I’m a (Re)Writer

The other day I read a fantastic piece written by YA author Jessica Spotswood entitled On Being a Slow, Inefficient, Imperfect Writer. Jessica talked a lot about comparing oneself to others and insecurities, specifically those writerly insecurities we all struggle with from time to time:

…I’ve still been sitting over here, judging myself for it. And it’s taken all the fun out of writing for me lately. If it’s not fun anymore, what the hell is the point?


In the spirit of Jessica’s wisdom, I’d like to share a recent epiphany I’ve had about my writing:

I am a REwriter.

I have to write something (a sentence, a scene, a story) wrong at least once before I figure out how it should actually be written. Sometimes it takes two tries. Sometimes it takes ten. Let me tell you… Rewriting can be a frustrating experience for this perfectionist. But it’s a process – it’s my process – and even though it can be tedious and wearisome, it’s how I get to know my characters and their voices and their motivations and their goals. It’s how I get to know my story. I don’t think I could do it any other way.

So, instead of worrying that my process is abnormal or stressing about the eons of time I spend getting a manuscript just-so, I’m going to take Jessica’s advice and respect the process. I’m going to learn to be okay with where I am and how I do things. I’m going to have fun!

Tell me… What kind of writer are you?


36 thoughts on “I’m a (Re)Writer

  1. Jennifer Pickrell says:

    I’m definitely a slow and steady type of writer. Getting everything down for my first draft is the hardest part, because I’ll stare at the same scene for days, trying to figure out what’s wrong with it. It’s not so much word choice or stuff like that; it’s more of me trying to figure out what my characters would say or do in the situation. If it doesn’t feel natural, I get stuck until I can figure out the problem. Although I’ve gotten a *tiny* bit better about this over the years – sometimes now I’ll leave myself a giant note to FIX THIS when I’m revising later.

    • katyupperman says:

      I leave myself FIX THIS and WRITE THIS SCENE notes all the time. It helps me to keep my momentum, even though my momentum is usually relatively slow. Whatever it takes, though, right? 🙂

  2. Jennifer Zobair says:

    Katy, I love this, and your link to Jessica’s post was so perfectly timed. I know how I wrote my first book and for some reason I am fighting that with the second. Like it has to come out somehow both fast and perfect. (As if! 🙂 )

    Thanks for the reminder to respect my process!

    • katyupperman says:

      I’m so glad this helped, Jennifer. Jessica’s post from the other day made me feel so much more normal, and it’s nice to see so many more people admitting that their process is unique and far from perfect. Each manuscript I’ve written has been such a different experience. The first (now trunked) took a year. The second (which I’ve since completely rewritten) took exactly one month. The third was about three months, but I’m gearing up to rewrite that one too. Who said writing was easy?!

  3. Temre Beltz says:

    Katy, I adored this post! And this week I even tweeted about the exact same thing! Writing time is so hard to come by and sometimes it is so tough for me to accept when I finish my allotted time and realize that actually, what I wrote wasn’t anything like what I envisioned. BUT, this is usually the time where I sit and think, “Why?” And in that process of figuring out what didn’t work, I discover what my characters really should have been doing, saying, thinking. It’s sort of a realigning process, I guess 🙂 I think my biggest thing is pushing through that initial “Whoa, that totally came out wrong,” and remembering that the other side is not so far away. That I will always push through it and find my footing and that sometimes I just need to sit and think (even if that thinking takes awhile). Katy, the one thing I do know for sure (no matter what words best characterize your writing style in the process) is that your end result is AMAZING ❤ ❤

    • katyupperman says:

      I do my best thinking while running. And it’s a good thing I like to run, because my poor brain always seems to have TONS of writing issues to work out. 🙂

      Thank you for your sweet words, Tem. And likewise! I happen to know that whatever process you use to get your words down is working. Your stories are absolutely beautiful!

  4. Liz Parker (@LizParkerWrites) says:

    Great post, Katy. I’m a re-writer, too. I’ve tried really hard not to be. I’ve tried to make masterful outlines so I can get a scene on the first try. I’ve tried to edit scenes I’ve written to make them work. In the end, I re-write. I think that’s why NaNoWriMo was so good for me because I was writing to much, so fast that I had come to terms with the fact that I’d be re-writing. Re-writers of the world, unite!

