Writing v. Rewriting: Keep ‘Em Separated

Winter classes in Novel and Memoir have launched. We’re in a bright shiny new building but the advice is the same: When you write, keep drafting (creating) and editing (rewriting) separate.
Writing Tip for Today: Some students look anxious when I advise them not to edit as they write. And others get confused, as if I’m telling them to create these messy, half-baked manuscripts and leave them that way. Nothing could be further from the truth! Keep these things in mind as you write:

  • Right Brain, Left Brain. Most of us have heard that the right brain generally contains the centers for creativity, ideas and artistic expression. Poor old left brain gets stuck with logic and analysis. We need both to produce good writing! As far as possible, train your brain to only let one side work on your writing at a time. Do this by PRACTICING Right Brain drafting (creating) as fast as you can write, drawing upon your mental movie to encourage writing in scenes. Later, you will edit (rewrite) and let Left Brain have a go at what you drafted.
  • REST that Manuscript. In between Right and Left Brain endeavors, a good rule is to allow your writing to rest. A day at the very least. For new writers, a week, two weeks. The idea here is to gain OBJECTIVE distance. When you draft, you’re very close to the work. Resting it will help you gain distance so that the Left Brain can do its dispassionate work.
  • READ Aloud. John Updike famously said, “The best way to improve (writing) is to read your work aloud.”  If you find yourself still clinging to a manuscript, maybe it will be better if someone else reads the work aloud. I’ve had students who performed their work, even supplying sound effects and gestures. If published, your work may not have those tools handy. Your words must stand on their own–you won’t be able to tell each and every reader, “Well what I meant to say here was . . .”
  • Rewrite Your Bliss. Many famous authors, from James Mitchener to Hemingway, have said that writing IS rewriting. Polishing a manuscript may take many rewrites. But don’t fret: EVERY good writer rewrites. Most edit and edit and then a series of publishing house editors edits some more. This is where you learn the craft of writing. You become willing to do whatever it takes. Over and over. This much Left Brain can make any writer weary. That’s why you should always have a new project in mind, one that will allow your caged-up Right Brain to shine. Just remember to keep the two processes SEPARATED.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

6 comments on “Writing v. Rewriting: Keep ‘Em Separated

  1. Hi Linda,

    Heard this before but loved the way you put it with the Right brain, left brain analogy. And you are right. Reading aloud those expose the quality of your written work. After all, it is often said that the ears are less forgiving than the eyes. Great post, Linda. 🙂

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