“Every time my computer has ever crashed in the middle of writing an unsaved scene, and I had to rewrite it all from word one, it’s turned out better. There’s a lesson in that, and I think it’s this: I don’t need a muse; I need a less dependable computer.” –James V. Smith, Jr. from The Writer’s Little Helper.
|Photo credit: Abizern on Flickr|
Then, as I continued reading books on the craft, I started to notice a pattern.
In many of the exercises that included completely rewriting a scene in The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass, one of the steps included a variation of, “Without looking at your original draft, rewrite this [x]” (x being passage, scene, exposition, etc). And in Plot & Structure byJames Scott Bell, these two quotes stuck out to me:
“Let your characters have their way. Let your secret life be lived. Then at your leisure, in the succeeding weeks, months or years, you let the story cool off and then, instead of rewriting, you relive it.” –Ray Bradbury (page 173)
“Relive your scenes. Not rewrite. Relive.” –James Scott Bell (Page 203)
I have to admit, I initially resisted the thought of reliving versus rewriting scenes, but this really hit home for me when one of my critique partners suggested I rewrite a scene from my last WIP. Even though I’d already rewritten it, I took her advice and rewrote the scene again and submitted it to her to take a look at once more to see if it had improved. I was hoping she would say it was better so I could move on, but she didn’t. She suggested I rework it. Again.
I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t frustrated. I was. But as I sat down with my notebook to try to rewrite the scene yet again, I remembered what I’d read about reliving the scene rather than rewriting it—and at this point, what did I have to lose? So I did. I relived it and got the new version of the scene on paper. And while the scene played out the same way, it was different this time. I felt more directly connected to my protagonist’s experience and the writing showed it.
So when my hard drive died the other day and I lost a new WIP idea I was working on (which I hadn’t backed up yet), I’ll admit I was less than happy. I may or may not have even written a few passive-aggressive tweets and Facebook posts about it. But part of me instantly remembered the quote I started this post off with, and I thought, well, I guess now I’m going to find out how true it is. So I replotted everything and started over. And I have to say, even if I do manage to get those files back, I don’t think I’ll need them anymore.
Have you ever tried reliving a scene? If so, what was your experience? If not, do you think you will?