Michelle Wittle On the Importance of Rewrites

Michelle Wittle On, Writing Tips

This will come as a shock to you, I know, but I have to be honest. I am not perfect. The first time I put words on paper…it isn’t pure poetry. Sometimes I can’t even finish a sentence before I rewrite it (an example would be the last sentence I wrote…I didn’t even put a period on it before I deleted it). For anyone to think that the first thing they put down on paper is great enough is a very silly rookie mistake. Rewrites are just as important as everything else a writer does when they are creating a piece. Let’s look at why this is true.


Sometimes you intend on writing one type of story, but in fact, you are being forced into writing another. Take my most recent story about the girl and the campsite. I wanted to write a story about a girl who sees all the people she loves in a campfire. But my story really wanted to be a story about a girl who is loosing her best friend because of her mental illness. No matter how hard I tried, my campfire story kept being diluted because that wasn’t the story that was in my heart (no pun intended…okay…it was intended). Will I ever get the chance to revisit my campfire and make that story? Maybe…but I don’t think I can do it until I write the other story. If I didn’t keep trying to rewrite the story, I never would have understood why my story wasn’t working and I would have just given up on it.


Also, rewrites help you see your growth as a writer. We all know I started out as a high school Sylvia Plath wanna be. I am completely honest when I tell you that I can barely look at what I wrote in high school. Once a very important person got a hold of my teen poetry book and started reading it aloud. I’m sure they did it to embarrass me and it worked. But I also left the room because I just couldn’t bare hearing how uneducated I was about writing. I needed to hear it though so I could see my own growth. A writer doesn’t get a cool little chart with balloons and clowns. You don’t get to mark down your height and weight on your writer birthday. How else can you measure progress if you don’t look at your past?


Rewrites can be annoying. I haven’t reworked my story about the campfire because I am sick of looking at it. I didn’t destroy the story…I just put it aside. I know that when I am not so frustrated by the story, I will rework it some more. As a writer you need to know when to distance yourself from your work. Sometimes the only way to save anything is to give it some space.  


You may not want to ever look at your story again. You may think it is perfect the way it is and it doesn’t need a rewrite. But it does need a rewrite. You probably used the wrong version of “there” or maybe that funny joke isn’t really all that funny. But I hear you asking, “Well, when do you know when you are done rewriting”. Read tomorrow’s blog (oh no she didn’t just make a cliff hanger blog! Oh yes, she did).


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