Why writing is really re-writing

It seems that lots of people think of writing as the create part and editing as the mechanical part of the process of building a story. I disagree. But I’m not going to argue the point, instead I’m going to say that re-writing is the most important part of story development. The story isn’t finished until all those little connections, nuances, subtleties are lodged deep within the text, deep enough that some won’t come out until the 2nd, 3rd reading but light enough that the story does not suffer if they are not understood the first time through. Your story is an onion of 1,000 layers, each layer is perfectly formed but underneath it there is another. The only way to achieve this is to re-write your story 1,000 times. Each time you go through it you should add one more little thing that came to you the last time you read it. Most importantly, you should be surprised every time you read your story even though you wrote it, even though you’ve read it 1,000 times. On the 1,001st add that surprise that comes naturally yet unexpectedly. That’s another layer of the onion for your reader. The surprise can be a choice of words, a connection between people and events signified by something as subtle as the choice of color, lighting, sleeve length. If you find these things in your story as you read it, expend them, always carefully and subtly, a few words here and there, make them a theme. Your reader will probably not realize consciously what’s happening but the overall construction will resonate and make your work seem all that much better constructed. People gravitate towards patterns yet crave the unexpected. You’ll want to have both in your work. The pattern and underlying principle that doesn’t get in the way of the surprises, which should be spaced appropriately. I use a three-act structure with acts I and II ending on surprises and Act III beginning with a surprise and ending with a resolution. The surprises are all related and lead to the resolution, which for me, is unexpected yet makes sense given what led up to it.

I keep versions of my story up to the point where I know what it is. Then I start re-writing to find all those little things that make it interesting to read 50, 100 times because that’s what I’ll be doing.

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