TITLE: Writing and Rewriting AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: June 05, 2012 3:33 PM DESC: ----- BODY: An interviewer once asked writer Stephen King about extensive rewrites, and King responded:
One of the ways the computer has changed the way I work is that I have a much greater tendency to edit "in the camera" -- to make changes on the screen. With 'Cell' that's what I did. I read it over, I had editorial corrections, I was able to make my own corrections, and to me that's like ice skating. It's an OK way to do the work, but it isn't optimal. With 'Lisey' I had the copy beside the computer and I created blank documents and retyped the whole thing. To me that's like swimming, and that's preferable. It's like you're writing the book over again. It is literally a rewriting.
The idea of typing an existing text made me think of Zed Shaw's approach to teaching programming, which has grown into Learn Code the Hard Way. You can learn a lot about a body of words or code by reading it just enough to type it, and letting your brain do the rest. I'm not sure how well this approach would work for a group of complete novices. I suspect that a few would like it and that many would not. I like having it around, though, because I like having as diverse a set of tools as possible for reaching students. For someone who already knows how to write -- or, in King's case, who actually wrote the text he is retyping -- the act offers a different set of trade-offs than rewriting or refactoring in place. It also offers a very different experience from (re)writing from scratch, or deleting text so you won't be tempted to keep it. -----