Still, and Always, an Apprentice at My Craft

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” —Ernest Hemingway

young-women-reworking-a-paperIn my book, Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! I devote an entire subchapter to the art of the rewrite. In most cases, the first draft is going to be, simply put, a first draft. It’s through the art of rewriting that the magic happens.

Here’s a snippet from that section:

“I’ve written pieces with which I was satisfied after the first rewrite. But unless I’m posting to Facebook or Twitter, that’s rare. (Yes, I do edit my posts before I post. Facebook now allows you to edit after you post, and I’ve done that too.) For short pieces of 1,000 words or fewer, most of what I write goes through a minimum of three rewrites before I think I’m done. A rewrite could be as simple as tightening up some sentences. It could be as involved as moving some paragraphs around for better flow. Sometimes I’ve found a nut buried in the piece and rewrote it with that nut as my lead. And that doesn’t count the partial rewrites I do within a piece as I’m writing it.”

There is no rule on how many rewrites a piece should undergo. I rewrite until I’m satisfied it is the best it can be or a deadline forces me to push the send button. I’m a big believer in deadlines, because if it weren’t for deadlines, I’d keep rewriting. I have been a professional writer for more than 30 years and every published piece I have reread I have said, “I could have written that better.” I changed a word in the above paragraph because the one in the book no longer worked for me. That’s just the nature of the beast.

Writers are apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master. And, I’m perfectly comfortable with that.


Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.

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