Rewriting

Here’s Eileen Gunn, in her book Stable Strategies and Others, quoting William Gibson on the secret of writing:

“You must learn to overcome your very natural and appropriate revulsion for your own work.”

When I read that sentence I was stunned. It was like he was talking to me because what I have had to overcome is my revulsion for rewriting. I love doing first drafts. First drafts are fun. First drafts are creative and juicy and exhilarating and intoxicating and mind expanding and liberating, and…well, you get the idea. First drafts are just fun.

But rewriting. Oh boy. That’s where the work part starts because when I go back to all that juicy intoxication and reread it, well, let’s just say there’s a certain amount of Gibsonian revulsion involved. That first draft is always so much less than what I thought it was.

What to do? The best strategy I’ve found is to grit my teeth and do ten pages of rewrite at a time. That’s all. Just ten pages, then put it aside until the next day. (I owe Dean Wesley Smith a big thank you for that suggestion.) It works.

After a while, the revulsion goes away and I actually begin to enjoy the process. Which is a nice happy ending to the story, don’t you think?

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