on rewriting


As I’ve worked on my dissertation, I have become something of a compulsive rewriter. I quickly rack up drafts. Now not all of these drafts represent significant changes, nor are they all sent off to the advisor. Most of them are for me because, as I’ve discovered, the only way I can really identify problems is when I retype.

Of course, when I’m in the middle of retyping, I wonder whether this is really necessary. I type very fast (it helps to be the daughter of a secretary who typed in the 80-90 wpm range, numbers included, though she was more accurate than I am, typewriter v. computer and all that). But still, when you’re rewriting chapters that are 15,000-25,000 words each, retyping takes time. And I can be lazy.

But inevitably, while I’m in the process of retyping, this happens: I see something that doesn’t make sense, something I wouldn’t have noticed if I weren’t putting it down to paper again. Today, it was a footnote, in which I made a claim about how several newspapers in one country had printed in full a piece of government correspondence originating in a far-off colony. And as I was typing it, I said to myself: “how the fuck do I know that?” So I dutifully went off to a few newspaper archives databases, only to find more detailed information on other aspects of the chapter, information that will shape my analysis.

So yeah, is it tedious to retype and to have 3-5 drafts of each chapter sitting around on my computer, with a few more to go? Yes. Is this the way I have to do it? Yes.


3 Responses to “on rewriting”

  1. 1 C

    I don’t retype, but I read my drafts out loud to myself to get a similar – is distance the right word? – from what I’ve written.

  2. I do the same thing that C. does. But I’ll be that retyping operates on the same principle. Good for you!

  3. 3 thefrogprincess

    Well, notorious, retyping has gone by the wayside in these final days. That’s a necessity, but I can’t help feeling like I’m not really sure how things are flowing together when I’m just doing piecemeal edits.

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