All these musings are not meant to teach anything, just thoughts on how I do things. Now, most people say writing is hard and writing is rewriting. For me none of it is true. Stories pour out of me quite easily, especially when it’s fantasy (or sci-fi) and no research is involved. Making up stuff is easy for me, probably because I’ve been doing it unconsciously for 30+ years – and I got stuck when I started research or attempted a new method/genre with the historical novel, so more programming for me results in writer’s block! Talk about being unconventional…
Also for 25+ years I had no readers but myself for most stories, so they were really one-draft stories. Sometimes I rewrote them one or ten years later, once I had a never-ending rewrite on one particular story, but basically it was one-draft-is-perfect.
Then I found reader friends and started rewriting. Then I started reading books and going to writing courses/workshops and more rewriting happened. Then I started researching the market and started blogging and more rewriting ensued. Then I had a writer burn out (last year, in case you were already reading this blog). Then I read Dean Welsey Smith’s Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing series – especially the chapters on speed and rewriting – and decided I should dare to be bad and stop the endless rewrites that left so many of my fellow writers in Rewriting Hell (the prose version of screenwriting’s Development Hell).
If you keep rewriting, trying to please every reader/crit partner, you’ll lose sight of your original vision and what story you wanted to tell. Especially if you keep all the drafts (which I didn’t do at some point, but I do now) you often end up going back to the first version of the story. So why bother? That’s why now I finish my first draft, get it out to as many betas and critters I can find (including The Editor) – and all get the very same draft – then I work on a second and final draft with all the feedback I get. And out it goes, the readers out there will be the final judges.
Any feedback is personal. Even mine, if I get to critique or read your piece, no matter how impartial I try to be, it still will be my view. So learn to take the feedback for what it is (and don’t take it personally if the writer who asked you for feedback ignored what you said). Of course if two or more people notice something, there’s something wrong there. Only one? Might be his/her perspective. I might consider it, think about it and maybe discard it in the end, knowing what I wanted to say in the first place.
I can’t believe my faithful beta is still tweaking her baby after 10+ years, no matter what we tell her (we love your voice! We love your story! We love your protag! Wrap it up an write the sequel!!). I think she’s afraid of letting it go. And I guess you need courage to let go. Personally, I have so many stories to tell, I don’t want to linger on one for too long. Either I shelve it and move on, or I publish it and move on. But then, I have a backlog of 500+ titles. Half of them (probably more) will never be published, but I wouldn’t have them if I had stayed with First Shiny Idea and Second Shiny Idea forever, would I?
So, stick to Heinlen rules (and check the comments of the post as well, some pros are jumping in the discussion) and keep writing (and not rewriting! :-))!