And the oldies, in fact.
Books are not written, they’re rewritten. It’s a concept that is spread far and wide, and even if you’re just starting out, the chances are high that you’ll have heard it before. That’s not what’s important, though. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve heard it, what matters is how well you understand the meaning of it.
It’s all good and well acknowledging this fact, but how well do you actually understand it? It’s sort of like understanding how planes fly – it doesn’t necessarily mean you could jump in the cockpit and fly one. That’s how this works. Just because you know of the quote, doesn’t mean you understand how to use it to its full potential.
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Let’s Start With Some Timings
These aren’t set in stone, of course, because everyone’s creative process works differently; everyone has different levels of ability. Chances are, Stephen King could write a first draft that’s a mile better than your fifth. And that’s okay, because what’s important is realising where you’re at in terms of your journey.
Now, as a general rule, you should more often than not spend way more time rewriting your manuscript that you did writing it. So, if you spent four months writing, you should at least spend seven or eight editing.
Why so drastic?
Well, because rewriting is the hardest part, and if you’ve rewritten your book any less than four times, chances are it won’t be enough – hence the seemingly dragged out timescale.
Rewriting is a long, sometimes tedious, process that requires a lot of time and effort and resilience. It’s not something you can just mill through – not if you want it done correctly. It should be attacked with a game plan, with a purpose, and you should dedicate yourself to it wholeheartedly.
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Don’t Fall Into The Trap
It’s an easy thing to do when writing your first book, to underestimate the task before you, and that’s the reason why so many fail. The amount of unfinished books out there in people’s documents in their computers must be astounding – a lot of people start, not realising how difficult it is, and never ever finish.
Now, that’s one issue you could face, but there’s also another, and it’s probably worse.
This particular mistake lies in finishing a book, but not actually finishing it. This refers to those writers – usually newbies – who write a first draft, go through it correcting some spellings, and call it a job well done. Let’s put it this way: if that mangled pile of words even comes close to a publishable standard, you’re a genius – plain and simple.
It’s easy to do when you’re just starting out. You’re all excited, and have these pseudo images of fame and fortune and your name in the NY Times Bestsellers list, but that’s just because of your innocence. You haven’t learned how hard the journey is yet, and that’s why you fancy yourself as the next best thing.
So, the message here is simple: don’t fall into the trap.
If you’re writing your first novel, I wouldn’t even bother submitting it anywhere – no matter how many times you’ve rewritten it. I wouldn’t submit your second, either. Your third could be good enough, depending on your progress, and this could be the one that’s suitable for submission – but only after five or so rewrites.
Trust me, the last thing publishers or agents want to see in their inboxes is terrible writing, so spare them the hassle. Don’t become a burden. Just work on your writing until it’s good enough, then work on project for submission.
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Now You’re Aware
Now you’re free to write as you please, safe in the knowledge that you aren’t going to leave a trail of pee’d-off agents in your wake. Rewriting is hugely important, and the sooner you realise the severity of its importance, the sooner your writing will prosper.
No matter how long you’ve been writing, whether you’re working on your first book or your tenth, it never hurts to discover more about rewriting, and how to avoid becoming a submissions nightmare.
Harness the power of this article and use it to your advantage – with some proper time spent on rewriting your work, who knows how far you’ll get? The sky is the limit, that’s for sure.
Now go write.
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