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Why rewrite

Everyone writes differently, and everyone revises differently. For me, revision has always included--has always demanded--rewriting. By rewriting I mean writing the story over from the beginning, with the previous draft open in front of me for reference for all the parts that are staying the same or similar. GIVING UP THE GHOST went through at least three rewrites between first draft and current. I just finished POSSESSING LUCY's third.

I was tempted to simply read and edit-as-I-went this time through. I had just rewritten it with major changes, and I simply wanted to make sure those major changes were flowing as smoothly as I could get them before I asked for readers. But I ended up rewriting after all, and having done so, I'm so glad I did.

It wouldn't be as good a book if I'd just edited. I know this, because I know I changed things as I was rewriting that it wouldn't have occurred to me to change if I was just editing--but because I had to type it out all over again, why not rearrange those sentences or change the structure of that one or add a little more description in here? I couldn't just skim, so I couldn't miss anything. (Well, I'm sure I missed things anyway, but a lot less than I would have otherwise.)

Rewriting, for me, is a place in between creativity and practicality. I'm still writing, creating, letting myself get carried along in the flow of the story as it comes, but I'm also analyzing as I go, doing whatever I can to take the text I'm looking at and shape it into something stronger on the blank page. Frankly, I often like it better than the initial act of writing. Especially second drafts. That first rewrite is a chance to take the mess I threw onto the page the first time through and remake it into something I really love. The first draft is the underpainting, and the second is where the real picture takes shape. And sometimes it turns out I do a few layers of underpainting before I can see exactly how I want the picture to be. That's okay, too. Each time, I get closer to putting what's in my head on the page.

Which is why I rewrite.


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 20th, 2008 05:17 am (UTC)
wow--i thought i did a lot of work! i'm impressed. =)

i rewrote three chapters this past weekend for SEA because i needed to work on some character things, i did leave some stuff in, but reworked (recast, my editor says) some things that aren't working.

the rest of the ms. i've been line-edited though--some paragraphs i'll redo, but if she doesn't mark it up, i consider it good to go. =)

does your editor encourage you to rewrite the whole thing?
Feb. 20th, 2008 02:22 pm (UTC)
I haven't had an editor long enough for us to discus editing processes. :)

This is just how I've always written. I think it first did it with my second novel (when I was 15)--I'm pretty sure I rewrote that at least once. I know I did with my third, a year later. Two times for that one, because I had hopes I might submit it. And it's always felt right to me, so I kept doing it.

It's not really that much work--because anything that's already working, all I have to do is retype it, since the previous draft's right there in front of me. I find it much easier to get into the flow of the story and make sure I'm keeping things consistent than if I'm trying to edit things here and there, so in a way it feels like less work. They go pretty fast, too--rarely takes me more than a month to do a rewrite.

I find it fascinating how many different ways there are for people to write! It's such a personal thing.
Feb. 20th, 2008 06:18 am (UTC)
I've ended up working a lot like you do, and you described it very well. Sometimes the rewriting can be highly satisfying when you see the threads you laid down in the first draft pulling together and taking new unexpected turns. I never seem to write as fast, though, when I'm rewriting.
Feb. 20th, 2008 02:27 pm (UTC)
That's funny--I always find rewrites go faster because with a rough draft there are always some moments like pulling teeth, where it isn't quite working and I'm not sure how I want things to go. Almost every first draft I've written I've either stopped partway through because I was so unhappy with how it was going that I felt I had to start over again from the beginning (GutG, THE HALFWAY HERO) or I was tempted to but forced myself to finish even though I knew there were major problems (POSSESSING LUCY). Once I've got the whole thing out I find it much easier to work with and to work over. :)
Feb. 20th, 2008 04:56 pm (UTC)
That's true--I can get painfully stuck in a first draft. Sometimes I do in later drafts, too...like if I know something needs to be fixed and I'm not sure how to get there, but I have the start of an idea and I start going and it doesn't end up working very well...
Feb. 20th, 2008 10:44 am (UTC)
I really needed to see this post today. Thank you, Megan, for sharing this. I didn't rewrite FF but I have determined that I need to rewrite MC, and I have been feeling some panic about that. But hearing your cast it in such a good light is giving me courage and even anticipation for the task ahead.
Feb. 20th, 2008 02:30 pm (UTC)
Heh. I would be in a panic if I *couldn't* rewrite one of my novels! It's such a natural part of the process to me that I can't imagine not doing it. I would never rewrite completely from scratch (without the earlier draft there to go by), and I think that makes it a lot less scary--I still have all the good stuff right there to type out again, it's just the less good stuff I'm reworking or replacing as I go. So there's nothing to lose, and everything to gain! :D