    • katyupperman says:

      I’m with you! I’ve come to terms with the fact that while an outline helps keep me on track, it does nothing to make that first draft perfect. Or even decent. 🙂 I actually prefer revising/rewriting to first drafting, though, because I love getting to know my characters and their story more deeply. I can’t wait to hear more about how your NaNo comes out, Liz!

  5. kford2007 says:

    I’m a slow re-writer. I’m also easily distracted by other online stuff. I have to really train myself to stay focused on my writing. It’s getting better the more determined I get to publish more work this year.

    • katyupperman says:

      It is SO hard for me to focus, Jenny. I usually have the most trouble when something’s not working. That’s when I try to put it aside for awhile and just ponder. Usually the solution comes more easily when I spend time away from my computer, rather than tweeting and blogging. 🙂

  6. Rachel says:

    Honestly I have no idea. My first novel took over a year, then I felt I would have to rewrite the whole thing and actually world build so I stopped editing or writing. I was like “this is too hard, I’d rather quit.” Then a few months later, in 5 weeks I wrote the 1st draft of THIS novel I’m currently working on. That was in 2010. I got feedback right away, edited what I could and put it away. All of 2011 I did no writing or ediitng on it. I then sent out to agents a first draft because…again I didn’t know what I was doing or how to fix the problems I could so clearly see. So now it’s 2012 and I got offered an R&R (March 2012). I revised 6 times on the SAME draft before realizing something 100% wasn’t clicking and so in Sept-Nov 2012 I rewrote my entire novel (plot in tact) but with a different voice for my main character. Now it’s January and I’m down to tweaking dialogue and polishing grammar before I can send it off. For me it’s a learning process. So I guess, fast drafter, confused revisor? would be my title. 😉

    • katyupperman says:

      Oh, Rachel. You are NOT alone. I’m currently getting a manuscript I originally wrote the summer of 2009 ready for its first round of submission. I honestly think time is my friend when it comes to writing. I need to be able to step away when things aren’t working. And yeah… I think maybe Confused Reviser should be my pen name. 😉 Best of luck with your R&R!

  7. Jessica Silverstein says:

    I’m still learning myself as a writer, but it’s looking like I write the way I do a lot of projects (like, say, cleaning or packing an entire apartment.)–in stages, and with a lot of procrastination disguised as work. Actually, I think I may do my own post on this! Thanks for the inspiration!

    • katyupperman says:

      Haha! I think we might be spirit writers, Jess. Procrastination is a big part of my process. I sometimes like to call it “thinking” or “pondering” because, you know… Those words sound more professional. 🙂

  8. Jaime Morrow says:

    I think I’m very similar to you in this. While I insist on writing a fairly decent first draft (I revise as I go), I find that I spend much of the process in revision. And I kind of like it. Sure I get impatient when others are querying, getting agents, and so on and I’m still plugging away at revisions, but I think that’s where I find out the most about my story and my characters. Revisions are what make me excited about my story all over again. I’m a major perfectionist, so this can go on and on and on, but I still kind of love it. 🙂

    • katyupperman says:

      Jaime, I could have written everything you just said myself! I like to revise as I first-draft too, but yes… I spend most of my time rewriting and reimagining and rewriting. As I mentioned in another comment reply, the manuscript I’m currently getting ready for submission I originally wrote in 2009. Taking time is a good thing, for me at least!

  9. Jessica Spotswood says:

    Go, Katy! I think figuring out our own process and respecting it is really, really important. I think part of why I’ve been stuck with my ms is because I’m scared of the notion of rewriting – last year I wrote a draft of STAR CURSED & turned it in to my editor and we basically realized it had to be rewritten almost from scratch (maybe 25% made it into the final book). It was hard. But it was also RIGHT.

    • katyupperman says:

      I can totally see how the idea of rewriting is daunting. Especially for a book that you’ve already got an editor working on. I’m sure the pressure to get it just right is staggering. But I bet that feeling of getting there is worth all the hard work, and then some.

