Everyone absolutely despises at least one part of the writing process.
For some, it’s coming up with (and starting to work on) a “good” idea. For others, it’s actually finishing a writing project.
And for many — myself included — the most dreaded part of writing might actually be the most important: Rewriting.
Rewriting and editing are closely connected, but vastly different. Editing involves polishing and perfecting what you’ve already written and (hopefully) decided to keep. But you can’t really do that until you’re sure — as sure as you can be — that the text on those virtual pages is phrased and arranged the way you want.
And if you decide it isn’t … well. Then you have to do it over.
Maybe only a few sentences or pages. Maybe the whole thing.
Which is terrifying. Because … look at all the work you already did. Let’s say you decide you have to start over from the beginning. That feels … not good.
Like a waste of time, almost.
But it isn’t.
The first half of 2018, I barely made any progress on my book, despite having promised myself I’d have a decent draft finished by the end of the year. I kept putting it off because, having reread everything I’d written during NaNoWriMo and the month following, I already knew I needed to rewrite most, if not all, of the story to create the novel I wanted the world to see someday (maybe).
This terrified me. And to be honest, it still terrifies me.
Because I spent hours on that first draft, and I technically didn’t even finish it. I fell in love with it. And the thought of ripping it apart, salvaging what I could, and using its general framework to create something new (but better) didn’t feel good.
Not because it wouldn’t be worth it. But because I hate feeling like I’m wasting time.
It took me months to convince myself that rewriting hundreds of pages would not mean everything I’d written before was a waste. Writing is not a linear thing. You don’t just craft one version of a story and that’s the final product. The writing process involves going back and doing things over. Improving them. Setting aside what doesn’t belong and replacing those pieces with better ones.
You can’t figure out what does and doesn’t belong without a first draft. And a first draft, especially of a book, is never the same as whatever the final product ends up being. They are completely different. But everything that comes after the original is, in countless ways, better than what you did the first time.
Just because it’s worthwhile doesn’t mean it’s easy. Or fun.
But that’s why writing is its own form of work. There will always be parts you enjoy, and parts you have to force yourself to get through.
That’s OK. It’s normal. We all go through it. And many of us get through it.
You can get through it, too. One page, one paragraph, one sentence at a time.
No matter how unpleasant it might feel, you’re not doing it for you. You’re doing it for your story. For your characters. For your future readers.
It will be painful. But you will not regret a single moment of it.
Can't stand this part of the writing process? Here's how to deal. At What Point Have You Rewritten and Revised Too Many Times? Is Self-Editing a Waste of Time? Should You Rewrite Your Novel?
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.