Been thinking about rewrites today and that most cardinal of writerly sins, the persistent editor.
For the uninformed or uninitiated, the persistent editor is that little voice in a writer's head that keeps telling him or her to just go back over that last sentence, just take another look at that paragraph, it's just not quite perfect yet.
That's the thing about perfection, it's not possible. It's an unreachable ideal that we can strive to get as close to as possible but not actually achieve, not in this at least (perfect scores in ten-pin bowling/snooker etc don't count for the purposes of this discussion).
It's dangerous that little voice, it's the one that gets in the way of making progress (i.e. getting words down). You listen too much and before you know it you're brushing up against your deadline and you've got 500 words of that 100k novel in the bank. Bad times.
Editing, especially self editing, is a vital part of the writing process though. To ignore it and leave it to your editor is just unprofessional and, let's face it, just plain lazy.
Balance is essential, just the right amount of self editing to get down some solid and robust prose that stands up to the editorial pen without fear of a full scale new draft, but not so much that you paralyse essential progress on your novel.
As a commissioning editor myself, I can't do a damn thing with 500 words of excellent prose. It's worthless to me. A full novel, sensibly self edited but in need of some editorial massage, that I can work with.
So, like I said, my mind's been on rewrites today. I've been working on the latest novel (Vulkan Lives) and whilst I had a great today yesterday, clocking in about 3k of decent material I was happy with, today it wasn't so great. I made some progress, about 1k, but got to the end of a section (the last piece I worked on) and realised I had to throw it out. I junked 500 words, just threw it out. It was liberating, annoying too. To put it in context, I pretty much spent the whole day reworking existing scenes and reordering material. Something wasn't working on a fundamental level and rather than plough on in blissful ignorance, I needed to do something about it.
I should have seen it coming. Some days you get the words in (and any writer who doesn't rate their progress by word count isn't doing it right in my opinion; either that or they don't hit too many deadlines or being in projects to spec – as a writer of tie-in fiction that's kind of important) and some days you spend working on structure.
It's a living, breathing, constantly shifting thing a story. Sometimes it needs attention in order to wrestle it back under control or you end up with one of those, bloated, god awful, meandering pieces of crap erroneously labelled as fiction.
Rewrites and self editing are important parts of the process, so is producing your word count. Balancing both is the key to happiness in my opinion, as is the acceptance of the fact that you can't get away from doing either and have to make them work for you.