Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Not Rewriting. A Great Image of Proof

O’Neil De Noux Gives You Pictures…

I know it is impossible for some of you to get out of your own way, to understand that the stupidity of the saying “Writing is Rewriting” can kill your writing and your dream.

Numbers of us over the years have tried to show by truth and example the silliness of rewriting. Heinlein gave his business rules, pulp writers showed by example, I do this blog, often detailing my writing, and Harlan Ellison also tried to show by example.

In a wonderful blog, award-winning writer O’Neil de Noux shows you what it looked like for Harlan to write in a bookstore window.

Check it out if you dare to challenge your myths. And along the way, buy an O’Neil book. You will thank me.


  • Harvey

    There’s a comment on the article you should see if you haven’t, Dean. One written by Thomas Pluck. Disinformation. I’ve never heard you say you “don’t like getting edited” and I’ve never heard you say ANYONE can “whip out a perfect first draft without ever reaching for the Wite-Out.” Just sayin’.

    For Mr. Pluck, respectfully, even the pulp writers we admire fixed mistakes before sending off their work. That isn’t rewriting. But neither did they pour over their manuscript time after time, polishing all the originality off of it.

    • dwsmith

      Havey, saw that and started laughing. You are right, I never said I don’t like being edited. And not in a million years can I write a mistake-free manuscript. That’s why copyeditors exist. (grin)

      Why that comment of that guy made me laugh is how people make up wonderful excuses for them not having the courage to get past the myth. Excuses around this myth are wonderfully creative and mostly based in “this is how I do it and I’m not changing” followed by a stamping of a little foot and a pouty-face.

      Most of the time the excuses are “I am not Ray Bradbury or Harlan Ellison or Lester Dent or Frederick Faust or Robert Silverburg or Steward Woods or Dean Wesley Smith or Robert Heinlein or…or…or… so I can’t do it.”

      I just shrug. All I do it point out information. Not my job to force people to do anything in any way. But it does make me laugh at times and that comment was one that made me laugh.

  • J.M. Ney-Grimm

    I’m so grateful that I never bought into the myth that rewriting is necessary. I can’t imagine the drudgery that must ensue for those who do rewrite. I write it the way I want it to be the first time ’round. I fix mistakes found by my trusted first reader. (And I do make mistakes, but they are usually all fixable in the matter of a few hours, at most.) A proofreader helps me find and correct typos. Then the manuscript is ready for the production process that will format it into an ebook and a paperback.

  • George K

    Thank you for posting that link! I love how he shatters the rewrite myth in such a simple yet in-your-face way by simply writing in public. And of course some people were ‘offended’ — hilarious.

    I also saw how the ‘backspace key’ has had a bad effect on me by slowing me down.

    Also is there a list somewhere of which of his 1700+ stories he wrote in public?
    And is there a chance in the future (if Susan agrees) of Publishing ‘Ellison Under Glass’ through WMG Publsinhg?

    • dwsmith

      George, not a chance. But I hope Susan finds someone to do it. It is a great project.

      And I know of no list of how many he ended up writing in public. A lot.

      • George K

        Thanks for the answer Dean. Yes I hope Susan does find a publisher for it.

        By the way I remember in some of your other posts you said that you got angry emails about the no rewriting rule especially. I stumbled across a blog that where the blogger ranted on and on about how the no rewriting rule is wrong, bad, evil etc. I mean it had all the pure unadulterated hate you expect at a klan rally.

        Its like this rule always hits a raw nerve, I dont think it’s only because their old English teachers taught them you must rewrite.. The vibes I get is of a deep almost emotionally unstable loyalty to this myth.

        Would you consider a post giving your opinion on why this is so? It seems that out of all the myths this one is the most “hurtful” to such people.

        Case in point: I was at a writers group last night (that meets at one of the branches of Toronto city library) . I dropped in for one night and offhandedly mentioned heinlein’s rule number #3 and the organizing writer (a small press has published 2 of her books) said I was expressing a “dangerous viewpoint”.
        I laughed (politely) and at that point everybody voted I leave the group because I was creating an “ unsafe space” for the “ aspiring authors” there.

        It was … unnerving to say the least!

        • dwsmith

          George, that’s why I warn people from talking about it. I’ve learned to deal with it and laugh and actually sort of feel bad for those stuck down in that myth. It’s like they are in quicksand and I don’t have a long enough rope. Or any rope, for that matter.

          I more than likely will write about it at some point. Thank you for the idea on that.

  • BDS

    It’s mind-boggling how pervasive the rewriting myth is. I used to write screenplays, and my method was for the producer(s) to tell me what they wanted (“We need a family-friendly movie about a dog that can windsurf.”) and I would simply write it over a week or so, one draft, no rewrites. They were always ecstatic about the result, rarely asking for changes. (And even when they did these were usually situational or superficial, like “Can you make the lead a teen instead of a pre-teen so we can cast my niece?” That sort of thing.) At any rate, most of these scripts were never produced and when the rights reverted back to me I initially hesitated converting them into novellas because I didn’t want to have to convert them and then “Do a bunch of re-writes”. Even though I KNEW I could effectively bang out one-draft stories that people liked, I worried that it was “different” because these would be novellas/novels, not screenplays. Unreal. Fortunately I got over this quick and now have several published novellas under my belt.

    • dwsmith

      BDS, yup, even when we have proof in our own life, the myth can still control. It really is amazing. I sold my first two short stories that I ever wrote without any rewrite, but did not attribute to the lack of rewrite as the reason they sold until seven years of rewriting and not selling a thing later. Then when I once again stopped rewriting, I started selling again. Just stunning how we all do that, or at least those of us who get past the myth. So well done!