Sunday, March 23, 2008

It's Just Not The Same

I think I've figured out one of the reasons people are averse to rewriting. It's because it's much harder to access that flow state when you're rewriting (editing, polishing, call it what you will). And make no mistake, flow state is addictive. It's a high. It'll turn you into a junkie same as any other drug.

This has a couple of consequences. First, it means rewriting isn't fun. It's not necessarily harder work than the original writing, but it feels like much harder work because I'm not getting the high. When I write in flow state, I get up from the keyboard just as tired as when I don't write in flow state. But as long as I'm sitting there hammering away and pouring out words, I don't notice it.

Second, and I think this is behind a lot of the blather about spontaneity and freshness that people employ against revising: The writing I generate in flow state always seems better to me than the writing I generate at other times.

I'm not sure why that is. I suspect that when I reread such a piece of writing, I remember what it felt like: I actually get the high (in an attenuated form) all over again. Maybe a year from now, when those memories have faded, I'll reread Drumheart and that won't happen. In the meantime I have to take it on faith that the scenes I've struggled with, where I had to force out the words according to my best judgment rather than just letting them pour through my fingertips, can look like just as good writing to other people. 'Cause they sure don't look that good to me.

This is one of the reasons it's important to have other people read your MS. It's hard, at least it's hard for me, to look at Drumheart and figure out which are the "good" bits. To me the "good" bits are the ones that came easily. But, personal preferences aside, the fact that I worked harder on the other bits may actually translate into a higher quality of prose. At least, I have to take it on faith that that' spossible.

1 comment:

Steve Perry said...

In Hollywood, the line is, "Scripts aren't written, they're rewritten." Not so bad in bookland, but rewriting is the the not-as-much-fun part, for sure.