Alright maybe I exaggerated a little in the title—but only a little.
No really. Like most of you probably know, when you start writing a story that is called a draft. Your first draft to be exact. Writing the first draft takes a lot of time. You have to figure out the entire story, what people say, what’s going to happen etc. With other words you have to write your story. For those of you who are already at this stage and have completed their story, congratulations! Some people like to jump straight to the beginning of the story as soon as they’ve written the last line. They read it again and rewrite it.
Personally though, I prefer to keep it in my drawer, write on something else and then go back later to re-write it so that I have distanced myself from the story a bit and can look at it more objectively. Because it isn’t fun to have to delete those scenes you worked so hard on. By the way, always make sure you keep the first draft and save the rewrite as a second draft under a different name. Otherwise the “deleted scenes” will be really gone. This way you could always add them again if you get second thoughts (Or read it years later if you really want a good laugh).
I really can’t stress the importance of rewriting enough.
A lot of people are nervous about beginning a story and get stuck before they finish a page. Most of the time it’s because you’re too hard on yourself. The first draft is allowed to suck. It doesn’t have to be really good or perfect. It can be bad. Actually first drafts are usually pretty bad. You may not think so now while you’re writing it, but when you reach the end of your story and go back to the beginning, you’ll probably think the beginning isn’t good enough.
The reason why the first draft is generally bad and rewriting is important is because you learn while writing. Especially newbie’s like me learn a lot during the process of writing. While you write you practice the art of writing: you get a feeling for writing, you find a certain way to describe things, you find out what works and what doesn’t, you learn the rules of writing and you find your own “voice”, your way of writing. And of course you get to know your characters, the way they think, act and feel. While writing a story the characters are your best friends. It’s almost like meeting real people, at the beginning you hardly know anything about them and then slowly you get to know them. You get to know their likes and dislikes; you study them and learn to understand them. At the beginning of your story you didn’t know your characters that well.
While rewriting you remove the clear difference between the beginning of the story and the end. You improve the story, polish the rough edges and clean up any loose ends of things you started in your story and then completely forgot about and never mentioned again.
I recently started rewriting one of my finished stories that I haven’t worked on for over a year. I couldn’t really look all that objective at the story because I’m working on the sequels, but I was objective enough to see that the beginning sucked. At the very beginning I introduced my character and I didn’t recognize her at all. The character I introduced was nothing like the character she had become while writing. So I rewrote the whole thing. I also noticed that the beginning didn’t draw anyone in (it was quite boring) and didn’t show any of the promise of fantasy later on. It begins in a boring town, quite fantasy and magic-less. So it’s a bit boring compared to the rest of the story. Here I had a problem. The beginning can’t be boring! It should draw people in and make them want to read the entire book. Luckily my character loves reading and has a huge imagination. So I let her be herself and imagine away, bringing fantasy in the beginning of the book, making it a little more interesting. I showed it to my parents (who read nearly everything I write) and they agreed that the rewrite was a thousand times better. But even so I’m sure that once I’m finished with my second draft, I’ll start a third (even though I don’t really like rewriting).
So the five million drafts might have been a slight exaggeration, but I think every story needs three to five drafts before it’s perfect. You have to stop at one point though! Or you’ll go on forever.
For those of you who are thrilled and excited when thinking about rewriting—congratulations and I’m extremely jealous. For those of you, like me, who hate rewriting: it’s something that has to be done. Try to find the joy in polishing your story and remember that this way you’ll tell your story in the way it deserves.
Always keep writing!