Tuesday, March 19, 2013

To Run or Not to Run from the Rewrites

I have arthritis, so two potentially very painful things for me are running and typing. What that says about the fact that I've recently taken up running and as a writer am constantly typing...well, we'll leave that to the shrinks.  And then I'll remind them to keep their answer to themselves! lol

What I have learned is that some kinds of pain can be ignored.  Other kinds need to be listened to. The same is true of the inner niggling doubts we feel as we write and rewrite, so I thought a comparison might be useful, or at least entertaining.

First a picture to get your mind thinking in the rhythm of running, with the sense of freedom in the open trail and the beauty of the seasons around you.

Isn't that nice?  But of course we know what the picture doesn't show--that mosquitos buzz and bite, the hills make us huff and puff, roots and rocks can send you sprawling, and muscles burn.  Those can all be ignored.  I've learned that I can also ignore the pain in my right knee, the the ouch of my toenail cutting into its neighbor toe in the perpetual warfare they've declared on one another.

For other pain, it depends.  I've got a problem with my left hip, so when it's hurting I can only ignore it if it's warm, well-stretched, and moving freely.  If it's a pinchy pain I need to stop and deal with it.  I also have to change things up or drop to a walk if I get shin splints, or if my lungs start to burn, because an asthma attack isn't on the agenda.

Additional things I can ignore are spider webs (if I can manage it), people who's dogs are leashed, and a burst of rain.  Dogs that are off leash, weird old men who ask odd questions and ticks warrant my full and undivided attention!

So, what are the equivalant things to ignore or focus on in a rewrite?  Well, that's going to depend partly on what level of rewrite I'm doing.  If it's a big picture change with deep plot adjustments I'll try to put out of my mind any irritation with word choices and stylistic quirks.  Those are the whine of a buzzing mosquito, and taking the time to smack them will only distract me.  Plus possibly leave me with a bloody spot on my forehead.  When I'm doing a line-by-line rewrite, though, the insignificant quirks have morphed into nasty ticks and will get flicked into the hinterlands.

A queasy sense of something being off in the novel is most like the pinching pain in my left hip, and can't be ignored without ruining the whole draft.  That's also true of dragging info dumps or scenes that make me yawn and reach for my chocolate stash.  Those are like shin splints.  They may not seem like a big deal at first, but they drag down the quality of the rewrite (or the run) til they make it impossible to go on.  Worse, they can scrap a training routine for weeks, just as the info dumps can derail a rewrite.

My rewrite equivalant of the cutting toe nails and aching knees are the voices in my head that say my book is stinky cheese with sour catsup on top.  These voices aren't responding to any specific clue or lodging a legitimate complaint, they just don't think this book will ever be good simply because it's got my name on it.  Listening to them will quite literally stop a rewrite or a run in its tracks.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember in a rewrite is where you're going, or what kind of run you want.  Because maybe you're not running through the woods listening to the distant sound of a stream and watching for the flit of birds' wings.  Maybe you're running on the beach with the sand slipping under your feet and the waves spilling over your toes.

Whatever your run or rewrite, make sure you lift yourself above the sweat and sticky parts to enjoy the beautiful moments and savor the end goal.  Because that's the reason we keep going.


  1. Fantastic post. I love the comparison. But, you know, my favorite part was the last paragraph. Enjoying the beautiful moments when rewriting is what I tend to forget to do.

  2. Running is one of those things I keep thinking I should do . . . and don't :) But rewriting, at least, I'm coming to terms with. Awesome post, Suzanne! Thanks for the great comparisons.