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How Do You Deal with Your Limitations during a Rewrite? #amwriting #IWSG

Here on Daily (w)rite, as part of the guest post series, it is my absolute pleasure today to welcome Michael Dellert, author, editor, friend, who has imparted his nuggets of wisdom at this space before– here , here, and here. Today he talks about how writers can handle their limitations during rewrites:

One of the hardest things about the rewrite process is how it brings one face-to-face with one’s own limitations. It’s humbling. Hell, it’s downright scary.

Lately on my blog, I’ve been exploring and sharing my own novel rewriting process.

The Wedding of Eithne by MiChael DellertThe rewrite of my own upcoming novel, The Wedding of Eithne, proved to be particularly difficult.

By the middle of the process, I felt lost, overwhelmed. Like I’d taken on more than I could handle. I stared at scenes for days on end with my head in my hands: “What the hell am I trying to say here?” Imposter syndrome crept over me like an early winter’s night. Self-doubt nibbled at the corners of my confidence. “What made me think I could do this?”

And then I reminded myself: I’m not supposed to fully understand my own story. I’m supposed to be in over my head. I’m nothing but a channel for these characters, their situations, and all the images and ideas that come with them. And if these characters don’t feel like they’re in over their head, if the situations aren’t overwhelming, if the stakes aren’t life-and-death, then I’m not doing my job.

So I embraced my limitations. I grabbed them and held them tight, and I thanked my lucky stars for them. Without them, I’d have no idea what my characters were feeling. No idea if the situation was overwhelming.

If my story wasn’t daunting enough to give me pause, then it wasn’t daunting enough.

But how did I get past those limitations? How did I turn them around and put them to work?

Romance of Eowain Michael Dellert

Romance of Eowain

Through inquiry. I asked questions of the characters, of their situations, of the images and ideas that surrounded them. Where do these feelings of insecurity and uncertainty and fear live in my story? From those questions, a coherent narrative emerged. I didn’t create it. It created itself.

How? It’s a mystery. It’s an act of faith. But not blind faith. Not faith in creative writing classes, and books on narrative and structure, and beta-readers and online writing gurus (Hi!). It’s faith in oneself. In the story one carries inside oneself. By embracing the mystery that guided me to write this story, and trusting it, I connected to the living story within myself, the story that wanted to be told.

I acknowledged my limitations and focused on the more technical aspects of the rewrite—tightening prose, clarifying sentences, banishing clichés and redundancies—and the story became clear to me in a deeper, more meaningful way.

So how did I do this? I made a list of my strengths and weaknesses as a writer. I didn’t judge them. I just noticed them.

  • Strengths
    • I write good dialogue.
    • I write great action scenes.
  • Weaknesses
    • I omit body language cues.
    • I neglect setting.

By acknowledging my limitations, I found a deeper understanding of my story. I focused on those weaknesses, and worked to overcome them. But I played to my strengths too. If that dialogue lacked action and body language cues, could I think of it like an action scene, a verbal sparring match? Could I introduce more setting without slowing the pace? By inquiring into the nature of my limitations and how to overcome them, I came to a deeper understanding of my story.

And as Albert Einstein once said, “Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.”


Michael DellertMichael Dellert is an award-winning writer, editor, publishing consultant, and writing coach with a publishing career spanning 18 years. His poetry and short fiction have appeared in literary journals such as The Backporch Review, The Harbinger, Idiom, and Venture. His poetry has also appeared in the anthologies The Golden Treasury of Great Poems and Dance on the Horizon, and he is a two-time winner of the Golden Poet Award from World of Poetry Press. He is the author of the Heroic Fantasy adventures Hedge King in Winter, A Merchant’s Tale, and The Romance of Eowain. His fourth book, The Wedding of Eithne, was published in April 2017. He currently lives and works in the Greater New York City area as a freelance writer, editor, and publishing consultant.

If you’re a writer, do you remember your limitations while doing a rewrite? How do you cope with your insecurities? Are you a reader, a writer, or both?  Do you read more short stories or novels? As a reader or writer, do you have questions for Michael Dellert? Michael will be giving away kindle copies of Romance of Eowain and Wedding of Eithne to two commenters.


Writer's retreatThis post was written for the IWSG. Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for organizing and hosting the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) every month! Go to the site to see the other participants. In this group we writers share tips, self-doubt, insecurities, and of course, discuss the act of writing. If you’re a writer and a blogger, go join rightaway!

