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On The Importance of Re-Writing

Today I'm travelling across the pond to grab some words of re-writing wisdom from my buddy Sara Jayne Townsend. Prepare to be elucidated!


“The first draft of anything is shit” – Ernest Hemingway

WHEN HOLLYWOOD portrays anyone writing anything, they are generally shown over an old fashioned typewriter or maybe a desktop PC. They write ‘The End’ with a flourish, add the final page to a big pile of pristine sheets of paper, and hurry off with the package to their editor, where it is accepted and published in record time.

All real-life writers know that this is not the way it works.

Ernest Hemingway was blunt about it, but he was right. The first draft is not publishable. Writing ‘The End’ on that first draft is only the beginning. There follows the challenging task of rewriting and editing.

All writers have a different method of working. Some start each writing session by going back over what they wrote last time and making deletions and amendments as required. Some writers get to the end of the first draft and then go back to the beginning as they start the second draft. This is how I prefer to work. It gives me a sense of closure to get to the end of the first draft, and then I go back the first chapter and start amending for the next draft.

It doesn’t matter how rubbish the first draft is. No one but me will ever read it. I just need to get it down so I’ve got some foundation to work from. I find starting from a blank page the most difficult stage of the writing process. Once there’s a first draft, I’ve got something to build on. I do tend to do a lot of plotting before I sit down to write the first draft, but even so during the first draft it’s not unusual for me to discover a plot hole or tangle that I can’t figure out. In my manuscript I will write in capital letters,’ ‘NEED TO FIGURE OUT HOW THEY DO X IN DRAFT 2’and then move on to the next scene. And then I hope that by the time I get to the same section in the next draft, the solution will have occurred to me. Generally it has, because the first draft is all about getting to know the characters and how they behave, and by the time I start the second draft, I will know them well enough to work out how they will react to a certain situation.

So how many drafts do you need before you get to the final one? That’s a difficult question, because it varies from writer to writer. For me, I’ve generally gone through at least seven drafts before I get to the final one, and I will have been through the first two myself before I send the manuscript out to beta readers. I’ve met writers (generally unpublished, it has to be said) who present what is near a first draft to everyone and then get quite sniffy when anyone dares to suggest this might need further work. I’ve also met writers who have spent ten years polishing the same manuscript and still maintain it’s not finished yet. Somewhere between those two states there has to be a balance. Creativity is always a work in progress, and as a writer you never stop learning how to hone your craft. But there has to come a point when you must decide that the book is finished. You have done your best with it, but now it’s time to send it out into the world.

What happens to it after that is quite another story, but that one will wait for another time.


Orphaned at eighteen, Leanne's life is adrift in a sea of grief and drug use. She washes up on the shore of estranged relatives, the Carver family, struggling with loss of their own. The transition from her South London council estate to her new home in the Surrey middle-class suburbs is difficult for Leanne.

But beneath the respectable veneer of the quiet neighborhood, something terrifying lurks. Displaced and troubled teenagers are disappearing. Leanne recruits her cousin Simon and his girlfriend Carrie to help get to the bottom of the sinister mystery. Can the three of them stop a creature of unimaginable evil before Leanne becomes a target?

Here's a little bit about the multi-talented Sara Jayne

Sara Jayne Townsend is a UK-based writer of crime and horror, and someone tends to die a horrible death in all of her stories. She was born in Cheshire in 1969, but spent most of the 1980s living in Canada after her family emigrated there. She now lives in Surrey with two cats and her guitarist husband Chris. She co-founded the T Party Writers’ Group in 1994, and remains Chair Person.

She decided she was going to be a published novelist when she was 10 years old and finished her first novel a year later. It took 30 years of submitting, however, to fulfil that dream.

Her latest release is SUFFER THE CHILDREN, a supernatural horror novel that is available now from MuseItUp Publishing (

Learn more about Sara and her writing at her website:

and her blog:

You can also follow her on Twitter:

and Goodreads:

and buy her books from Amazon:


and US:


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