Revise, rewrite, resubmit

The essence of writing is rewriting

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”

— Terry Pratchett

It’s incredibly cold out tonight, so in lieu of going to my normal coffeeshop writing group, I’m staying in and trying to rework a short story I want to submit for publication.

You know, I hear all these quotes about revision, like the old saw “Writing is rewriting,” and yet every time I hear them I go “Yes, but how do I do that?

Serious question. For some reason, I have real trouble understanding how to revise. (Somewhere my incredibly patient college professors, especially Drs. Chemers and Arons who read a lot of my writing over four years, are going “Noooo, really?” )

I am Jack's complete lack of surprise.

I know, I know, there are books out there that will tell me how to revise, and blog posts, and I should go looking for that, but I’m also just curious what revision looks like for people. Because what I end up doing is sitting down and looking at whatever it is I wrote and going “Yeah, that’s — I mean that’s pretty much it.” I can do line edits, and I can generally do cuts, but I don’t understand how to rewrite, the way people talk about it. I don’t have a process. Something about that eludes me. Unless it’s a complete overhaul, starting from scratch: I’ve heard there was some famous author whose process included writing a novel, locking it in a drawer, writing the entire thing again from memory, locking that draft in a drawer, and writing it again. This is a process I have often considered trying.

So for the writers out there, here’s my question: what are the actual mechanics of your revision and rewriting process? When you sit down with your work, what do you do to make it better?