Monday, January 18, 2010

Rewrite or Edit


Many moons ago when I finished the first draft of my book I began to do some research on how to go about editing it. I came across this little piece of advice.

So you've written a novel. Congratulations. Now put it aside and write it again.

My eyes bugged out like a cartoon character on Looney Tunes and a big WHAT went off in my head like a siren. Were they crazy? Why would anyone do that?

Now that I'm old and wiser and a little more experienced I still think it's crazy advice. No, actually I don't. While I don't know if I would actually rewrite a novel from memory without ever going back to my first draft, I do see some benefits of rewriting sections from scratch.

Too often I find myself trying to intermingle new words with old, forcing them to work together. I push and I shove like a child trying to put a square block into a round hole. When all I really need to do is say good bye to that sentence and start fresh.

This weekend I rewrote the first three pages of my book. I had received some advice that made the light bulb go off over my head. It was definitely an A-ha moment. So I re-wrote some sections from scratch, and combined those sections with older ones. Hopefully now I have a better opening.

What about you? After your finished that first draft have you ever considered rewriting the whole thing or do you mix the new with the old?

21 comments:

Jessie Oliveros said...

I've been basically rewriting my book from scratch, although I'm seeing that there are still big sections of my rough draft I can rework a little and use. I'm excited to read your rewritten portion.

JKB said...

Well, first I set it aside for two weeks to two months, depending on how much editing I think it needs. In the meantime, I think about what I know needs changing, and consult my in-doc notepad about notes I took that need to be checked into. (I.e., make this character's resolution stronger, etc).

Then at the end of that two period, I go through and add, then read through and mark parts. It goes pretty well. YAY for you for taking your time, though!

Dara said...

I'm definitely considering it with my last WiP, although I don't think I'll scrap the entire thing. There's some scenes that I could use in a newer version.

Not sure about my current one; there's a lot that I've changed already in my mind that I know I'm going to have to go back and change. So it'll be like writing it again, even if I keep some sections of it.

Patti Lacy said...

Oh, heavens, I have never rewritten the whole thing but I HAVE edited till my fingers ached.

Doin' it right now, as a matter of fact. Then the publisher will go through it, send it back. Gulp. My record is four "exchanges."

Great post!

The other Patti
www.pattilacy.com/blog

Kate said...

For my 2nd draft I like to start with a blank page and rewrite as much as possible. But I do look at the 1st draft while I’m writing and cut/paste entire scenes or chapters where appropriate.

You may be a more careful first draft writer than I am. But I often find that there are whole characters and/or subplots that I want to cut and others that I want to add. So the 2nd draft reads as a more coherent story than the 1st. If you are only doing line edits it’s harder to make big picture revisions.

Lisa and Laura said...

Ugh...as much as I hate to admit this, there is definitely some merit in starting with a blank document (for some scenes). While I could NEVER (and would never) start totally from scratch, I get why we should. As we were revising our current manuscript, it got kind of...um...bloated, which is why we ended up having to cut so many words! I think we just kept adding and adding and we forgot that not all of it moved the plot and some of it could be used for future books!

T. Anne said...

I dive right into edits. And yes, unfortunately the first forty pages usually need an intense makeover.

Jonathon Arntson said...

Thanks for jetting over to my blog and for the comment!

I think we all inadvertently rewrite our novels. We may not realize it at the time, but how much of your original novel was deleted and completely revised, sixty percent, eighty maybe? I think the perspective you would gain from rewriting your novel is valuable, but in the end I think the changes you make would be the same you'd make in revision, you'd end up with the same overlap.

I will give it a try and the result will probably be a big pot of soup, some leftovers and some fresh, but all tasty.

Mim said...

A girl in my critique group does that. I think several times. I've read first drafts to last drafts and it is amazing what a great story it turns into.

As for me, I just don't know. I'm always worried about messing up the pacing or some other thing. I haven't done it yet, but I did rewrite the whole thing while reading it. I don't know if that makes sense, basically I found my character's voice and rewrote my entire novel with her voice. It only took about three weeks.

I think like the writing process, everyone is going to have their own way of editing. Good luck!

Hilary Wagner ~ Writer said...

My debut novel, was once a very different book, it had two story lines going on, one with my rats and one with humans. One day, I said before I started querying, "If you want to get this MS published make up your mind, rats or humans!" So I chose my ratties and rewrote the entire book! Thank the Lord I did! ;) The rewrite is tough, but in my case very rewarding!

xoxo -- Hilary

Southpaw said...

I don't rewrite from scratch, that's seems too extreme. I do set my work aside for quite some time before I edit it so I have no qualms about removing or totally rewriting scenes.

Heather Sunseri said...

I'm practically rewriting my current manuscript and it's much, much better!

Dawn Simon said...

I've rewritten manuscripts and I've made extreme changes, but I've always found some useful stuff in my first drafts.

Shelli said...

id never start from scratch but I do recut and rewrite significantly

Melissa said...

That is something I've been thinking about lately. I don't think I would start over completely, but I will probably have to rewrite huge chunks of it. I shudder to think of doing that, but I will if it makes the book better.

Tabitha Bird said...

I have re-written my memoir twice now. Not edits. I am talking a complete re-write. This time I am hoping the third edit will be more of and edit than a re-write. The thing is, you learn such a lot as a writer that when you get back to the start you have changed and your writing needs to be changed. Well, that is how is was for me anyway. The first book is always the biggest re-write one I think. The learning curve for me has been steep.

Carolyn V. said...

I always do that! I think this part is terrible or that part is. Usually this is when my critique group comes out and saves my sanity, telling me what they think needs work and what doesn't. I love them!

Stephanie Faris said...

I did that once last year...actually I've probably done it more than once, but never IMMEDIATELY following the first write as I did last year. I had an agent reject me and say, "This would work better for a younger audience." The ONLY way to turn a YA into a middle-grade novel is to completely rewrite it. And what I found was that the story was ten times stronger that way. It's weird...but it seems like writing it the first time and learning from the mistakes I made. It may not be a bad idea...although I think most of the time if someone is willing to tear up the weak parts and redo them, they don't have to completely rewrite.

lotusgirl said...

Your new beginning is great and, yes, sometimes you have to just start over from scratch.

I did that with mine. I even changed the novel from 1st person to 3rd person.

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

I mix and mingle: I put my first chapter in, take my 8th chapter out, I do the hokey-pokey and I shake it all about.

Editing is tough work but so rewarding.

Patti said...

It's so nice to learn what other people are doing and how they're doing it. I remember reading that advice and thinking it was crazy then I rewrote one chapter of my new WIP from scratch and I could see the benefit.

So it seems a mixture of both is in order.

Thanks everyone for commenting.