I host the monthly We Are the World Blogfest: I’d like to invite you to join, if you haven’t as yet, to post the last Friday of each month a snippet of positive news that shows our essential, beautiful humanity.Writer's Retreat

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • I am in the middle of editing and sometimes feel like my brain can’t come up with one more interesting word. I like the idea of listing my strengths and weaknesses.

  • mdellert says:

    So, I promised Damyanti that I’d give away kindle copies of The Romance of Eowain and The Wedding of Eithne, the two full-length novels in my fantasy Matter of Manred Saga, to two commenters on this post. But we never set a deadline date. So, the post is 10 days old now, and I’m really grateful to everyone for sharing their own thoughtful insights and their questions. I’ve really enjoyed hearing from you! And it seems only fair to select and announce the winners of the giveaway, some of you have waited a glacial age in internet time!

    So, using a randomizer, I’ve entered all the commenters’ names, and the winners are…. (drumrollllll

    and Alex J. Cavanaugh (@AlexJCavanaugh)!

    Thanks to everyone for all the great comments and kind words, and as long as you keep posting them, I’ll keep answering them.

    To the winners, please send me an email at to claim your prize!

  • Thought provoking post. I have a novel that needs so much work, it is pretty overwhelming. My solution has been to try to find a good writer gf who can patch it up for me! 🙂 Just kidding. But it’s been on the back burner for a long time, now.

    The other thing that came to mind is my PhD. My supervisor told me to “just write for half an hour every day, even if you don’t feel like it… write.” I followed that advice and managed to get it done within the average time frame. Not fiction, of course. But some writers may find that helpful. 🙂

    • mdellert says:

      I think your PhD supervisor has exactly the write idea. CJ Cherryh once said, “You don’t have to write well so long as you edit brilliantly.” And the only way to editing brilliantly passes through writing-town. You can’t edit what ain’t writ. But I sympathize with how daunting the thought of revision can be. The trick becomes changing, “ugh, this needs so much work,” into, “yay! this needs so much work!” Easier said than done, I know, but you have to develop a passion for the whole process, from first draft to last gasp, not just the fun bits. Although marrying an editor isn’t necessarily a bad career move (it worked for Virginia Woolf!). 😉

      • Lol. Glad someone appreciates my unusual sense of humor! But seriously, that’s a good point. An attitude shift – instead of a paradigm shift – might be in order. Part of my difficulty is that I have so many irons in the fire. I am a blogger, a scholar, a caregiver, a bedroom music producer, an unpublished novelist. I want to get all these things done, and done well!



        My solution – because I am also a religious/spiritual person – is to just give it up to God. Some days I can’t do music no matter how much I may want to. And the same with everything else. I have to rotate. A lot of creatives are like that, I think.

        Thanks for the encouragement!

        • mdellert says:

          We all have irons in the fire. I’m a blogger, a scholar, an editor, a volunteer swim coach, a father, a self-publishing author, looking for a salaried full-time position, hunting for a literary agent, caring for my aging parents, etc etc etc. And I’m a spiritual person in my own way too, and it’s tempting to give in to fatalism and let God take the wheel. And if one plans the work everyday, and works the plan everyday, measures and celebrates one’s successes, appreciates and learns from one’s limitations, one still won’t get everything done. But at least it will be a life well-lived in the trying. And yes, I rotate from day-to-day, as my strategic plan and tactical necessities demand. It’s always a balancing act. And some days, the plates all come tumbling down. But we fall so we can learn how to get back up. So keep the faith, and keep working it!

          • Yeah it’s a funny thing and it’s been changing over the years. When I was doing my PhD I had less responsibilities (was funded) so could do my spiritual thing (also evolving over the years) and my 30-minutes-a-day of writing. But that was back in 1992-97. So in 2017 its a bigger world for me and I just have more or maybe different discernments” (Catholic term) to make.

            For me it’s not so much a free will vs. determinism thing as trying to choose to “do the right thing” at any given moment. And that imo is an art and a science! One I’m still working on and probably will be for a very long time. 🙂

            Thanks for sharing.

            • mdellert says:

              I understand discernments. Pax vobis, frater. Too often, the question for me is between the right thing, and the necessary thing. One would like to think those collide more often than they do. But we keep up the good work and hope for the best. 😉

              • I hear ya. I tend to view it as an upward dynamic. The closer we get to God, the more (perceived) necessity and correctness should coalesce. ☺

  • Yep, I’m editing too, and just ran straight into a giant plot hole! My limitations are very apparent at the moment.