      Thanks again for sharing your wisdom the other day, Jessica. It’s so nice to know that I’m not alone in my occasional feelings of craziness. 🙂

  10. Rebecca Barrow says:

    I think we should all embrace the type of writer we are and not be endlessly comparing ourselves to others (waaaay easier to say than do, I know). Me? I’m a concise writer, and not in a good way. Everything needs to be added to, expanded on, deepened. But it’s so much easier to dive into that revision process if I accept this fact while I’m drafting 🙂 Great post!

    • katyupperman says:

      I’m totally the opposite, Rebecca! I overstate and over-explain EVERYTHING, and then I have to go back through (dozens of times!) and trim it all back. I wish I could be more concise! Funny how the grass is always greener. 🙂

  11. Miss Cole says:

    Slow, definitely slow ^^; And I also tend to get halfway through a draft, realise it’s awful, stop, leave it for months and start from scratch when the solution randomly presents itself. So in a way, I’m a rewriter too ^_^

  12. Carolina Valdez Miller says:

    I’ve never known who my characters are until after that first draft. I can spend hours doing character and story arcs beforehand, but it doesn’t matter. I’ve never been one to hear their voices in my head in advance or to have a clue what my book is REALLY about until the third or fourth draft, (at least) the second almost always being a complete rewrite. It makes that first draft difficult. Always. But those later drafts? GOLD. That’s where the fun really starts for me. That’s where I feel like I have a story.

    • katyupperman says:

      I feel exactly the same way, Carol. I always *want* my first draft to be perfect, but I know it never will be because I need that time to explore and get to know my characters. I love getting into those later drafts and having those occasional WOW moments. 🙂 How are you, by the way… Long time, no talk!

  13. Rebecca B says:

    I love this! I am a reviser. I write fairly clean first drafts–but they are just skeletons of the story to come. I have to do several revisions to flesh it out. It was hard for me to accept that at first–but now I’ve come to love that first revision!

    • katyupperman says:

      I love revising too, Rebecca. It’s that initial first draft that’s the biggest challenge for me. Though, I’ve become better at accepting that the first draft will *never* be perfect. That’s part of the fun, right? 🙂

  14. Elodie says:

    ❤ this post! I remember your tweet last week about your hubby wondering why it was taking you so long to write some hundred words. I thought about mine then who doesn´t understand why I am *still* revising.

    And what I realized is I need to trust myself. I know when a scene isn´t working or something isn´t 100% what it should be. But then I doubt myself…until I go back to it and change it. It was tough to realize that my first draft wouldn´t be perfect but I´m falling in love with my story all over again now so that´s good.

    I think I learned a lot through writing/revising ONE TWO THREE and hope to apply some of the learning to my next novel 😀

    • katyupperman says:

      I bet you’ll be a more efficient drafter and reviser the second time around, Elodie. Though, it will be a whole different story and probably not any EASIER. But, if it was easy, then everyone would have novels published and there’s no challenge in that. 🙂

      Funny how husbands (or, spouses, I suppose), just don’t get the writing and revising process. It’s not as easy as just dropping in a few periods!

  15. Molly says:

    This is a great post. I’m definitely a re-writer, too. Sometimes I’ll have the scene outlined and plotted out in my head, only to find it needs to go in some unexpected direction. Then it’s constantly evolving as I refine it. This definitely makes me a slow writer, but I don’t know another way.

    • katyupperman says:

      Slow and steady wins the race… Or something. 🙂 I’m a fairly quick first-drafter, but a VERY slow reviser. That’s when I’m really getting to know everyone and everything, and sometimes it takes FOREVER to sort it all out. Glad to know I’m not the only slowpoke!

  16. Jessica Love (@_JessicaLove) says:

    Oh girl, I feel you. I have to do something wrong at least three times before I figure out the right way to do it. I’m getting better because I’m learning from my mistakes, but it’s still slow going. Especially because I am a slow writer to begin with! It’s tough when people finish so much faster than me, but it really is just my process, and that’s ok.

    • katyupperman says:

      It is sometimes hard to see people whipping out drafts and doing (seemingly) very little revising, but yeah… That’s their process and it’s obviously working for them, but I need more time. The more I muse on a story, its plot, and its characters, the better it becomes. So glad I’ve got lots of slow-writer company!

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