Week of July 29, 2012: Revise It, or Bury It?
Wednesday, August 1—Rob Sanders Says . . .
Picture Book Author
Creative Writing Teacher
I don’t throw any writing away. My external hard drive has a folder entitled MY WRITING and everything I write goes there. Open any folder inside that folder and you might find an incomplete story, a completed draft, or ten or twenty drafts of one story. I also keep hardcopy files of completed drafts in a file cabinet because I’m a bit old fashioned and I like to read from and edit on paper.
Let me be quick to say that I have no delusions that every one of those completed or revised drafts will ever be published. Hopefully, some will. I never know when I start writing what the true purpose of that “thing” is. I think I’m writing the next best seller, but I may just be getting an idea down in order to get it out of my head, to discover a new point of view, to develop my writing skills, to focus on a writing craft I’ve been studying, and so on. I’m continually trying to accept each piece of writing for the gift it's meant to provide to me.
I revise A LOT. I have pieces critiqued A LOT. Then I revise some more. I send some manuscripts to my agent. He likes some, wants to see some revised even more, and hates others. If he says something’s a no-go, then I put it away . . . knowing I might come back to it another day, week, or year, and knowing that it might have the seeds of another story within it. (I also know it might not ever be anything other than what it is, a file on my external hard drive.)
Someone (perhaps it was Lisa Wheeler) once told me that if a manuscript is rejected by three different editors and/or agents, revise it. If that same manuscript is rejected by three more editors and/or agents, put it away and move on. If you need a rule to live by, maybe that’s it.
My biggest piece of advice is keep writing something new. Don’t give up on what you have already written, but don’t get stuck in one place either. Not writing and not moving forward may be two of the worst enemies for a writer.