    • mdellert says:

      Ugh! The dreaded plot hole and the consequent, “WTH was I thinking?!” conundrum. But it’s important to welcome those confrontations with the limits and see them as opportunities to improve one’s craft and skill. You’ll get through it! Just keep writing! 🙂

  • dgkaye says:

    Fantastic post and timely. I too am in the middle of my next book and feeling the same anxiety. 🙂

    • mdellert says:

      I’m glad I could help! Take that anxiety and turn it back into the story. If you’re anxious, what are you anxious about? How does that anxiety feel? Where does it come from and why is that thing so important that it makes you anxious? Then look into your story and find the place for all that in your characters and their struggles. Anxiety (fear) is one of the most primal of human emotions, one of the things we share as human beings, regardless of race, color, creed, origin, etc. We seek out and experience art in part to recognize ourselves and our anxieties in others, and to feel the satisfaction of that anxiety being resolved and purged. I know it’s counter-intuitive (“Ah, anxiety, flee! Run away!”), but it’s part of the artist’s job description. We’re sort of the emotional firemen of the world, running toward the burning building of ourselves, rather than away from it. 🙂

  • cleemckenzie says:

    I’m glad I read this today because I’m rewriting and about to toss the whole thing because I don’t know what I’m trying to say in a lot of the story. I’m going back to it now and get a better grip on the process, starting with what’s good. . .closely followed with what I need to work on. Thanks.

    • mdellert says:

      Huzzah! I’m glad I could help. 🙂 Absolutely, there are days when it’s tempting to throw the whole manuscript off the nearest tall bridge and take up pig-farming.

      One thing that has helped me was learning that the “theme” is the central plight of the characters, that part of the story that lies behind the plot (the series of unfortunate events) and ties all those unfortunate events together. And that this central problem is shared by *all* of the characters. A story is a discussion, an argument, with each of the characters bringing a particular point of view, opinion, and counter-argument to the table.

      So if the theme is “what is the nature of free-will?” (the central problem in Wedding of Eithne), then each of the characters has a different opinion on that question: the heroine is strongly invested in her own free-will, while the villain believes that free-will must be subordinated to the rule of Law for the good the community, and all the other characters come down somewhere along the spectrum between these two points. This is what drives the narrative conflict and provides the unifying theme to their adventures.

      This revelation really helped me in my own development as a writer, I hope it’s helpful to you. Keep writing!

  • jmh says:

    Rewrites are my nemesis. But they’re also a necessary evil. Writing books on contract has revolutionized the process for me. I used to get bogged down with rewrites and let them take years to complete. Having firm deadlines has shown me it doesn’t have to be that way.


    • mdellert says:

      They are indeed a necessary evil. We owe them not only to ourselves, but to our readers, who are far more sophisticated than they’ve ever been, and deserve the best we can offer them. And there *is* a certain joy in them, if one learns to embrace them. I still struggle with that, but on my better days, I actually like the revision work. And yes, working on contract and learning the discipline that comes with deadlines makes a big difference, I found that as well. I have strict 90 day schedules that I work on, and then I break down that work into manageable daily and weekly chunks, with interim milestones to keep me on task and confident about my progress. Wedding of Eithne got disturbingly off-schedule due to a number of unfortunate personal events, but life happens, and even that’s manageable with the requisite amount of discipline. 🙂

  • Excellent advice. It’s tempting to think the story isn’t daunting because you’ve read it so many times (in the edit process), but that’s rarely true. At least, in my case.

    • mdellert says:

      After reading it through six, eight, a dozen times, one starts to lose sight of how daunting the story itself actually is. This is one reason why it’s good to become a stranger to one’s story between rewrites, to keep it fresh in one’s own mind, and to see things to which one has become acclimated/blind. But for sure, everytime I come to a place where the *work* of rewriting the story (as opposed to the story itself) becomes daunting, that’s where I find I need to dig a little deeper. What’s getting between me and the most dynamic form of the story? Why am I blocked here? What is it in myself that I’m afraid to share? Usually, the answers to those questions can be transferred into the story, into the characters and the plight that they’re struggling with, to get me through the block. 🙂

  • shanayatales says:

    A very helpful article, Damyanti. I loved the quote – Once we accept our limitations, we go beyond them. It holds good in many areas of our lives.

  • I’m a blogger – not quite yet a true writer in the sense that I have about five unfinished books on my computer – none of which have survived even a first rewrite.

    • mdellert says:

      I don’t see how having unfinished books makes you “not a true writer.” A runner who trains and practices for a marathon they haven’t yet run is still a “true runner.” No one wakes up on a bright sunny morning with no other experience or practice and runs a marathon, or bangs out a novel.

