Writing is Rewriting, Except for This

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See that photo? Those are all the drafts and notecards and spreadsheets–the mountain of writing and writing tools that finally led to that much smaller final product: my novel, STASH.

In all my novels, I’ve rewritten scenes dozens of times. I’ve revised every sentence. I’ve drastically altered plots. Hatched and killed subplots. My characters: their motivations change, their looks change, their age changes. Their names change. I move the story to a new location. I scratch out working title after working title. For me, everything about writing a novel is rewriting.

Writing in this journal is like an awakening. I’m discovering a way of writing I haven’t embraced in a long time. Here, I write quickly, make a few edits as I go, give the entry a quick read for errors–and publish. It’s fantastic, but it’s also risky.

What if the writing is bad, the sentences awkward, the meaning unclear? Worst of all: what if it’s boring?

I say, So what? The stakes are low. I’m engaged in the writing experience.

You’d think that writing quick journal entries and writing something as complex as a novel would have little in common. For me, there is a common foundation: even in novels, I’m not sure where I’m going, but I keep moving forward. Journal entries are almost all forward momentum.

There’s a quote by the novelist Percy Walker that has always held meaning for me. I’m not sure of its exact phrasing, something like this: Writing a novel is like driving on a dark night when you can only see as far as your headlights illuminate, but you can still get where you are going.

I’ve never been able to plan too far ahead in my writing, but I’ve always been a skilled reviser. I usually have an idea that’s clear for a bit and then turns vague and cloudy. My vision extends only so far. I have to uncover and discover as I go.

That’s how I do most things. Example: I have a Little Free Library in front of my house. When I drew up plans to build it, I couldn’t see the entire structure, just the walls and floor. Also, I had some material on hand I was determined to use. So I started building and made up the rest as I went along. Five years later, not one book has gotten wet.

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By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, avid reader, discriminating watcher of movies and series.

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