Ditch that messy draft for a blank writing page — Áine Greaney
Yesterday I decided to dust off an old, holiday-themed essay. It had already been drafted and re-drafted, so (I convinced myself) it would only take an hour to edit, fix and pitch.
The essay was written in 2011, when I had pitched it to a popular Sunday magazine in which I had been previously published. Back then, the editor returned it with a nice note saying that it just didn’t work for that publication.
Today, thanks to eight years of editorial distance, I understood why my original draft got rejected. Plus, I love to edit, so I convinced myself that a nip here and a tuck there would make that 2011 piece perfect and ready for a re-pitch.
Now, after more than 20 years of writing and publishing, wouldn’t you think I’d know that re-writes are never, ever easy or quick? So this afternoon, after a few botched attempts, I abandoned that old draft to open an empty page to hand-write a brand new version.
This yielded a much stronger draft to work with.
Here are four reasons to stop twiddling with that old draft to start over with a fresh piece:
Our narrative voices mature: Since 2011, I’ve published (lucky me) several other essays and a full-length book collection collection of my essays. Between work and home, I’ve done a host of other things in my life. Our narrative voices change and mature. So we need to write as our new and wiser selves. We need to write as the writer we have become, not the writer we once were.
Updated facts, statistics and research: When it comes to fact checking or supporting statistics, many things may have changed since our last draft.
Publishing trends change: Publications downsize staffing or change their editorial focus and submission requirements. While we try not to write for a specific market or readership, it’s foolish to pitch or submit something that doesn’t meet the target publication’s submission requirements.
A new draft gives a new chance to go deeper: For today’s piece, I ditched the old typed version and wrote the new piece by hand. Handwriting helps our critical thinking and lets us find a way into what we really want to say. So turn off your computer and pick up that notebook and pen.
If time equals money, then, given how long we spend writing and drafting, we writers are always working at a financial deficit. But time also equals quality. So if you want to write what matters to you now, today.
P.S. I just got an acceptance letter for this essay, from a paying market, so now I’m thrilled that I tossed that marked-up draft to start with a fresh, empty page.