Hope your rewrite goes well! It's great that you've gotten excited about that novel again. I can't wait to read it!
Feb. 20th, 2008 01:05 pm (UTC)
You know, when I first realized I needed to rewrite my book, I was kinda overwhelmed. I mean, I'd just spent 3 1/2 years getting the first draft written. But now that I've started, even though I'm only 7K in, I'm so glad I did because I'm already making changes to things that I love so much more than what I had before. I just hope this is the only major rewrite I have to do for this book.
Feb. 20th, 2008 02:32 pm (UTC)
Sometimes a rewrite can be the best thing, because it really does force you to think about everything you're putting back on the page. And it does make sweeping changes much easier to implement! But I can see how it would be intimidating after spending that long on the first draft, to sort-of start over. Good luck with it!
Feb. 20th, 2008 01:46 pm (UTC)
I've yet to do a complete rewrite, but I've thought about it. Sometimes with the way I cut and move stuff I think it would be almost easier. I might try it one of these times.
Feb. 20th, 2008 02:34 pm (UTC)
I do find it's a lot easier (especially for making sure you keep things consistent--it's easy to miss bits when you're just editing). But then, everyone writes differently. Might be worth trying just to see how it works for you!
Feb. 20th, 2008 02:14 pm (UTC)
I rewrite chapters and scenes all the time. Some things stay the same. I just kinda go backwards, forward and all over with my editing. I don't seem to have a set way to do things. Like, I'll write a scene and sprinkled throughout are notes marked like this [add description of park; description of river, etc.] Further down in my first draft you'll find something like this; [hello? can you take it a bit deeper here?] I edit something every day and there are some days an entire chapter is tossed, making room for a rewrite.
Feb. 20th, 2008 02:39 pm (UTC)
Heh, I make notes like that to myself, too. When I was doing the current rewrite of POSSESSING LUCY, I'd be on chapter 6 and realize something I'd changed there affected something in, say, chapter 11, I'd hope over to 11 in the earlier draft and put in a **note saying "make sure ____ here" or whatever so I wouldn't forget when I got there. ;) I also do it with rough drafts, putting things in square brackets when I'm not entirely happy with the wording or I haven't picked a name yet or I need to check some detail and I don't have time right then.
Feb. 20th, 2008 02:26 pm (UTC)
Wow -- I'm so impressed! I can hardly bring myself to re-read my book much less re-write it :) Although my recent book is the one I've done the most work on and I probably did end up re-writing a bunch of the middle. But I just took it scene by scene and did them out of order as needed so it wasn't quite as overwhelming!
Feb. 20th, 2008 02:41 pm (UTC)
See, I'm impressed that anyone writes a good enough rough draft that they don't need to rewrite it! (A lot of people seem to... :P ) Mine are so rough that they really do need such major changes that it's easier just to rewrite. And then I like rewriting so I don't mind doing it for somewhat less major changes later on.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

My Books

Earth & Sky
(Earth & Sky #1, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2014

The Clouded Sky
(Earth & Sky #2, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

A Sky Unbroken
(Earth & Sky #3, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

The Way We Fall
(Fallen World #1, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2012

The Lives We Lost
(Fallen World #2, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2013

The Worlds We Make
(Fallen World #3, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2014

Those Who Lived: Fallen World Stories
(Fallen World #3.5, apocalyptic YA)
self pubbed, 2014

Give Up the Ghost
(paranormal YA)
Henry Holt, 2009

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