When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.
Wise words from the Master himself.
As a writer, I’ve noticed there is a balance between writing for yourself and writing for your audience. It seems like it is a delicate balance because a writer wants to please his/herself but at the same time, the audience must be kept in mind. We all write for someone when we write, and that someone isn’t always ourselves.
Who do we write for? Is there a specific person in mind? Is it a specific demographic? Group of people? When I wrote The Dark Proposal, it was for people who wanted vampires to be evil again. The abusive relationship part was for me, I admit. But I did have an audience in mind when I wrote my first book, and have one in mind for its follow-up, which I’ll get to in a future post.
But I agree with Stephen King that when we first write a novel, it is to be for ourselves. Or else, it wouldn’t be fun. Writing to please someone the first time around is exhausting and takes to fun out, I think. It is when the actual work of a story, the editing part, is when it is time to get serious about the story.
I believe editing is where we all get serious about our writing work. We become aware of the mistakes and the things that don’t make sense. We become aware of what our audience really thinks, or at least, what we think they think. We become aware that our work is going to be read by hundreds or thousands of people. We realize this is serious business here. Enough of fun stuff, let’s get serious here.
That doesn’t mean rewriting and editing can’t be fun. You may be relieved to get rid of a couple of sentences or a whole scene that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the story, once you read everything over again. And let’s face it, if we didn’t love writing, we wouldn’t mind the rewriting and editing parts. It’s part of the job, so to speak. And don’t we want our work to be as polished as possible?
Come to think of it, the first draft of a story is more than just for you. It’s a gift you give yourself. The final draft of the story is a gift to your readers.