Rewriting, rewriting; rewriting… where to begin?
Well at the beginning, of course, and in terms of this particular topic, the beginning usually starts at the end. Confusing, right? Yes. Yes it is. And thus, in all its twisted, antagonising glory, rewriting was born.
Writers hate rewriting – or at least, most of them do. It’s been that way forever. Why? No one is really sure. Our only theory is that they see it as a sapping of creativity; as a stopper in the hearts of art and purity. Writing is art, after all, and most writers see rewriting as a form of murder.
However, no matter how much you may hate the dreaded beast, there’s no debating its importance. No great book was ever published as a first draft, and that’s because if it had been, it wouldn’t be so great. The old phrase serves us as well here as it does on any other occasion.
Books aren’t written, they’re rewritten.
In finding their rewriting process – the thing that works for them – every writer finds themselves making a mistake. Whether is was something they forgot to do, something they forgot to expand; a technique they were supposed to implement – whatever it may be.
When it comes to rewriting, mistakes are made.
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#1: Rushing The Process
This is without a doubt the most common mistake we see – and you know what? We totally get it.
This is an exciting time, and all you want to do is move fast and finish the book. You want to finish it so you can submit it to agents/publishers or send it for printing or post it on Wattpad – you just want to finish ASAP so you can put it out there for the whole world to see.
There’s only one problem though. It’s not ready.
We see this time and time again. A writer will spend three months writing their first draft and will only edit for a week or two. How does that work? There’s no way your work is properly polished if you rushed through it at that pace.
As a guideline, you should spend as much time editing your book as you did writing it. That’s more on the money. Anything else isn’t enough. Remember the phrase – books aren’t written, they’re… you know the rest.
#2: Editing With No Structure
This is another common offence, in which writers will move through their rewrites with very little structure or forethought. And that’s fine – if a poorly-edited manuscript is what you’re aiming for.
The truth is, there’s a reason writers hate rewriting, and it’s all to do with the amount of work they need to do. There’s nothing easy about reading your work and coming up with a solid game-plan based on what you read, but that’s exactly what you have to do. It’s not like drafting, where you can move through at leisure if that works for you – rewriting requires way more structure.
What you need is a plan. Something you can stick to and work toward each and every day. Next time you rewrite, read your work and create a plan based on what you read. Decide that in the first run-through, you’re going to focus on characterisation and plot-holes; in the second, focus on voice consistency, and in the third, focus on grammar and spelling.
You see? It’s as simple as that.
#3: Painting False Pictures
This is perhaps the greatest crime of all.
This is when a writer tones their individual voice all the way down, sapping their work of all colour and individuality. Writing is, at its most basic form, self-expression, and changing the way you write to the extent that it becomes vague and bland – that’s no way to self-express.
Sure, sometimes you need to tone that voice down because it makes for messy reading, but you should leave big hints of it wherever you can. Without these features, your work is nothing more than stale words.
Your goal as a writer is to have people read your work and know it’s you without having to check the front of the book. That is one of the best feelings as a writer, because that way you know your words are hitting home in the very way you intended.
Individuality is everything!
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Avoid These Things In Your Rewriting
Now that you’ve viewed this list, you know the exact things you should avoid in rewriting. Learn from the mistakes of writers before you, and use their experiences to create your own unique methods.
Get some patience, get a game-plan, and get rewriting.
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