Following on from my post on first drafts, I was going to do a post on second drafts and then so on and so forth, but after much consideration, (and by much I actually mean very little) I decided to scrap that idea and just keep it simple, by posting about the rewriting process, rather than individual drafts on their own. Because lets face it, there isn’t really a set amount of drafts per creative piece – the possibilities are infinite.
Some people might only need three, some may require five hundred. So in reality, my posts based on this topic could also be infinite and that wouldn’t be much fun for anyone involved. Especially me. So without further ado, the rewriting process – the whats, the whys and the hows!
Where To Start?
Now, just like my philosophies in my post about the first draft, I don’t believe that there are any set outlines or methods as to how one should go about rewriting their work. Much like a first draft, I believe it should be each to their own. Do whatever works best for you. Though bear in mind that with rewriting, you may need to be a lot more meticulous and I don’t know about you, but when I start getting into the nitty-gritty of things, I find it much easier to maintain organisation and have a structurally sound plan in place to follow.
In terms of where to start, most people would give you the same advice: don’t start. Now I bet your face is starting to look a bit like the guy’s face does in the above image, but fear not fellow writer, it’ll all become clear soon.
By not starting, what I mean is exactly that. I agree with what most would say, in that it is usually best to leave a manuscript for at least a month or so before revisiting it. You’ve just spent a huge portion of your time working on it tirelessly and eventually your first draft is complete, to me, the last thing I want to then do is start from the very beginning and commence with my rewriting and editing.
I think that would cause my brain to blow up. So instead of rushing into it, I’d recommend leaving it for at least a month and don’t even so much as peek at it within that time frame. Get it back out a little while down the line and begin rewriting then.
The theory behind this is simple: if you don’t read it for a long period of time, the work will be fresher to you and chances are – if you leave it long enough – you will have forgotten most of the things that you have written, even though it was you yourself who wrote them. Essentially, you will be then reading your work as a reader would – not knowing how it sounded and being unfamiliar with it.
And as a result of this purposely achieved effect, you will then make for a more effective editor as the work won’t sound so familiar. I often overlook awkward or messy parts simply because I’ve read them so much that they sound right to me, whereas to someone else they wouldn’t. Using this method is a perfect way to combat that.
Create Your Plan
This is the important part, and sadly, I have no way that I can help you with it. I can tell you what I like to do and you could take ideas from that, but as far as rewriting goes and planning how to carry one out, I’m afraid you’re all on your own.
I’d suggest creating a plan that best suits you and the way you like to write. If you’re someone who spends no more than a couple of hours a day writing, but blasts through a lot in one go – then tackle your rewrite in the same manner. The same applies if you’re someone who spends many hours on end writing but progresses slowly – rewrite the same way. Heck even if you have perfectly combined the two, writing for a long time and getting lots done – tackle it like that. Stick to your writing schedule, even whilst rewriting.
As for the plan, you’re going to want to come up with a strategy which you know you will stick to and follow. Something which works for you. I’m a big believer of innovation. Following recipes will give you some tasty chicken, but creating your own recipes, will give you chicken which you prefer most and chances are, it’ll be so unique that others will too. That’s the idea here.
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Here’s How My Plan Looks:
SPaG Check: Just as in when I’m writing my first draft, I like to keep things simple in the rewrite. Initially, I’ll do a quick-ish skim read of the entire manuscript – correcting spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors. It is important for me during this stage that I remind myself not to rewrite any single part of the work. Even if a sentence is horrendously messy, I refrain from rewriting it. This is how I always get myself stuck in the rewriting process, because in the past I have just continues on through the manuscript, rewriting sentences over and over again. Then just starting from the beginning and doing it all again. Not much progress is made this way.
Note Areas To Work On: All those areas that I force myself not to rewrite as I’m skimming, I take notes of and mark them down on a piece of paper. I write what page they’re on, which paragraph and which line/lines in particular could do with improvement. I do this as I’m going through my SPaG check so it doesn’t feel as much of a chore as it actually is. Once I’ve finished the check and noted down all areas which require improvement, it’s time to get to work on those areas – rewriting the messy sentences and neatening everything up as I go. I make sure to leave myself notes on what each part to work on requires. For example, some areas I might say that I need to show this more than I’m telling it. And in some I might need to change the word order a bit or provide a bit more of a detailed description. Some bits I decide to remove all together – especially unnecessary and already said information.
Plot Holes: Now, if one of your things to work on was a major plot hole – I have to say, don’t panic. Okay, okay… Panic! Fucking panic! But now stop! it’s all going to be okay. Because that’s what I like to fix next. I don’t rush into it, I figure out why it is a plot hole, what makes it a plot hole – taking notes on paper as I go – and then I figure out and think of ways to fill in that plot hole. They can be a royal pain in the behind, but they have to be fixed. Nothing is more off-putting than a major plot hole. Just breathe. Think about it. And then fix it accordingly.
Excitement: Once that is all done. I move onto a little thing I like to think of as: is the reader asleep? I have a more detailed read-through this time, making sure that all of my upgraded sentences sound a lot better. What I’m paying attention to here is whether or not anything is happening, or if I’m just spinning my wheels. If nothing exciting has happened within ten pages, I tend to add some moments in to spice it up a little – though I make sure not to stray too far away from the main plot. There’s nothing worse than a book which lacks excitement and seems as though it isn’t progressing, except one thing: an event which seems totally fucking random and strays far from the plot. So stray away from that.
Finishing Touches: Then from there it’s pretty much the home stretch. I give it all one more full read-through, paying close attention to every last detail, making sure that everything is as crisp and as perfect as possible. Once I’ve completed this step, I consider my first rewrite done and then I put the book back into storage for another month or so. And then repeat the process. In my second rewrite, I usually look at character motives and development in a little more detail and look at the more in-depth aspects of storytelling, making sure I have maximised my plot and built it up to a booming finale.
But that’s pretty much it.
So there you have it folks! I hope that reading how I like to go about the rewriting process has helped you and inspired you to tackle your own with such positivity. And I also hope that it has helped you to come up with your own effective methods too!
And coming up with your own personal methods, that certainly makes for some:
This guest post was contributed by Liam Cross. Liam has loved writing ever since he can recall. Even as a small child in primary school, the craft of writing had always been an interest of his, and he now delegates his time to novel-writing – and of course, the occasional short-story or poem here and there. His ultimate goal is to be a published author, but he can also be found training in the local gym for upcoming bodybuilding shows.
When I first started writing, the task of writing drafts scared the crap out of me because I have a tendency to be too critical of myself. I would read back through, and then I would hate it and scrap the whole thing. I have gotten better with this through the years, but I still have a hard time writing several drafts. However, I do go back and check past, present, future tenses and grammatical errors. I will sometimes reword a few things here and there. I’m definitely still growing and learning how to edit myself and rewrite. I loved your post and learning your process. Thanks!
I hate rewriting novels, because one little change up front means that I have to change everything else that follows. And God forbid I change something at the end and have to backtrack all the way back to the beginning.
This is why I’m giving plotting a try in my latest project. Anyway, thanks for this post!
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Agree with all these points. I distinctly remember the first look at my novel three months later. The stars in my eyes dropped like lead weights.