“Writing is rewriting… If you fall in love with the vision you want of your work and not your words, the rewriting will become easier.” ― Nora DeLoach
I’ve known storytellers throughout my life and would listen to them weave tales of things that happen to them. One, in particular, fascinated me as I would listen to her misadventures. I was more fascinated every time I heard the story. Because it was never the same. Some new detail added. Some detail changed. Some ending revised. Characters revisited with a little tweaking. I’m not sure any of it was real or if her life was a grand fabrication to engage an audience that gathered to be entertained.The dishonesty always bothered me until I left the room, unable to listen to a new fabrication on an old yarn.
Anne Lamott said, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” This quote leaves a question hanging on the line, dingy from the dust that rises in chaos. The chaos of humanity. A question of ownership of our histories and a promise of honesty when we share them. If we own our stories, do we not have the right to embellish, or do we have a duty to write with honesty?
I happen to side with Mr. Albert Einstein when he said, ““Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” Little matters, like simple stories of our lives that we share.
I believe in honesty. In my life as well as in my writing. It’s a cold world to know that dishonesty exists. I’ve found, though, that to be trusted, one must be honest. I’ve stood before someone who asked me why I couldn’t trust him after he lied to me. Deceit kills hope. Lies kill belief. In the end, one is left wading through every word said, plucking them out to decipher their true meaning.
This stands true in writing as well. Nothing is worse than a poor piece of prose told by an author trying to hard to convince me to trust them after plucking through disingenuous words that seem trite and tried. I have no time for wading. I want truth.
Yet, in listening to my friends retelling of her possibly fictitious stories, I learned something. I learned about punch. For while I found her dishonesty disheartening, I admit that the stories were better every time. She learned how to rearrange the plot and add the right details at the right moment for the POW! moment when Superman knocks out the villain. Or the dog knocks over the table. Or the punchline.
I’m an anomaly in the circle of writers. I dread first drafts. Creating the story, though I have many stored away in the recesses of my brain, bores me to tears. It’s a hair-pulling, tear-shedding, misery provoking experience. I abhor it. My love is the revision. Condensing descriptions. Tightening dialogue. Seeing the bigger picture and finding where the color is needed. The short story I’m currently immersed in is a good story. But the morning after I finished it, I began beating myself up. It was the worst piece of dribble ever laid on paper. I hated it.
Thus begins the rewriting process.
When I started writing at the age of five-ish, through high school, college, and into my early adult years, I didn’t rewrite. I edited, checking for spelling and grammatical errors. But I didn’t ever rewrite. Looking back, I am ashamed to admit that I sent off my first manuscript to agents without a single rewrite. Rough draft polished. There I said it. I will no longer hide in shame because I know that I am not alone. Thousands of first time writers finish the last page, run through a basic read, and send off their work with dreams of hitting the New York Times bestseller list.
I’ve grown over the years and learned to love the rewrites. That’s when you find the POW! “Specimen” didn’t have POW. It ended with a fizzle. Yawn. I knew it was bad but it took me a few days of worry and self floggings before I saw the simple solution.
Rewriting…when one wades through the words so that the reader doesn’t have to. It’s a writers duty. Like being honest. Somewhere between the two…