Never Rewrite for Mortals


OK, so I abandoned my work on the version where the protagonist was supposedly a real person with a web site. It was an experiment that failed on my vast readership (my wife).

So I got back out the traditional version, worked on it feverishly for a few months and asked her to read the first few chapters. You’ll never, never guess what happened…

She said I had changed everything. Before this butchery, my story had “moved along.” (That was over a year ago.) But now the thing didn’t become interesting until – I don’t know – page 45 or so, I think.

No problem. I stopped writing for several weeks because of that diced roadkill feeling. Then I started all-the-heck over again from the top.

I got caffeinated to the max, cast backstory to the wind, listed the stuff that I thought was most interesting, re-wrote it and left the rest behind.

Man, did I leave a lot of stuff out this time!

But the useful thing to understand here is how all that stuff crept in.

My wife was sort of incorrect in thinking that I “changed” everything. What I actually did was add a little here and there, many, many times over many months.

The process is poison. See if you recognize it…

Each time I sit to write, I read over some of what came previously, so I can get my place and feel the mood. With each pass I edit as I’m reading. Always while editing I think of another detail that fits perfectly and makes things resonate. The details seem to flesh things out. Sometimes they seem clever as hell. Sometimes they seem necessary because they make things more believable. But…

Almost none of them bring new plot points or additional action. It’s almost all about characterization.

And dialogue.

As a rule of thumb, good dialogue is snappy. Unfortunately, adding dialogue fights snappiness, because added dialogue makes the yakking longer and…

Brevity is the second main ingredient of “snappy” dialogue. (Content is first.) Add a few more great words and you go from snappy to soggy. Even in milk.

I once read a “How-To” book on writing fiction that emphatically stated that you should never do any editing or rewriting for anyone but an editor.

That seemed alien, unrealistic, and personally impossible.

About the same time I read another such “How-To” book, written by a professional creative writing teacher who said that among his students, he had never seen any success from those who refused to rewrite.

I sided with the second guy, naturally. But I should have noticed the obvious…

The guy who said you should never rewrite except on editors’ orders was a professional fiction writer. The other guy was a professional teacher selling a book on rewriting.

As we all know, it’s one thing to know what you ought to do, but quite another to actually do it.

Here’s my promise. If you will keep breathing – day and night without stopping – I will stop adding “good stuff” to my story each time I work on it.


OK, no cheating.

M. Talmage Moorehead

My current in-progress version of Johanna’s novel is written by a girl from a parallel universe. If you’re interested in intelligent design, weird artifacts, genetics and psychology from the perspective of a nineteen-year-old “Hapa Girl,” it may be a fun read. The protagonist is a genius geneticist with a younger brother who struggles with depression, though you wouldn’t know it to meet him. Her evolving story starts here.

It’s an experiment called, Hapa Girl DNA, and is a hybrid itself – a tightrope crossing of fiction and non-fiction. “Hapa” is the Hawaiian term for “half.” Johanna is half Japanese and half Jewish. In writing her novel, she and I ignore some important fiction-writing rules, partly because we like to test dogmas, and partly because it’s fun to try new things.

But the “rules” are essential knowledge to anyone crazy enough to either break them or follow them mindlessly.

So you could download my e-book on fiction writing, the second to last chapter of which gives my current opinions on many of the dogmatic rules of fiction writing. Downloading that 10,000 word file will place you on my short list of people who will be politely notified when my traditional novel is done – possibly before the next ice age. (No spam or sharing of your info. I haven’t sent an email to my list yet. It’s been over a year.)

Next time you’re writing emails, if you think of it, please tell your best and hopefully weirdest friend about my blog ( Thanks. I appreciate your thoughtfulness.


Totally off subject: That picture up top is supposedly a piece of ancient rock-work found at Puma Punku. I borrowed the image from this web site: There be weird stuff on the net! Hope it’s not a fake. I’m a little suspicious, because I haven’t seen this particular image before and I’ve been looking at online images of this place for several years.

Update: 11/1/13

It looks like the picture is not a fake. I just found a video of ancient South American rock work that includes it. It’s a long video. This piece (pictured above) shows up near the end of the video at 1:25:34. Here’s the link: If you don’t mind taking a chance of being convinced that history needs some revision, I think you’ll enjoy this. But be careful. If you start believing weird stuff about anything, it can make you an outsider. That can be unpleasant. With all the sociopaths in the world, things like this can be faked to the point where anybody would almost have to believe.