What’s So Great About Rewrites?

NaNoWriMo came to an end yesterday and millions of writers have a 50,000 word manuscript in hand. Time to publish, right? Wrong. Everyone is currently screaming at NaNoWriMoers to rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. But why bother writing those 50,000 words if you just have to rewrite them all?

I’m currently reading a fascinating book called Heresies and How to Avoid Them. The book goes to great lengths to point out that ancient heresies still matter to modern Christianity because they define the faith. It’s much easier to see what Christianity is by looking at what it is not.

The same applies to writing. Every author will tell you that sometimes a novel feels like it writes itself, so even the author isn’t sure what they have when they put the pen down. More often than not, the first draft is written because it’s easier to work with a tangible thing than an intangible idea. Once the first draft is down, the author can identify the sections that sing, the sections that stink, and the sections that just don’t fit. In doing so, they identify what the novel is really about; by reading parts that aren’t right, it helps them figure out what is right.

It’s all too easy to dismiss the rewrites and the edits as pedantry, a hunt for spelling errors and brown eyes in chapter four that were blue in chapter one. But while it is those things, it’s also where the novel finds its identity and its voice. It’s where the hard work really begins.

It is, if you will, the Nicene Council of the novel.

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