The Joy of Rewriting

Rewriting, we are often told, is a vital part of writing. Great fiction, they say, are not written but rewritten.

It’s a good point, and one worth noting, I think.

My own recent experience of the rewrite has taught me a fair bit about the construction of short fiction. It’s a fairly straightforward tale – a short story of mine went winging its electronic way to a certain magazine, one where my fiction has appeared before (and always after a rewrite), the editor said he liked the story but wanted some changes. To cut a long(ish) tale short, even after three rewrites the story still didn’t quite fit and in the end we decided to call it a day.

I’m not, I confess, the fastest writer in the world, it takes me a long time to come up with a first draft and usually just as long to come up with a rewrite (longer sometimes) so the whole process took a few months to complete.

And an extremely valuable, enjoyable and informative few months it was.

It’s taught me, if nothing else, how fluid a story can become even after a first, polished draft and that others will often see the story from a different angle. What might initially be a throw-away piece of information might lead the story in a different direction, a line of dialogue or inner monologue might point the characters to a different path.

Of course, I’m sorry that the sale fell through, but I reckon I’ve learned more about how fiction works – on a basic one-word-after-the-other level – and that no writing is ever without worth (even if it ultimately ends up on the metaphorical cutting room floor).

It’s prompted me, too, to go back and look at a few old tales that are currently gathering dust in the ‘been rejected too many times, maybe there’s really something wrong with it’ drawer.

There might (just might, mind you) be a hidden gem waited to be unearthed – or rather, begging to be rewritten.

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