Reconsidering the Rewrite

Not so much of a scaredy cat now...

Not so much of a scaredy-cat now…

As I attempt to ‘fix’ my manuscript having identified numerous issues in both structure and plot, I’m beginning to realise that rewriting isn’t the horror I thought it was

I remember when I was a teenager and in lieu of writing my own material I would write ‘fan-fiction’. In doing this I already had established characters I felt I knew well, settings and world rules were already in place. Therefore all I had to do was come up with a story. That was easy. As a result fan-fiction was fun to write and easy to start with. 

When I (foolishly?) decided to write a novel in 2011 I didn’t really think of how difficult it would be in comparison to fan-fiction. What I know now is that there is a lot more world-building and character creation required to even start to understand the intricacies of writing fiction that comes purely from my own imagination. 

After a hefty lot of words – most importantly the words ‘The End’ – I thought I’d got the story down, that I had a manuscript ready for editing. I was wrong. But, I’m ready to move on and improve things. And it’s scary – the idea that you have to reinterpret all those words already written, that you have to lose some and add others, that you have to rewrite the essence of the story because now you realise where it all went wrong.

Yet, I sit down to tackle the rewrite and you know what I’ve discovered?
It’s easier than the first draft. 

I’ve heard it said before, of course. But I didn’t quite believe it. Just like I didn’t really believe that sometimes the characters we create take over and suddenly begin acting independently of the plot we have written for them. However I am pleasantly surprised to admit: rewriting isn’t as bad – or as difficult – as I imagined it to be. 

For a start, I know my characters now.
There’s a lot less complicated writing to find out how my character would react in certain situations because I now understand just how and why they’d react in the circumstances. Writing new scenes with my characters seems to flow much better than it ever did in the first draft. It’s like having dinner with a friend I haven’t seen in a while; rather than reassuring myself with all the things I know about them in the past, suddenly there is a lot more to talk about because we’ve got new experiences to share. Instead of trying to make myself believe in questionable scenes I wrote in the first draft, now I can experiment and add in new material assured that my character can handle it. 

The other really nice thing is that I’m more aware of the problem areas I need to steer clear of when writing again.
Having partly edited the manuscript I know that I often use superfluous words that have no real meaning – ‘somewhat’ appears to be one of my favourite. I now recognise this in my rewriting and I can stop myself from doing it, hopefully side-stepping the heavy editing that will need to be done in the pieces I am now writing.

Finally, it’s exciting to see the whole novel taking shape.
Those scenes that didn’t really sit right can be swept away and I feel more confident about replacing them with scenes I am specifically writing to refine my plot. Themes and character-traits that I know I want to include can be sharpened and stitched into various chapters, interweaving the characters’ journeys and holding together the novel as a whole.

So whereas less than a week ago I was terrified of the ‘horror of the rewrite‘, I’ve now realised that this isn’t actually the case.
Rewriting isn’t a horror, it’s a privilege – you get all the fun of crafting your story and your characters without the masses of self-doubt that come with the first draft attempt.

It’s a time when you can really believe in the novel you are writing and dedicate yourself to making it the best story you can – because now you know the potential is there and all you have to do is make it shine.

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Some related posts for you to peruse: 
Irrefutable Law of Success #3 – We Learn By Doing on Kristen Lamb’s Blog
On Writing, Editing and Momentum: Just Get Going! by Victoria Grefer
Bite Size: Thoughts on Writing over at David McGowan’s Blog

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10 responses to “Reconsidering the Rewrite

  1. Pingback: Being a NaNoWriMo Rebel… | Cat Lumb: The Struggle to be a Writer

  2. I completely know what you mean about superfluous words. I use so many of them, it is silly. So happy you are enjoying the rewrite. It is an adventure!

    • Oh yes. I found myself doing this recently and just pulled myself away from the page instead.
      On the plus side though, if you do over rewrite it’s a lot easier to edit it back down again than to work with something that was never there! Once a hefty rewrite led me to realise there was a big issue in my story and taught me something valuable about my character. So sometimes, I think you just have to go with it.
      Thanks for stopping by. Good luck with any of your own re-writes 😉

  3. It’s the place where you get to hone what you’ve written into much higher quality work. As for superfluous words, in my world, everything ‘seemed’. It’s fun getting rid of all those and ending up with a story where things actually happen, rather than seeming!

    • Yes, I also ‘seem’ to suffer from that one too! I wonder why it is we do that so much in a first draft – fear of committing perhaps?
      Loving the bite size thoughts on writing BTW.

  4. Hurrah for that! I was just as fearful of the re-write as you described above. But, like you, I’m finding it liberating and far more how I though ‘writing a novel’ would be before I ever started. Good luck with it and just try not to let it turn into a different story – unless it desperately wants to be 🙂

    • Thank you – it’s definitely heading more towards the story I envisaged when I had the idea, rather than the other way around. So that’s a relief!
      Good luck with your own rewrites. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. It’s always reassuring to know I’m not the only one in the world trying to find my writing way.

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