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There is no writing – there is only re-writing

There is no writing – there is only re-writing.

I don’t recall who said this, but how true it is.

Gone are the days I could sit at the word-processor and type whatever came out expecting it to be print-worthy. Re-reading my first book after an interval of two years was embarrassing. Clunky constructions, some rather purple prose and even a spelling mistake!

It’s disheartening to write a beautiful piece of work then return to it after a few days to find that the imagined magic has leaked away, leaving a woeful piece of hackneyed junk behind. Better be disheartened on your own though, than have an editor point out all your shortcomings in a red pen, in your margins.

The sequence of good writing starts something like this…

1/Imagine
2/Write
3/Imagine
4/Write more
5/Leave it alone for a few days
6/Re-read
7/Re-write
8/Leave
9/Re-read
10/Re-write

Repeat steps 6 to 10 as many times as it takes to produce work that’s worthy.

The leaving is important – it’s like giving yeast time to rise, or gin time to work its magic. These things can’t be rushed.
In the leaving pet phrases tart themselves up, becoming more obvious. Repeating words that aren’t so apparent in the first flush of creation reveal themselves. Better to spot these errors yourself than have them pointed out by a critic.

If writing something of emotional import, FEEL the emotion – if the author doesn’t feel it, the reader sure won’t. You don’t have to describe every nuance – readers are excellent at filling in between the lines, and would rather do this than have what feels like a glaring error thrust at them by an over-inclusive writer.

I’ve found that I write heart-felt pieces more effectively longhand in a notebook than on a keyboard. The act of handwriting feels so much more intimate, and more connected to the words than plunking them into a computer stroke by stroke. The pieces I have written by hand turn out to be the least-edited parts of my books.

How do you write a book? Word by word, sentence by sentence, chapter by chapter. I began my books by imagining a dear friend sitting with me, and listening to the tale. She became my ‘ideal reader’ and my story was an explanation of my life to her. I started by asking ‘Who am I?’ and answering that question became my autobiographies ‘Bent Not Broken’ and ‘Life on the Line’.

Writing and re-writing those books took two years. Ten months writing, fourteen months re-writing. Each time I read one of them I rewrite it some more.

Because there truly is no writing – just like there is no quilting – only unpicking and re-quilting. Or so I am learning.