Peter Seth: Second Draft, Second Wind

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open blank book and puzzles concept

My week has taken on a good rhythm – basically, it’s two days helping watch my grandson Calder, one day writing this blog, and four days working on the new draft of WHEN I GOT OUT.

Writing is hard, but I think rewriting is harder. When writing a first draft, one is free to explore. By the time you’re ready to revise that draft, you have a definite concept formed that you now have to adhere to. As you see the target more clearly, you have to improve your aim.

I set up my existing draft on the left side of my screen and put my “NEW ADDS FOR WHEN I GOT OUT” file on the right side, with thesaurus.com in the middle, and I start going through the whole thing. I add my new ideas (x-ing them out when they’ve been incorporated), I cut, I move chunks. I got some very good ideas on the first draft from my agent, my brother, and the TG. I know what I have to do. The worse things get in Washington, the angrier I get, the better I have to write.

This week I had/have computer problems and lost power for half-a-day to the Santa Ana winds, but I’m finding a second wind in this second draft. I’ve been cheerleading myself – to get this overdue draft “finished” and sent to my publisher The Story Plant.

This is what I’ve been telling myself:

“Grasp the subject, the words will follow.” – Cato the Elder (234-149 BC)

“Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing.” – Bernard Malamud

“The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon.” — Robert Cormier

“The difference between the right and the nearly right word is the same as that between lightning and the lightning bug.” — Mark Twain

“The wastebasket is the writer’s best friend.” — Isaac Bashevis Singer

“Word-carpentry is like any other kind of carpentry: you must join your sentences smoothly.” — Anatole France

“The first draft of anything is shit.” – Ernest Hemingway

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” — Robert Frost

“Writing and rewriting are a constant search for what it is one is saying.” — John Updike

“Good prose should be transparent, like a window pane.” – George Orwell

And three very smart things from William Zissner —

“Be grateful for every word you can cut.”

“Hard writing makes easy reading. Easy writing makes hard reading.”

“A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it is hard.”

— and don’t forget —

“I am the King of Rome, and above grammar.” – Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor (1368-1437)

My book is my constant companion. Even when I’m not at my desk, it’s always on my shoulder, whispering in my ear. Even on Calder days and blog days, I try to work on the book. It’s the only way I can get it done. It’s already late. But I’m lucky that I have work that I love and a story that I really want to tell.

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On May 5, 2017
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