Sunday, January 24, 2010

Good Words Gone Bad

Today I wrote the same scene twice, once from the hero’s point of view, and then again from the heroine’s. This was not an intentional exercise to serve some purpose in characterization or a practice in sensory description. This was simply a process in my writing, and one that happens to me all the time.

I was writing a scene of sexual tension, which is harder than other types of writing for me. The first go round came across as creepy, a male thinking about a female in inappropriate ways considering the situation. The second version, in the female point of view, still didn’t feel right, and I couldn’t put my finger on why. And then on the drive home from the coffee shop, I had an epiphany. I have the action happening in the wrong setting. Time for the third re-write. I have no doubt that will require several passes before I get it correct as well.

To me, that is the crux of what it is to be a writer. “To write is to re-write,” so they say. I think I generally delete about 75% of my very first words on the page. Even this blog has been an exercise in deletion. My first words are always so bad, I refuse to even call them a “first draft.”

So why do I keep at it? Because that moment of epiphany is like a drug, a moment of extreme satisfaction that goes beyond merely putting words to paper. And because I can’t not write. Writing, even re-writing, is a joy for me. The weight of my laptop is like a favorite blanket as I puzzle out the words on the page. Each piece has to fit perfectly against the next, until the entire picture becomes whole. Between the epiphany and the puzzle of words, I love the satisfaction of finally getting things “right.”

To all you other writers out there, here’s to inspiration and to getting things “write.”


Anonymous said...

My manuscripts are like never-ending canvases. I could write and rewrite until the cows come home. I think if you're in tune with your work, you know when it's not working and when it's spot on. I love the idea of writing from two different view points. Sometimes I think rewriting is as simple as slowing down and feeling the moment of your characters. Life is rush, rush, rush sometimes. If my scene is a slow sensual seduction, it's not going to fair well if I'm in a state of heightened anxiety (which never happens:)) We should get together and compare crappy first drafts sometime. I bet I could beatcha! Great blog, as always!

Juniper Bell said...

Wonderful post, very well put! I'm a big believer in rewriting too. For me, that is absolutely where the magic happens. I'm always envious of people who can produce a first draft that doesn't sound like crap ... but that's not me! ;) I would have had a hard time writing in the days before computers, when rewriting was a lot harder. ;)

Tamera Lynn said...

Ah, great point, Juniper! I can't imagine writing in the "good old days" when changing stuff around meant starting over typing!

LizeeS said...

What a perfect insight, Tami. I have those first uglified attempts at writing too. My favorite quote is: I never write five words, but that I change seven. But sad to say, I WAS writing when you had to start over to make a clean copy. I'm always saying I despise technology, then I just think of carbon paper. Wonderful post!

Tielle St. Clare said...

I was on the third re-write of a scene when I decided it was too soon for the two heroes and the heroine to be together...deleted the scene but now it's back in a different form. It was that "aha" moment that spurred me on!

Anonymous said...

Right now, rewriting is NOT my favorite thing. But you give me inspiration to try again. I remember carbon paper too, bless you Bill Gates.