Rewriting Is the Safety Net That Allows You to Leap

Lance Rubin is the author of the fast paced and hilarious YA novel Denton Little’s Deathdate. Bustle.com raves, “Rubin is really funny but like John Green, he manages to be poignant at the same time,” while VOYA says “…the plot is uniquely twisted, and the ending is to die for. This book will fly off the shelves.”

Don’t miss your chance to ask Lance all your burning questions on his Figment Chat on May 4th.

Rewriting Is the Safety Net That Allows You to Leap

When I was writing the first draft of Denton Little’s Deathdate, I knew, of course, that when I finished, it would just be a first draft. It was the first step of a long journey that would include many rewrites. But there was a small part of me that genuinely thought, “Maybe I’ll get to the end and it will be pretty close to perfect. Maybe I’ll have nailed it on the first go-around.”

Now that I’ve been through the process of making a book, I understand this is a dentonlittlesdeathdatecompletely ridiculous thought, almost akin to drawing up the blueprints for a new house and hoping that maybe, just maybe, people will be able to live in them, thereby saving you the trouble of actually building the house.

It’s pretty much impossible to have a first draft be the best version of your book because, even if you’re the most thorough outliner, you have no idea what your story is yet. Save for a tiny percentage of genius savants (none of whom I’ve ever met), it’s only once you’ve read and absorbed that first draft that you begin to understand what story you’re telling. And then in the rewrite you can cut scenes that don’t serve that story, beef up the scenes that do, eliminate unnecessary characters, and so on and so on.

It’s also worth mentioning that writing a first draft with the perfectionist mindset of trying to get it right is counterproductive. You’re going to take fewer risks, you’re going to be less open to your own surprising creative impulses, and honestly, you’re going to waste a lot of time agonizing instead of writing.

Now I think of rewriting as the safety net that allows me to leap into the creative unknown. As I draft new pages of my book, I can’t worry about whether they’re good; I try to remember that Future Me will have the knowledge to make it better. If it’s a choice between a blank screen and a screen filled with crap, I try to choose crap every time. Even if writing it feels horrible, at least it’s a step in the right direction; there’s something for Future You to work with.


Lance Rubin spent his twenties working as an actor and writing sketch comedy, with several successful runs of The Lance and Ray Show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City. He has now turned his comedic talents to fiction, and Denton Little’s Deathdate is his first novel. You can find him on the Web at LanceRubin.tumblr.com and on Twitter at @LanceRubinParty.

3 thoughts on “Rewriting Is the Safety Net That Allows You to Leap

  1. I always feel anxiety when I try to write a book because I have an idea, but it’s small and I’m not sure where it will lead to, where do I want to lead to, how am I going to move it in the direction do I want, and most importantly, WHERE do I want to go with this. When I write, I have this bias that what I write is good the first time and I don’t to rewrite but obviously I need to rewrite because I will be stuck in limbo and think this is good and also think this is crappy. But I like that idea that it’s better to have a crappy draft than a blank sheet because in the end something is better than nothing and at least that way I will have something to work with.

  2. So true! And I really like the simile comparing perfect first drafts with people living in the blueprints of a house. In my life I have never had a perfect first draft but I still find myself trying to write a perfect one anyway.

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