writing quotes

Words of Wisdom: John Green

My whole theme this week has been about revision. Not surprising, considering that it’s the stage I’m at with my writing. I think what has surprised me most about revision so far is how much can get rewritten and changed from the first draft. After reading through a couple of chapters and making some revision notes, I decided to rewrite my entire story.

Yep, the entire thing.

I really didn’t expect to just scrap everything and start all over again. It wasn’t an impulsive decision either:  I had tried to get through it but I found it too boring. The plot was loose, the story started in the wrong spot and there was very little action going on. Armed with a new knowledge of the weaknesses in my plot and what I needed to add to a story, I crafted what I think is a much more interesting plot and characters with strong internal conflicts.

I actually felt really bad for laying my first draft to rest, as if I were doing something wrong. After some thought though, I assured myself that the first draft is just the foundation. The first draft was my practice run, the place to get all my ideas down, the place to throw aside my self-doubt.

I don’t take my first draft lightly either.

My first draft was the teacher that gave me the confidence, motivation and experience I needed for writing a novel. And I’m forever grateful for that. My first draft was the seed that planted the new idea I now have blossoming in my head.

I’ve gained a deeper and more perceptive understanding of what I need to do in order to craft a story with realistic characters, an action-filled plot line and compelling dialogue, rich with subtext and layers.

I know now that I need to study the genre I’m writing in more closely and with a critical eye: the language, the style, the pace. I’ve learned to adapt my flowery, descriptive prose into more direct and straightforward language for the Young Adult genre. I’ve realized that action in a story doesn’t always have to mean there’ll be explosions and gun fights but that a lot of the action is in how people react to things.

I’m the type of writer who likes to really take their time to write. I write a bit, edit and rework things as I’m writing as opposed to after I’m finished writing.  It probably  seems counterintuitive to do NaNoWriMo but I thought about it for a while. It’s not that NaNoWriMo doesn’t work for me–it’s just that it gets me working and thinking in a different way. I’m able to just get it all down quickly, even if I don’t end up using the first draft. I think it’s very helpful to do that. Now that I have the space and time to think about my work without the pressure of a deadline, I think I can take a much deeper look at my manuscripts (both my first and second drafts).

Right now, I’m feeling really good about my decision and feel like I’ve made the right choice.

I find this quote particularly encouraging in regards to rewriting (although I haven’t technically deleted my first draft, I’ve just let it rest):

“I just give myself permission to suck. I delete about 90% of my first drafts (the only exception to this rule so far has been Will Grayson, Will Grayson) so it doesn’t really matter much if on a particular day I write beautiful and brilliant prose that will stick in the minds of my readers forever, because there’s a 90% chance I’m just gonna delete whatever I write anyway. I find this hugely liberating…” – John Green


Are you currently revising a WIP (work-in-progress)? What have you learned during the revision process and what has surprised you most about it? Have you ever had a similar experience, where you’ve scrapped a story and started all over again?

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3 thoughts on “Words of Wisdom: John Green”

  1. Nothing is wasted. Even when you scrap a whole chapter or a whole draft, that chapter or that draft helped get you to the point where you can see where you need to go. The important thing is to keep going.

    Carry on!

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