      Unfinished novels are the paving stones toward finished novels, but no one even attempts such a herculean feat who isn’t a “true writer.” There are certainly easier ways to make a living, and other ways to spend one’s spare time, so if one isn’t a “true writer,” why would one even bother starting a novel?

      And “being a blogger” is just as much “being a writer” as “being a novelist.” Lots of novels, memoirs, and other books have come out of the daily practice and discipline that comes of blogging.

      My advice in general to writers is to stop “aspiring” to be a “true writer” (whatever that means). This is just another form of limitation: “I’m not really a writer for XYZ reasons.” Instead, own it: “I’m a writer.” Because until one faces and overcomes that limitation, one has granted oneself just enough permission to fail, and none to succeed.

  • Yvonne V says:

    I like the idea of inquiry during revision. 🙂

    • mdellert says:

      I think honest inquiry has to be at the heart of any creative endeavor. The point of the exercise is to express a common but often uncomfortable or inconvenient truth about what it means to be human. It’s hard to do that if one isn’t willing to take a hard look at one’s own uncomfortable and inconvenient truths.

  • Liesbet says:

    I wonder whether these tactics can come in handy for non-fiction writing as well, since the main characters are real. I guess the advantage is that I can ask the characters questions and get the “real” answer. 🙂 I think writing down one’s strengths and weaknesses puts things in perspective and works positively towards progress.

    When I feel insecure, a walk sometimes helps. Since I am not a published author (yet), the only rewrites I know about is for articles and blogs. Once, I had to rewrite most of the story, when my protagonist crashed his sailboat on the rocks in Sri Lanka, which could have finished his around-the-world attempt and ruin my story. 🙂

    • mdellert says:

      I think it’s as true of non-fiction as it is of fiction. Whether the characters are “real” or not (and really, how many of us aren’t fictional, to some degree or another?), as a writer, one will still face up against whatever one’s limitations are, and work to get past them. Walks, exercise, meditation, these are all excellent tools as well, when one’s insecurities threaten to overwhelm and swamp the work.

  • J.R.Bee says:

    I’m in a similar frame of mind right now. Perfect timing, and brilliant advice, thank you!

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – re-writes must be challenging … but taking Michael’s ideas and thinking about them as the re-write takes place – seems to make sense … and as one practices it will get easier … cheers Hilary

    • mdellert says:

      All things do get easier with practice. The more I engage in rewriting my own work, the more familiar I become with my limitations, and the more I work against them, both in the rewrites and in new projects. 🙂

  • Mark Murata says:

    I haven’t had to do rewrites demanded an agent or an editor. But I’m surprised you called these limitations. It seems more like continuing challenges.

    The part about body language cues is interesting. I’ll have to consider more of those.

    • mdellert says:

      I suppose it’s a tomato-tomahto sort of distinction, or a chicken-egg conundrum. Yesterday’s limitation is today’s challenge. I recognize where I was limited in my ability “yesterday” (during the previous draft), and challenge myself to overcome that limit “today” (in the present draft). Two sides of the same coin, to my mind.

      And I’d caution against “more” body language cues, in favor of “the right” body language cues. Often in my own first drafts, everyone just shrugs before or after speaking. That’s my lazy body language cue. Then in my second draft, everyone is so animated, and every action and reaction is accompanied by a tug at the chin and a hand through the hair, and so on. That’s me overcompensating for my initial limitation. In the third draft, I pare all that down to only those body language cues that are needed. This is really where the work is, because, “When is a body language cue ‘needed’?” That’s a question I struggle with a lot in the third and subsequent drafts.

      Thanks for your comment!

  • Truly enjoyed this. Thank you for sharing.

  • Amanda says:

    This seems like a great read!

  • Adan Ramie says:

    Rewrites are hard no matter how many times you have gone through the process. To date, I’ve published five novels and three short story anthologies, and I still get nervous when it’s time to confront a first draft with a red pen. You’re right, Michael; we must know what our strengths and weaknesses are to create the best manuscript possible… especially when you get into the weeds and feel like there’s no way out. We’ve all been there. Thanks for a great post!

    • mdellert says:

      Absolutely true. It’s such a marathon to get through that first draft, and confronting that draft (and the next, and the next) with a red pen seems so anticlimactic. And most artists’ are perfectionists in their own mind (I know I am), so it’s very disappointing to oneself to face one’s cherished little darling and see all its blemishes. But it’s a necessary part of the process if one wants to publish, because one doesn’t want anyone else to see all those blemishes.

