Monday, February 5, 2007

Writing, Rewriting, Rewriting, and Rewriting

Writing is a funny, angry, serious, and ridiculous process all wrapped up into one little package. Those of you that write know this; those of you that don't probably do, too. Then again, I'm sure a few of you out there think writers just sort of put pen to paper, so to speak, get paid a stupid sum of money, and then write something else and get paid another stupid sum of money.

Well, this is simply not the case. I haven't been paid for writing anything in quite some time now. Such a long time, in fact, that I'm not so sure I can claim "writer" on my tax return.

Anyhoo... (that's a writer's word that lets us avoid an overuse of "anyway" or "anyhow).


I'm currently fixing up my aforementioned Clandestine's Daughter so that a friend of mine can use it as an example for her literature class. Cool, huh? No? Well, it is for me, jerks.


As I'm proofing, editing, rewriting, and polishing this monster of a story, I'm noticing all of the other junk that I need to write, proof, edit, rewrite, and polish. It's a lot, I tell you. There are currently five (count 'em, five) scripts that need work, two more that need to be written, and a ton of treatments, poems, lyrics, music, articles, blogs, and short stories lying around, needing attention.

Believe me, I'm trying like Hell to formulate some kind of process to get through the flotsam and jetsam polluting my desk and the floor of my room. Unfortunately, there isn't one. This stuff is just there, in my head, partially on paper, or yet to be thought of and/or written down.

For instance, Clandestine's Daughter is now on its fourth iteration (I can't say draft, because a first draft is what's sent out); Theorem is on its fifth, and that's not counting the original concept that went through two or three; The Best Year is on its second; The Hits is on its first as a new story, though it went through NINE with the original story, which has since been entirely junked; Double Down is also on its first as a relatively new story, but went through five before (thankfully, I can reuse much of it); The Gate and Evolution are both finally being written after being thoroughly brainstormed to death (the concept of Evolution is at least a couple of years old). And I'm not even going to get into the rest of the crap I mentioned.


There's a saying in writing that most of writing is actually rewriting. As I'm sure you've inferred from the above paragraph, not counting that last "anyhoo," this saying is undeniably true.

So, here's how it works... first, the story pops into your head, then you hammer out some sort of treatment (either formal or informal), then comes your first "iteration." Unless you're a just a fucking genius writer, your first iteration is going to suck. It is, trust me. Sucks. But, the good thing is that the plot is on paper, the characters are on paper, and the dialogue is on paper. We'll call this phenomenon "Year One."

Next, you let the story sit for a bit, if you're smart, and come back to it. About here is when you notice that the characters suck. So you fill them out, make them better. Which, obviously, changes a lot of their dialogue. So you fix that as well as you can, too. This, we'll call "Year One-Point-Five."

And then you let it sit again. Sometime later, in a moment of boredom or inspiration (they take turns), you pick up the script, read it from front to back, and realize that your characters don't fit the plot as well as they did. Here you have two options: 1) change the characters again to fit the plot, or 2) change the plot to fit the characters. I honestly can't say which one is easier, because both ways are, forgive my French, motherfuckers. Anyhoo... you get it done, take a deep breath, imbibe in some alcohol, and go to sleep. "Year One-Point-Seven-Five."

And it sits. Then you read it again. It's going to need another rewrite, but this one is closer to what's known as a "polish." Clean this, clean that, blah, blah, blah. "Year Two."

Your first draft is finished. It goes out, and comes back. Rejected. Lather, rinse, repeat.

That, in a nutshell, is the writing process. Keep in mind, those of you who make fun of writers, that no income has been earned AT ALL during this process. A writer is fucked until he or she sells. Which is why we have so many clothes in our car... it often times doubles as our home.

But we don't get discouraged, because we like to write. We like to tell stories. Sure, we don't like living in poverty, but our love for writing is far stronger than our disdain for opening the car door in the middle of the night to take a piss. No, really.


1 comment:

  1. Writing is the hardest work in the world. Lonlier. Nobler. Violent. Indestructable. Obsessive. I heard once that brilliant writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader, not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon. If such is the case, I'm a very dripping, soaking wet. Love your script!

    Posted by LISA on February 5, 2007 - Monday - 9:56 AM