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Why I rewrite

Last night after a meeting with my in-person writers group, I was thinking over some comments on the chapters of THE HALFWAY HERO they critiqued, and considering how some of the changes I was going to need would have implications throughout the book, and starting to feel a little worried about the whole revision thing. Then I thought to myself, oh, well, I'll just rewrite it. And the anxiety, gone!, just like that.

Which may sound bizarre. I know when I mention this part of my revision process, the most common response is surprise and a sense of isn't that an awful lot of extra work? But for me, it's the most important part of the process. And it actually feels like *less* work than doing it any other way.

So, I rewrite. As in, open a completely new file and type the whole thing over again from beginning to end. I don't do this without guidelines--I always have the previous draft open in a separate window, so I can follow along and keep the parts I still like. See screenshot below:

(When I was in my teens, and had a smaller computer monitor, I'd print out the earlier draft and have it in front of the computer for reference as I wrote the new draft.)

And I'll also have a new outline with lots of notes on what I want to change in each chapter, where I might completely diverge from the previous draft, and useful stuff like that.

But yes, I type every single word over again. Usually at least twice for each novel. Sometimes three or four times.

Why the heck do I do this instead of just going through the existing manuscript and making changes where necessary?

1. Rewriting gets me back into the flow of the story. I feel like I'm telling the story over again--and better this time--rather than just adjusting a story that's already there. The actual putting the story into words, letting the plot and characters emerge on the screen, is my favorite feeling in the entire world. So naturally I don't mind experiencing it again. :)

2. Usually with my second and third drafts, I'm making changes to plot/characters/voice/world/etc. that affect the entire story. The thought of trying to go through the existing draft and find every single spot that needs to be tweaked makes me panic. I'm sure I'm going to miss something. When I rewrite, I catch all the spots that need adjusting as I get to them--and since I go over everything, it's impossible for my eye to slip or my mind to drift and miss something. So I'm less stressed, which is why it feels like less work.

There are some downsides to rewriting. One is that I end up with a whole new set of typos and similar errors. Which is why after I've done a rewrite, I usually print out the draft and go over it with a pen to check line-level stuff. Another is that it does take longer than simply reading through and editing. Not a lot longer--I usually finish a rewrite in a month or less--but enough to be noticeable.

By the time I've rewritten a story a few times, and gotten the major issues ironed out, I do switch to the read-and-edit method for most revisions thereafter--to save time, and to avoid the typo issue. But rewriting is still my favorite method of revision, and the one that works by far the best for me.

Anyone else want to share a revision method they love, that others think is strange? :D


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 22nd, 2008 04:44 pm (UTC)
Actually I like doing the same thing, but not with the entire manuscript. I already know several places in the story are going to need rewrites, which in my mind consist of me starting the entire scene over from scratch, using the original only as a guide. I've never actually tried it with an entire manuscript but it sounds like something that would appeal to me; if I got lost I'd have something to go back to, unless I changed something drastically.

Not a bad idea though. Every writer's different, the more I enjoy the company of writers the more that's pressed home to me. ;)
Oct. 24th, 2008 03:22 pm (UTC)
Definitely! The more I read about everyone's processes, the more it amazes me how many ways there are to produce the same approximate thing (and novel). And yet they all work! Creativity is a funny thing. :)
Oct. 22nd, 2008 05:07 pm (UTC)
I do this too for many of the same reasons you cite. It's just easier.
Oct. 24th, 2008 03:23 pm (UTC)
I know! And yet people seem to think it'd be so much harder... Of course, I just gape at the people who manage to do things like write an entire draft without a speck out outlining. What seems easy to one seems crazy to another. ;)
Oct. 22nd, 2008 05:25 pm (UTC)
Good luck with the rewrites. Seems like a good method. I go a bit further, I think. I write the entire draft out by hand (mainly because I hate typing on my laptop) and then type it out afterwards, so my computer draft usually has a few edits in it already before I start the real editing process.
Oct. 24th, 2008 03:24 pm (UTC)
I used to do that, but I've gotten used to being able to quickly skim through for a certain line or detail (what was character A's eye color again?) which is so much easier to do on the computer. I still can't really write on my desktop computer, though. Too many other, less creative tasks associated with it.
Oct. 22nd, 2008 05:41 pm (UTC)
You sound very organized.

My revision process seems to change with each book. I kind of do like the revision stage though. I'm very much a seat of my pants writer, so revision is really a big part of getting the story all tied up.
Oct. 24th, 2008 03:26 pm (UTC)
Heh, I am actually a pretty scatter-brained person. I just really don't like being scatter-brained, so I've been training myself for years to do things in certain ways to keep me more organized. (e.g., in high school I always packed my backpack the night before, because if I left it until the morning, even if I wasn't rushed, I would inevitably forget something vital like, oh, that assignment that was due.)
Oct. 22nd, 2008 08:38 pm (UTC)
This is a huge help to me. Thanks for this post! My could-be agent told me she didn't want a totally new book; my could-be editor said my problems were not in my plot, which was strong, but in the voice. So I decided to write the new scenes, which I'm doing now, and then do something similar to this whith the old scenes.

You rawk!
Oct. 24th, 2008 03:27 pm (UTC)
Rewriting is definitely great for voice, because voice is so much in the wording of each sentence... it's hard to shift it just by adding and tweaking things here and there. Good luck with your revisions!
Oct. 22nd, 2008 10:54 pm (UTC)
I still think you're crazy, but the fact is, you gotta do what works for you.

And this clearly work for you.;)
Oct. 24th, 2008 03:27 pm (UTC)
Yes, I don't mind being crazy as long as the books keep getting written. :D
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 24th, 2008 03:28 pm (UTC)
It is true that it can get a bit tiring toward the end... but then I love endings in general so I usually get a nice burst of energy around that time anyway. It's the middles I find the most draining. :)
( 14 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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