      And the trick then becomes, as you say, getting out of the weeds. At some point, one has to decide that one is finished, and accept that a few blemishes may end up out in the world, or else abandon the project in favor of a better use of one’s time.

      I have project management training from my “real world” career in publishing, so when I set up the calendars for my writing projects, I use PM methodologies and always include “kill points,” moments in the calendar where I review the project in front of me and decide whether or not time, effort, and cost have outstripped the anticipated “return on investment.” Those are never fun days. A lot of projects end up in the “maybe another time” drawer when kill-point day comes around.

  • simonfalk28 says:

    Thanks, Damyanti and Michael, for your words on this and other occasions. I love the honesty and humour peppered through the interview. I read the post on two levels. One as a reader and writer. I share similar concerns and find the editing process personally confronting. This was especially so when I did some post-grad study a number of years ago. I also saw “rewrite” as a metaphor for life. We can be in deep, so deep at times, and find ourselves wanting to “re-write” words, actions, events. One wonders what the final redaction of our lives may look like. 🙂 As has so often been the case, these Daily (W)Rite interviews offer a rich banquet for thought.

    • mdellert says:

      Padre! Good to see you, and thanks for your comments. Indeed, “rewrite” can be a metaphor for life. I first sent this article to Damyanti in February, and it took some time to get it into her editorial calendar, during which a lot of other things happened that made finishing the rewrite and getting to publication with The Wedding of Eithne even more challenging. And I found that the same coping strategies applied to “real life” as to fiction. In fact, when I learned that this post was going to go live this week, it seemed like a good opportunity to reflect on those challenges in my own blog, in tandem with this post. You can read about that here:

      Indeed, one does wonder sometimes what the final book of our lives will look like, and which parts will fall to the cutting room floor. I can think of a few of my own, but we’d need to be in a confessional… 😉

  • Diane Burton says:

    I have the same weaknesses. When I read, I usually skim over the settings. Not good.

    • mdellert says:

      That is the worst habit I have during rewrites and edits: skimming. It takes me twice as long to edit my own work as to edit other people’s work, because I wrote the blessed thing in the first place. “Oh, yeah, I remember this part… (skim ahead skim ahead) …uh, Mike, did you *edit* the last 20 pages, or just skim through them? DOH!!!”

  • We share some of the same weaknesses and strengths. My strongest point is dialogue, but I have to be very careful not to rely on it too much .I’m nearly finished with the first draft of my WIP, and I’m going to have to do a lot of description and background larding in the rewrites. (It’ll be fun!)

    • mdellert says:

      There are often scenes in my first drafts that read more like stage plays (I did drama for a time in high school and college), with character names, followed by a parenthetical stage direction, followed by dialogue. And every time I run into those scenes during the rewrite, I just want to go back and kick Past Me. But I do think that’s one of the important parts of the rewrite process: layering in the nuances and the details that didn’t come out in the first draft, or that we didn’t know we needed because we hadn’t seen the ending yet. So don’t feel like you’re alone in that. And YES! Most importantly, have fun! 😉

  • I’m in the middle of a big edit at the moment, and so this post couldn’t have been more perfectly timed for me. My editor pointed out some character motivation issues, and that’s what I’m struggling with most. It’s clear in my head, but how do I make it come across on the page, especially when it’s the villain who doesn’t get their own POV where I can nail down into their internal monologue? Agh!

    • mdellert says:

      Ah, yes, the motivations of non-POV characters. I struggled a lot with that in The Wedding in Eithne, as the “actual” villains were hidden, and not the in-your-face POV villain. The only recourse is to demonstrate their motivation through action and dialogue. Give your villain a “dragon,” a lieutenant-in-evil to whom s/he reveals his evil plan, and give your villain a “screw the pooch” moment where s/he shoots the dog. Movies can actually be helpful in this regard, as they can’t easily show the internal dialogue of the characters without falling back on the cheap voice-over trick. So (since it’s #StarWarsDay), let’s take Darth Vader for an example. Vader has Grand Moff Tarkin and other Imperial officers to whom he speaks, and he’s not above “Force-choking” them to death when they fail him. This exemplifies his anger and frustration, and his renewed motivation toward stopping the heroes at any cost. So that’s one solution. I hope it helps! And #MayTheFourthBeWithYou! 😉

    • Adan Ramie says:

      I had the same issue with my first suspense novel, Raimey. My first set of beta readers thought my villain was flat and his motivations were unreasonably overreactive, so I had to dig deep to figure out exactly what I wanted to convey. It boiled down to how other people reacted to him, from my protagonists all the way to secondary characters. Best of luck!

