Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Re-Writing in General: Do Word Processors Kill Us?

Cormac McCarthy's old typewriter recently sold for $250,000 USD. Wiki Link

Why's that a big deal to me? I mean, besides the money, that is.

Because it was his typewriter.

Nobody's gonna pay the equivalent of $250,000 USD in 2050 for my old laptop, which by then will have long been sent to reclaim.

It also got me to thinking on the topic of re-writing. See, with the advent of the word processor, and worse still, the computer, re-writing becomes somewhat obsolete.

Used to be, you thought out your story and wrote up a "first draft."

Remember those?

Then you went back and RE-WROTE the story. And by re-write, I mean you re-typed, re-scribed, re-WROTE every ever-lasting word!

You, the author, re-WROTE!

You didn't go back and spell check, tweak a few words with your thesaurus, add some chapter headings, and call it a novel.

You didn't send in your first draft to the publisher, or your agent!

No, you read it, made some hand edits, and then RE-WROTE YOUR STORY!

Now, when I write a story, I'll chug through a bit of a first draft.

Then I save it, and create a new document, and re-write. Most of the time I delete some or all of what I previously wrote.

Then I save it, and create a new document, and re-write. Again, I delete some or all of what I wrote, but usually keep some.

This process goes on. I may have fifteen or twenty cuts of the story in my story folder. I read the first cut, and it is NOTHING like the final revision!

This is how the old authors used to write. This is how they created magnificent pieces!

The blogs, and online, sure, I post my first draft. I crank it out, run spell check -- maybe -- and then walk away.

But my works, the fiction, the journals, the things I take seriously, those I re-write, over and over and over.

McCarthy said he'd written well over 5 million words on that old typewriter of his. He doesn't have 5 million words published, though. His books are about 50kw, ten published, far short of even one million words.

See what I mean? Those other words were drafts, practice pieces, brainstorms and cut-it-toss-it writings.

He threw away 4 million words, and then some. The rest, he kept, and they call him genius.

Me, I'm well past a million words. And I don't mean cut-n-paste words, I mean the hard-pecked type-it-out words, and the even harder earned hand-written pieces.

But I don't have a million words worth of final works.

Get it?

- Eric

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