Rewriting: One Year to a Writing Life–Lesson #11

Mark Twain said that the “difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the same as that between lightning and the lightning bug.”  

When I was younger, I despised rewriting anything.  I dashed off whatever came to mind and would turn it in to my teachers.  Of course I received many papers back, marked from one end to the other. I didn’t understand why my instructors would cross out perfectly good words and replace them with another.  If I had wanted to use that other word, I would have done so in the first place, I’d grumble to myself.  I liked that run-on sentence, I thought, it drew attention to that area of the work.  At least I’d argue that in my mind because most of the time I’d just stuff the paper into my binder and grumble about the idiocy of the educational system.  I was precocious that way.  

But as I’ve matured, I’ve realized that everything is in the rewrite.  The first write really amounts to nothing more than the outlay of all the passion.  All the art, all the technical skill, all the finesse comes in the rewrite.  

Tiberghien argues that rewriting means “revising, re-vision, seeing anew.  It doesn’t mean editing.  Editing comes after rewriting, once there is a revised piece that needs to be checked.”  I like this idea, saving the nitty-gritty to the end so that our censor stays buried as long as possible and we’re free to just create.

Tiberghien offers a long checklist for rewriting and here it is in part:

1.  does the first paragraph capture the reader’s attention?

2.  is the piece well framed?  

3.  are the lead and end compatible?

4.  is there a feeling of resolution?

5.  are the characters alive?

6.  does the dialogue advance the story?

7.  is there tension?

8.  are there controlling images, comparison, and deeper symbols?

9.  what’s the story point-of-view?

10.  is the rhythm consistent?

11.  are there moments of awareness?

12.  why is the story important?

How do you all feel about rewriting?

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