    • mdellert says:

      Raimey, Congratulations! I’m happy to inform you that you’re one of two winners randomly selected from the commenters to receive free Kindle copies of The Romance of Eowain and The Wedding of Eithne, the two full-length novels in my fantasy Matter of Manred Saga. Please send me an email at to claim your prize!

  • It’s hard to recognize those strengths and weaknesses. Betareading for others help me really see my work though more judgy eyes. 🙂

    • mdellert says:

      Reading is a fundamental skill for a writer, that’s for certain. A steady diet of classics and “great” literature comes with its own form of malnutrition, in the form of imposter syndrome (“Ugh, how can I ever write as well as Shakespeare/Hemingway/Garcia-Marquez? I must be a fraud!”). But beta-reading for others is great because it helps to highlight the faults in one’s own writing, and proves that even a good author can write a crappy book on the first (or third) time around. Having beta-readers for one’s own work is also invaluable. I might be my own worst critic, but I can get tunnel-vision, only seeing the things I want to see, only making the “easy” corrections. My beta-readers will find things that I thought were just hunky-dory, and they’re not shy about smacking me in the face with them. In the moment, O! how I hate them. But in the end, O! how I love them, because they hold me to a better standard. 🙂

  • emaginette says:

    Well, I feel a bit better about my issues now. All writers seem to face the same things no matter where they are in their careers. Good to know.

    • mdellert says:

      We’re all human, much as we’d like to admit we’re not. And that’s one of the fundamental goals of writing and reading, and communicating in general, isn’t it? To remind ourselves that we’re not alone. “Oh, hey! I feel like that too! I’m not the only one!”

  • I tend to write very fast, so the editing process is challenging. My characters exist in a void, with little setting, stage direction or dialogue tags. Knowing these are my weak spots, I pay particular attention to them. Knowing yourself as a writer comes with experience (and tends to change over time). Thank goodness for beta-readers!

    • mdellert says:

      I do the same thing. My personal rule during a first draft is, “don’t look back, don’t edit.” The most important thing for me is to get to the end, preferably before life and other insecurities know that I’m doing it. What’s the old Irish saying? “May you be 40 days in heaven before the devil knows you’re dead.” The same can be said of my writing process. But it does mean that I have to be extra diligent to repent my sins once the devil catches up with me in the details. 😉

  • Michael, I think we share the same weaknesses and strengths.
    Rewriting can feel overwhelming, but there is satisfaction in making a story even better.

    • mdellert says:

      Oh, absolutely, there’s a great satisfaction in it. Nothing makes me grit my teeth more than reading my own clunkers. But the days when “once and done” was enough ended 6000 years ago with the Epic of Gilgamesh. The *next* guy didn’t just have to do it, he had to do it better than the Gilgamesh author. So there’s not just a personal satisfaction to be found in rewriting, there’s also a responsibility to one’s readers, to try and do it better than the last person who did it (or at least, better than one’s own last best attempt). And there’s a lot of satisfaction in that too.

    • mdellert says:

      Alex, Congratulations! I’m happy to inform you that you’re one of two winners randomly selected from the commenters to receive free Kindle copies of The Romance of Eowain and The Wedding of Eithne, the two full-length novels in my fantasy Matter of Manred Saga. Please send me an email at to claim your prize!

  • Love that perspective. Here’s my problem. I start writing a story when a certain theme resonates with me, and pick it up again years later when a different theme is in my heart. LOL. Maybe that give a story depth or diversity, or just confusion? Thank goodness for our helpers along the way–especially the editors who really fine-tune the vision.

    • mdellert says:

      Yes, that’s a problem for me too, and (I think) one of the challenges I faced with Wedding of Eithne. There were important, central parts of the story that had been written for the first time as long as ten years ago, and so they felt “shoe-horned” into this story. I’d learned a lot about theme between then and now (like, “I should really have a theme”), and so it was difficult to massage those old pieces to which I had a nostalgic, sentimental attachment, and make them fit into the thematic structure of this piece. This is why I’m an advocate now of “just write each draft straight through until it’s done” in order to keep the whole thematically cohesive. Wedding had to be an exception to that rule, but it’s proven to be the exception that validates the rule. 😉

  • identify strengths and weakness. I like that. or as my friend Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) once said, “A man’s got to know his limitations”.

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