Like most writers, I like writing better than rewriting. In fact, I’d prefer my first drafts to be so perfect that they never require editing. I can hear some of you now: “Fat chance,” “Good Luck with that,” or as fantasy writer, Tamora Pierce, would say, “Anyone who tells you they don’t need to rewrite, they’re usually the ones who need it worst. “
The truth is that rewriting is never-ending; there is always something that we can change or improve in every sentence. We simply get to a point where we say, “Good enough.” Of course, a beginning author would say “Good enough” long before Charles Dickens.
Maybe we stop rewriting when we tire of looking at the same sentence over and over. If that’s the case, then improving our first draft of a sentence will give us more opportunities to truly improve that sentence.
So, how can we improve the first draft of every sentence? Here are some suggestions I’ve found:
1. Write the sentence first in your head.
2. Check it for active voice. Rewrite the sentence in your head in active voice.
3. Now write the sentence on paper.
4. Look for words that you can make stronger. If a replacement word comes to mind, change it. If not, simply underline it. The perfect word will come to you later.
5. Look for spare words to remove, like “just” and “that.”
6. Check quickly for correct tense, punctuation, and grammar. Make it your best version of that sentence possible.
7. Move on to the next sentence. If you find yourself mulling over a sentence for longer than a few seconds, then underline the whole sentence to look at later.
8. Don’t be discouraged if your writing slows down. As you make these steps a habit, your writing will speed up again and you will be much happier with your first draft.
Then, when you come back to that sentence later, you can rewrite it to perfection. Remember, “If you rewrite a paragraph fifty times and forty-nine of them are terrible, that’s fine; you only need to get it right once. “ (Tana French)