Writing is Rewriting

The old adage - writing is rewriting - is a small and wise nugget, but inside this little phrase is a whole world of magic. Maybe that's a bit too much wide-eyed mysticism, but, damn it, there is power in the rewrite. Old world hoodoo. I'm a believer. Writing isn't easy. It's not working in a mineshaft or being a grave-digger or garbage man difficult, but it can be incredibly frustrating, exhausting, and mind-numbing. The act of carving loose a story is tricky business. Stories, you see, they lurk. They hide and cower, shriveling away in stubborn obstinance, and sometimes they require a tremendous amount of coaxing to do with it what you will.

Not all stories are like this. Not all of them, and not all the time. But sometimes you get a good idea that you just cannot get a solid grip on. It's an idea that wants to be a story, but which is slimy and feisty and refuses to be pinned down in a corner. That's when you have to go at it from a different angle. That's when you rewrite and trap it.

Convergence came somewhat easily, but that second draft...man, that was full of rewriting, trying to get those ideas lined up right and flowing sensibly.

I wanted to follow it up with a horror novel whose idea has been percolating in my head for about six years. I couldn't even get through the first chapter. It was awful. I had no idea how to start it. Or, at least, I did have an idea but not a proper way of executing it. The idea still lingers, and I'm working on a new approach now. We'll see if I can nail it down or not.

I shelved it for a while and tackled Emergence, a sequel to Convergence. Again, it came easily. Three months of solid writing and I produced a first draft I was really happy with. I sent it off to my editors at Red Adept. There's a lot of rewriting in store for me again. I spent this past weekend rewriting and rearranging an entire chapter early on in the book's going. I'll be rewriting the ending and expanding it. There's a whole litany of notes from my content editor, and a heck of a lot of work ahead before it's publishable. But it's all doable. I already did a lot of the heavy lifting. Now it's just finessing and modifying and cleaning shit up.

Consumption came easy, fired out after three days of frenetic writing. That one bled out of me, and took on a life of its own. I wanted to follow it up with another short story for an anthology I'll be taking part in next year. The first idea I had was solid, but again, the execution was a failure. Just couldn't figure it out.

I came up with a new idea. It's called Revolver. It wasn't always called that, but it is now. I sat down to write it and got about three thousand words in. I was not feeling it at all. There was no direction. There was too much infodump. I had the big idea of splitting the narrative into present day with flashbacks to flesh out the character. It drained the story of any energy, robbed it of any sense of necessity, and felt a lot like chasing after myself in a big damn circle, getting nowhere.

I started over. Not right away, no. I let the ideas run free and waited for the story to come to me. I couldn't force it, not this time. Trying to deliberately write Revolver was trying to hold onto a fistful of water. No matter how hard I tried, it just kept running away from me, leaking away. I waited and waited, until the story came and told me how to tell it.

Every story is a lesson. There's always something new to learn, a new approach, a new mechanism. The imp inside Revolver wanted to change everything - narrative choices, point of view, characters, everything that surrounded the core concept of that small, initial kernel of an idea.

Sometimes, you just have to wait and listen hard. And rewrite.

Michael Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.


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