Writers rewrite, over and over, until the story is ready – in a manner of speaking. All professional writers know this. But here’s the frustrating part: Why do rewrites continue to have inconsistencies?
The first draft is often plagued with them, which is why I can never show my first draft to anyone. It’s for my eternal embarrassment (when I look back afterwards) and that’s how I’d like to keep it. But second, third or any number of drafts thereafter continue to have new inconsistencies popping up. I’ve given this some thought and here’s my take on it. Say I show my second draft to a writers group for feedback, I expect a lot of tut-tuts and heads shaking from side-to-side when they point out something as obvious as: So the protagonist is 24 years old but, let me get this right, she has a son who just went to MIT?
Ouch. How could I have not seen it? After rereading and re-editing my own work, how does it slip by?
It is said that it takes about 10 years or 10,000 hours to master a craft. Let’s think about this for a moment.
1 year = 8760 hours, so 10 years = 87600 hours (exempting leap years)
If we take the time to sleep and/or rest as 8 hours a day, and the average work time of 8 hours a day, then that’s two-thirds a day, which leaves us with 8760/3 = 2920 hours a year. Of course, we have to eat, socialize, have fun, workout, pursue hobbies etc. I suppose that leaves us with about a 1000 hours a year to commit wholeheartedly to a craft… like writing.
So 10 years it is. Well I’ve been learning & studying the craft, writing, critiquing, reviewing, editing for 5 years… I guess I still have some way to go. It does get easier though, with experience. First drafts do have less flaws and successive rewrites improve drastically with continuous practice. This I can vouch for.
But it’s not just statistics. The other challenge is being too close to my own work.
Being involved in the process and the changes makes it hard to be objective. And this coming from someone who believes he is quite objective when the situation calls for it. I often have to leave a story for a while after discovering new inconsistencies, which occur in the current draft. Further reflection hints that these new inconsistencies are based on major changes or new sections added to the story. Naturally, not everything falls into place. I have to make it all work together.
Passion = Work
So where does this leave me? Well, I look forward to another 5,000 hours of mastering the craft of writing, bashing my head in frustration when writers point out the most obvious slips (while I’m thinking of what a great metaphor I came up with), being patient between rewrites so I have time to be objective and clear-headed again, and finally, rewrite the story until I have nothing new to add; just changes to get rid of inconsistencies.