Write Now: Help Find Your Voice Through Rewriting

Some people make the argument that all writing is rewriting.

I agree with that statement in part because original thoughts put down on paper sometimes don’t have to be rewritten. Other times a writer may look at what he has just written know he has to rewrite it.

Is it a bad thing to have to rewrite what you have written?

I say no because the process makes you a better writer, and if you get better at writing then you don’t have to rewrite so much.

Do writers rewrite everything?

I think when writers are first starting out they may because they are trying to find their voices. It may take a long time for a writer to find his voice, but when his voice is found, the writer must make it work for him. When I say voice, I mean the quality of writing that may make the writer stand out from other writers. And you probably wonder how can you recognize voice?

Pick up a newspaper or a magazine, read through the different writers, and study how they put words to a page. Each writer puts words differently to a page. In journalism, most writers follow what is called Associated Press Style. AP Style is essentially a set of rules and guidelines that journalists use to standardize their copy. Most newspapers follow it, so writers have to be familiar with it. For example when writing about percentages, a writer can’t write 13% in copy. The writer must spell out the word percent, so a sentence should read, “The company has spent 13 percent of its reserve cash.” AP Style is just an accepted format that journalists use, but it is not their voices. It doesn’t speak for them, it helps their voices speak more clearly.

So is writing rewriting?

In certain cases it is. I remember before email, press releases used to be sent by mail. Some ended up on reporters’ desks to be rewritten, meaning to put in AP Style so press releases could be published in the paper. Most public relations people know how to send press releases, but depending on the publication, one press release may have to be rewritten to fit different publications.

Reporters may rewrite their stories because they may have gathered more news that needs to be inserted into their story.

The same can be said for fiction writers.

When a writer has finished his first draft he may think it is perfect the way it is. He usually needs to move on to the second draft and maybe more. For Stephen King, he said in “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” that he usually writes two drafts and a polish. “And with the advent of word processing technology, my polishes have become closer to a third draft,” King said. His short stories are long, his novellas are longer, and his novels are even longer.

Other writers also agree that rewriting is necessary because it forces a writer to look at his writing in a different way. I agree with that. and I also agree that beginning writers rewrite a lot of their words while veteran writers only rewrite what needs to be rewritten. A rewrite should help because it is making information clearer. A writer will know when a sentence doesn’t need to be rewritten.

It’s that easy.

It’s that hard.