of making. When we build a house, bake a batch of Christmas cookies…, write an essay, we add to the world. And in the making we lose ourselves.…

“Before I sit down to write I put on [music] and turn up the volume, but when I become lost in the writing and rewriting I no longer hear the music or know if it stops; I forget the time, the place, who I am going to meet for lunch.…

The joy—yes, joy—of crafting a text under my hand and with my ear is a daily satisfaction to me.” (The Craft of Revision)

May, you, too, find joy and satisfaction in revising your stories!


  1. Linda, I think when we accept that writing is really rewriting, it is easier to enjoy the process. I love how a story unfolds more and more with each attempt at it. And I'm only working on a first draft, already edited numerous times. When it is done, I know I will have only just begun. Excellent post!

  2. Hi, Kathy, you have an enormous task before you, but if anyone can do it and do it well, it's YOU. Your story is so important and so many people need to read it. I know it will be an amazing read when you finish. Bless you as you slog through the rewriting and organizing and all the nitty gritty stuff. It will be worth it in the end!