If At First You Don’t Succeed…

I think, of all the maxims out there, this is the one that describes my experience writing the best.  With writing, rewriting, revisions, edits, requests for rewrites, and rejections, I don’t think I’ve ever had a finished piece that was really truly finished the first time around.  And, though it can be frustration and requires hard work, I think that’s the way it should be.

Writing is an art form.  Picking the correct words, sentence structures (not to mention punctuation) to highlight the themes, plots, and sub-plots, scene descriptions, and character development can be tricky if not completely overwhelming.  It can be hard to find the correct balance on the third time through and next to impossible to find it while drafting—for me at least.  I’m sure there are those that can do it and do it well, but I am not in their numbers.  And this writing, rewriting, rewriting again process can become very trying, especially when it means cutting favorite lines and scenes.

It’s sometimes hard for me to cut that pithy line that popped into your head while writing three drafts ago or to delete a character whose role turned out to be one more of convenience than of story development.  Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that it’s the story I love and not the specific words.  But sometimes that’s what the story actually needs to be finished.  When I’m writing I try to remember that.  And, when I find myself writing around a character, line, or description that I might be do so at the detriment to the flow and natural development of the story.  It’s not always the case, but it has been enough times for me to have made a note of it.

What about you?  Is there a maxim that resonates with you and your writing experience?  Does it change over time?  Did you have one that spoke to you when you started out but that’s been replaced since?

3 Responses to “If At First You Don’t Succeed…”
  1. I almost always have to rewrite. Fortunately I like revising, but right now I am in the throes of revising a historical novel and suffering from exactly what you mentioned — not wanting to drop lines and scenes that I love, but that don’t fit in with the new story flow. It’s taken me several tries to realize that, though. Lately, with deadlines looming, I’ve realized that I have to train myself to notice errors sooner — not just what I should delete, but inconsistencies in characters and wrong turns in the plot.

  2. rbachar says:

    I’m fond of “you can fix it in editing later,” which is related to “you have to give yourself permission to put garbage on the page.” My inner editor will pick at the same chapter or paragraph forever, and I have to force myself to move on to finish the draft. Otherwise I end up with a perfect 1/3 of a story, and no middle or ending.

  3. My maxim is, “Check your ego at the door.” I, too, hate to delete those sparks of “brilliance” (note that’s in quotations) that don’t move a story along. I have a kickass critique group that keeps me honest.

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