How Do I Handle Rewrites?

by jeanineoloughlin

Thinking Through My Fingers

“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.” – Issac Asimov

I’m extremely familiar with rewrites. I do them all the time and it’s just a natural progression of my personal creative process. The difference for me between a rewrite and an edit pass is not just the amount of writing you do after the “crap draft” but it’s also the significance of the changes that I make during the process. When I’m halfway through a story I usually hit a point where I realize I’ve either contradicted myself, written myself into a corner or have come up with a way to make the plot just better in some way that will require drastic changes. 90% of the time I don’t go back and make the changes… I write the note (usually a lengthy one) as to what I need to change, how and why. Then I continue writing the crap draft as if the changes I made were already done. This keeps me writing to get to the end.

Then when I move to do my first draft I will go back to the areas that need these significant changes and just as if I were writing the initial crap draft I just write in the changes or new sections. I don’t do any editing other than removing/adding what I need to for that rewrite change. This could be a few paragraphs or several pages it just depends on the story. Once that’s done I will only then start my edit pass. I would say full rewrites vs just large trimmings happen about 50% of the time for my crap draft. I know without going through my outline process this would happen at least 95% of the time because I will adjust my outline about 4 times before I’m content with it.

Now some rewrites will occur later in the writing process. For Trouble with Debutantes I changed the main conflict and made some very distinct character changes in the fourth draft of the story. It’s hard to rewrite almost half the story that late and throw away hours and hours of work, but when your editing group and alpha readers are all saying similar things again and again you have to just rip it off like a band-aid and get it over with. It was hard because there were lines in the story that I really liked but they just didn’t fit with the new direction and had to be left on the cutting room floor. However never stray away from necessary cuts and rewrites. If you decide to do it, save off the old draft (just in case) and go forward knowing that it’s for the greater good.

Happy Writing!