Why You Should Rewrite and Not Edit


by Teagan Berry


Congratulations. You’ve just finished a novel. You’ve taken some time to decompress and relax, away from the world of writing, but now you need to dive in and start getting your piece ready for publication.

The first edit. That’s a term I’ve mentioned before, even written a whole post about it. Though looking back on the process I went through then, I should have probably titled that blog post The First Rewrite. Because when it comes down to it, that’s what it really was.

There’s a difference between an edit and a rewrite, and I don’t know if everyone always remembers that. Editing is a broad term meant for modifying, correcting and condensing written material in preparation for publication (at least, that’s what the Google definition gave me I just looked up). Rewriting is slightly different, more specific, I guess you could say. Google defines it as writing something again to alter or improve it. Similar to editing, but yet different.

For writers, we will eventually need to do both editing and rewriting before our manuscript will be publication ready. Most people assume that an edit is the first thing you should do upon finishing a first draft of a manuscript – I like to think differently.

To put it in other words, there’s a difference between polishing up something which is silver and polishing up something which is nickel. Though the nickel may still look nice once it’s all nice and shiny, it’s going to pale in comparison to the polished silver. The silver will hold up better over time, and is more valuable. This is the difference between doing an edit and a rewrite (or a series of rewrites) and THEN the edit. If you simply edit a piece, you’re only polishing up that piece of nickel, which won’t stand out amongst the rest of the field and won’t be a high quality. But, if you take your time and rewrite your manuscript before putting it out there in the publishing world, you’ll wind up with a piece resembling silver – something of value and good quality.

Related: Need a professional editor? Let us help you.

Analogy aside, rewrites really are an integral part of the writing process. Maybe it’s taken you a couple of years to finish your manuscript. Well, chances are your writing style has matured and changed in those couple of years since when you first began it. If you go through and do a rewrite, you can add that maturity to your piece and make it richer – make it better. Most writers don’t like doing rewrites because it takes so much time – and personally to me, it always feels like I’m completely scrapping the however many months of my life I dedicated to writing that draft.

Yes, it does take time. And yes, it does feel like you’re throwing away months of good work, but it will also make your final product better. You can learn from your previous draft what worked and what didn’t work and use that knowledge to your advantage. You can stop yourself from making the same mistake again.

I want you to know that it’s not like I believe editing isn’t important – editing is EXTREMELY important to the whole writing process. I just think that edits should occur as a step after the rewriting has been completed.

So there you have it – a quick reason why I believe rewrites should be preferred to a simple edit while in the early stages of your manuscript preparation for publication. As always, if you have anything to add, please feel free to comment below.

Until next time.




Guest post contributed by Teagan BerryTeagan writes books, watches sports, and reads. She started her blog initially to beat writer’s block, but it’s turned into so much more. 

22 thoughts on “Why You Should Rewrite and Not Edit

  1. When you get to that stage, what is the best way you’ve found to handle the rewriting process? Do you actually start with a blank document and completely rewrite from scratch, based on what you learned from your earlier draft? Or do you move through the draft and rewrite in sections? Curious how you approach your rewrites.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. To answer your question, I do a little bit of both. I open a new, blank document, but I’ll have the original draft open in another window as well, to sort of use as a reference point. Sometimes I’ll even copy and paste stuff from the old draft into the new one, but most of the time I just have it there to refer to for my plot line. Hope that helps!


  2. Rewriting, or revising, as I’ve been calling it, is precisely what I’ve been doing with my manuscript. Even if I go in with the intention only to edit, I end up doing so much more, often rewriting entire sections! Nice post. Reblogging.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. To me, re-writing is using the original as a general road map, but basically rewriting the whole thing from scratch.

    Where-as major plot changes, pacing, cutting/adding chapters, and/or rearranging scenes I classify as ‘revising’. Are these included in your re-writing definition?

    (Edits, I define the same as you.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To me, because I tend to do both rewriting and revising within a generic “rewriting” of my novels, they end up being the same thing. I don’t ever go through a piece and just “revise”, as you state. Everything just flows together when I’m working on a new draft. I do understand where you draw the line though, and can see why you determine those two things to have different names.


  4. I rewrite/revise several times and then edit/polish several times. It seems an endless process, from beginning to end–but when I’m finished, I hope I’ve turned a good story into a great read.

    Thanks for the informational and helpful post. Shared.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on Mandibelle16 and commented:
    A Greaat Article from Ryan Lanz! Rewrite your work before you edit and condense etc . For me this made perfect sense and has been my personal experience that first drafts (manuscripts) need a great deal of rewriting before plain editing of any kind is required. Ensure you follow hi blog, if you haven’t already! #amwriting #fiction #rewriting

    Liked by 1 person

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