Writing is Great! Rewriting is...Pure Frustration!by John Madormo on 07/03/13
For some reason, a lot of readers think that authors simply write a story or manuscript, submit it to their editors, and collect a check. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work like that. What no one ever tells you about are the incessant rewrites that take you from first draft to final draft.
In the Charlie Collier, Snoop for Hire series, I have had to do up to FIVE rewrites for a single book. It's the part of the job that I least enjoy. As the title suggests, "Writing is great. Rewriting is Pure Frustration."
I remember when I received the first set of notes (The Homemade Stuffing Caper) from my editor back in 2009. I couldn't believe all the changes she was asking for. I recall saying to my wife, "I don't know what they ever liked about this in the first place." I knew that rewriting was part of the process, but I was never expecting it to be so painful.
I soon got to work. On many of the pages, my editor would preface each suggestion with "Consider changing..." And so I did just that. I considered them all, but only changed about half of them. I then resubmitted what became known as the "second draft." I explained my reasoning for leaving certain parts unchanged.
Within a few weeks, I received my second set of editor's notes. And wouldn't you know it...everything that I hadn't changed the first time was back on the table. That's when I learned a valuable lesson: "Consider" doesn't mean "consider." It means "change." It was at that point that I "got religion." I decided to become a good soldier, and to follow every suggestion from my editor. I didn't want to be viewed as a "difficult" writer. I wanted my editor to love the manuscript...and me. And none of that would happen if I made a habit of dismissing her suggestions.
It was the best thing I could ever have done. Not only did we have a much smoother relationship from that point on, but more importantly, I realized that every suggestion she had made...was right. By making the changes she had proposed, I had created a better product.
When I speak to 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders during school visits, I always tell them that story. I compare it to the times when they receive critiques on their writing assignments from teachers. I tell them not to get frustrated when they see words crossed out or notes in the margins, but rather to embrace their teachers' suggestions. These teachers aren't telling them what's wrong with their assignments. Instead, they're telling them how to improve them.
And, after all, who among us wouldn't welcome constructive suggestions that would undoubtedly help make us better writers?