"You don't become a writer until you learn to rewrite." -Louis Sachar
My beautiful friend Hannah and I headed to the local library recently to listen to Louis Sachar address the young writers of Tulsa and present awards for the annual creative writing contest. His address focused on answering the questions most people ask him, the primary focus being, "What is your writing process?" Sachar clumsily worked through explaining his process which was about as unorganized as his speech. As Hannah said, "I enjoyed it. Once he got going, he was really good." The same follows for his writing process.
Sachar spends an hour a day writing the first draft of his book. He admitted that many times it's discouraging because he's not even convinced he's written anything worthwhile for that day. But as time goes on, the story progresses, he follows rabbit trails that lead to nowhere, and he ultimately discovers the path the story is to take. He mentioned that this could take up to a year and a half before the first draft is complete. After that, he goes back through and spends a couple hours a day doing a second draft. Then a few hours a day on the third and fourth draft until everything's complete. His philosophy is to "keep it inside you until you're done" so that you don't lose any energy while writing it. He avoids critique groups and the like. The overall process takes about two years.
As a former English teacher, my desire was for my students to follow a similar process in their writing. I wanted them to see the value of rewriting, and I wanted them to be as pleasantly surprised with their revised work as I so often am with mine. But alas, they are teenagers with busy schedules and hours upon hours to perfect a 2-stanza poem just doesn't fit into their common sense.
I write because I have to. I rewrite because I would be cheating myself if I didn't uncover all of the hidden potential that I don't even see yet. Thank you, Louis Sachar, for sharing that message.