First drafts are easy. Revising is hard. This is my motto.
I’ve gotten better at it with practice — and there really is no other way to get better at it. There are endless books and classes and webinars etc. on how to revise, but you just have to do it until you get good at it. You have to develop your own sense of when a story is working and when it isn’t, when the language flows well and when it doesn’t, when the characters are true to themselves and when they aren’t. And then you can’t wail to the heavens about having to rewrite a story again. Or you can, but rewrite it anyway and quit annoying the heavens.
I think I’ve finally found a method that works for me — at least with picture books. I grab my notebook and write out the whole story over again. I decide which parts work and which parts don’t. And then I start again. I have stories written over four or five times in one notebook. This is before I even type them up and show them to my critique group, after which there is more revising.
Sometimes I flip back and forth when I’m writing, to copy over the parts that I liked last time. Sometimes the different versions are in different notebooks, and then I look like the world’s oddest transcriptionist. (Especially since I like notebooks with pretty sparkly designs on them.) Sometimes I get halfway through a new draft and decide I hate it, and cross it out and start over. But in the end, I have a better story. And hugely scribbled-up notebooks.
Granted, I don’t think this would work with novels, because ouch my hand. So I’m open to suggestion there. But I like my method. Because each time I do it, I get a better sense of the story. It’s like getting reintroduced to it, again and again, until I’m sure I know it well enough to be friends.
And I like making friends, don’t you?