Why unwriting is a writer’s best friend


Writers love words. Not just for what they do—create entire universes. They love them as individuals.

Most writers (and editors) will blush with delight when handed a dictionary. They enjoy nothing more than ‘word talk’. Who likes pernickety, lilting, lumber, moot?

Moot is a queer word. Queer is a great word that’s taken on a life of its own. Lilting? Is there much call for it? Lumber. The noun is ho-hum. But it’s a terrific verb. Pernickety is lovely to say but, really, it belongs to Jane Austen.

And so on.

Words also drive writers to despair. There’s a famous story  about James Joyce. According to the story, a friend came to visit Joyce and found him slumped across his desk.

‘What’s wrong?’ asked the friend.

‘It’s the work,’ said Joyce, without raising his head.

‘How many words did you get today?’ asked the friend.

‘Seven,’ muttered Joyce.

‘But that’s great,’ cried the friend. ‘At least, for you.’

‘I suppose,’ said Joyce, finally looking up. ‘But I don’t know what order they go in!’

There’s no doubt about it, writing will drive you nuts.

Nonetheless, a love of words, the patience to fiddle and shift and experiment, will give your work originality and verve.

Words can divide writers, too.

Mention adverbs, and polite society  turns sour. Everyone has an opinion. Adverbs aren’t just unfashionable. They’re scorned. Dismissed as the tools of an amateur.

And yet, (some of us will mutter), when used with discretion and depending on the voice you’re working with and the style you’re developing and the world you’re creating…

And herein lies the conundrum, the challenge of re-writing.

Or ‘unwriting’ as it’s been called.

Knowing which words to cut is as important as knowing which to include.

When you love words, cutting can be tough. Almost painful. But take heart.

Rewriting has its own rewards.

To hack through the jungle of your final draft, slashing adverbs and adjectives, lopping off paragraphs, rooting out waffly dialogue, can bring immense pleasure.

Likewise, cutting entire scenes, reshuffling chapters and firing characters who aren’t pulling their weight, can be so addictive it’s dangerous.

It’s like pruning a lemon tree. A bit from this side. A bit from that side. And this side. And that side. And…

Holy citrus, suddenly you’re Edward Scissorhands!


Let me say it again.

Rewriting is your best friend. It helps you find the real story. Only through rewriting does the story finally emerge, taut and seamless and ‘as it should be’.

Rewriting  is where the fun begins. You’re free of that raw anxiety that comes with a blank page. Now you can really get stuck into your piece.

If you feel overwhelmed, don’t beat yourself up.

Go gently. Rewriting is a skill. It takes loads of practice.

But so what? If you’re at the stage of rewriting it means you’ve got words on the page.

Words. On. The. Page.

That’s huge! Congratulations!

Getting our stories out of our heads and onto the page takes courage, faith and tenacity.

Never underestimate what a Grand Accomplishment it is.

If rewriting intimidates you, accept it and push on. Eventually you’ll grow to love it.

Eventually you’ll be swinging your sword with the best of us…


Yep. It’s Dread Pirate Roberts. Just to confuse the metaphor…

Go to it.

Get busy.


Your story will love you for it. So will your readers.

Jen xo

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11 Replies to “Why unwriting is a writer’s best friend”

  1. How sad it is to lose the joy of words like ‘pernickity’! I love ‘plash’ personally. (The sound of something falling into water). The sound of a fish dropping back into the sea. So much better than splash, don’t you think? I LOVE editing and rewriting.

    1. Plash? Wow! That’s such a cool word, Sheryl. I’ve never heard it. Wonderful! Glad you love editing and rewriting, it makes things alot easier, doesn’t it? 😉

  2. Reblogged this on Larissa Juliano and commented:
    Absolutely love this post. Makes the re-writing or ‘un-writing’ seem less daunting, and FUN!! In the process of re-writing several things myself and I’m tired of questioning it…but as girl and duck says…stay true to yourself 🙂 Thank you!!!

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