I am 55 years old and during that time I have only found a couple of sensations better that the feeling I get when I complete a writing project. And, of course, the larger the project, the bigger the feeling. It's very hard to describe if you haven't felt it before, but it goes along with that rush you might get from reaching the peak of the mountain, finishing a long race, or getting a degree. However, it's better since it is very much unique to you - it is a mountain you created before deciding to climb it, a one-person race you dedicated yourself to finishing. Once you accomplish it, it can never be taken from you. That's pretty intense.
Kind of sucks, doesn't it?
The bad part of this rewrite phase is that you have to go back and see all your little mistakes, each one taking a little piece of your victory away. That euphoria is long gone by now, and the rewriting process can be brutal. And in fairness, it should be brutal. This is your opportunity to learn from your mistakes, strengthen those skills that gave you that win in the first place, and prepare for bigger and better things.
Most football players sit down the day after the game and review the tapes. Whether they won or lost, they look over their plays, teasing out when went wrong and what went right. The good players take notes, studying their every move and looking for that thing that can make them that much better. Writers should absolutely do the same thing. Fortunately, there are fewer injuries in writing than in football.
I just went through the process of rewriting a 107,000-word manuscript. Now, I didn't retype every word, but indeed I read every word, sometimes two or three times. It was brutal, but here are my survival tips for making it through the rewriting process:
- See every change as a chance to improve. Apply some lesson you learned to your manuscript and just watch it flourish, then remind yourself that you are the one who is really impressive.
- Everyone's going to make mistakes, so let yourself make mistakes. There's no sin in mistakes, just in not fixing them.
- Most importantly, when you really turned a phrase around really well, or totally nailed a description, or just put something together that makes you feel confident about your work, recognize it - preferably out loud. Say, "Damn, that was a perfect metaphor" or "That joke landed perfectly." Give yourself the victory. They may be few and far between, but the more you notice and acknowledge them, the more they just tend to show up.
In short, rewriting is a pain. It is the muscle cramp after the race, the exhaustion after the run. It sucks, but it's part of the game. And if we use it to add to our skills, we are the better for it. So congratulations on the big accomplishment - now prepare for the pains of real growth.