Why edit when you can rewrite?

I’m doing it again. I’m rewriting my novel instead of editing it. It’s just so much easier to write than it is to fix what is already there when I don’t really understand what’s wrong with it. Or, I do know what’s wrong: and it’s everything. Rewrite-Revise-Edit (1)They’re just not right – and the only way I can think to rectify it is by rewriting.

I’m restructuring the entire opening to the book. It’s going to end up longer and yet still be more direct. Rather than having three people and a phone call in a scene, I’m breaking them down into conversations between two main characters. This does mean an increase in word count, but it also means more chances for my characters to interact and an opportunity to really introduce who they are before moving on to another section. Not to mention packing each interaction with deeper meanings and subsequent conflict.

I’m also avoiding summary scenes. I’m trying to drop hints about conflicts and motivations and resisting the urge to explain wherever possible. I want a reader to continue reading if they want to discover what that throw-away comment meant I want them to invest in learning about the characters rather than giving them the luxury of being told.

On top of this, I’m discarding chapters for this edit. I already have some significant breaks in my narrative, thanks to the stories of Cecelia, James and Penelope. In addition, trying to rewrite the opening section becomes laborious if I have to think about word count restrictions and scene breaks on top of everything else. I may or may not insert them again on the next pass. I haven’t yet decided.

As I go, I’m creating a spreadsheet record of each individual scene and logging the goal, motivation, conflict and disaster of each one as well as number of pages, word count and the plot points. In the long run I’m hoping this will give me a good overview of the manuscript and be a useful reference sheet when I do a final revision. I can include all the foreshadowing elements that I need to, identify clear insertion points for thematic ties and also utilise it as a snagging system when I know there are parts that need revision in the next round.

I’m still not enjoying the editing process. In fact, it doesn’t really feel much like editing at the moment given all the rewriting I’m doing. On the plus side, I do feel that I’m making some significant leaps and bounds in creating a publishable novel. The rewriting that I’m doing feels like an improvement, like it has more purpose and drive. It will still need some polishing, but hopefully after I get through this beginning section there will be less rewriting to be done.

onestepIt’s been a struggle to keep up with the NaNoWriMo pace though, even if it has only been 1,667 seconds (28 minutes) per day. I’m constantly doubting myself, questioning the sentences I write, trying to assess if they are working for the story, rather than just inclusions of trivia. My motivation is low, but then so is my health: doctors appointments and blood tests and medications have all played their part so far this month, on top of all the regular symptoms of my M.E/CFS. So I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. I’m moving forward, slowly. One step at a time. And, sometimes, that just has to be enough.

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9 responses to “Why edit when you can rewrite?

  1. I’m really interested in your spreadsheet idea and would like to know more. Sorry to hear about the health issues. Hope they improve sooner rather than later. Rewrites are part of editing – in my experience!!😉

  2. You already know you have my support for heavy rewriting. Other than final grammar fixes, the vast majority of my revision process [i]is[/i] rewriting. Like you, I know what I mean to say, and just up and writing that and discarding the old inspiration for the better version is faster and more efficient.

    And like Mishka said, your process is your process. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s “not editing” (least of all yourself!) because it’s not what you thought editing would be.

    • Thanks. Need to repeat this over and over in my mind – because I am doubting myself (lots). I appreciate your support and it’s great knowing that someone else approaches the process in a similar fashion.

  3. I’ve ended up doing a re-write as well. I know the 50K was low on the word-scale for the genre I was writing in. I’m on page 20 of my re-write and at the plot point of page 12 in my NaNo draft. I think my novel needs this before I start going through it with a fine-toothed comb. It will be ready for that, hopefully, after this draft. I added a lot of things for the sake of NaNo last year that need to be foreshadowed and explained ahead of time. I hope to get that in this month.

    Best of luck!

    • I know how you feel. It’s been such a long process already to get to this point, but I know the novel needs this intensive attention before I can really focus on the finer details.
      Good luck with your own project. Sounds like you are on the right path!
      Take Care

  4. I have had the same thing with an old MS. I liked the story, but reading it again after a few years showed me exactly why it wasn’t taken up the first time. I have cut about 5 chapters from the front, about 3 from the end and rewritten much of what’s in between. I still call it editing – drastic editing. The story is mostly the same and the characters are more rounded, perhaps. It may still be pants, who knows? But finer pants – the sort you’d wear for a night out!

    • I like your thinking:
      “It may still be pants, who knows? But finer pants – the sort you’d wear for a night out!”
      Might have to write this out and stick on my desk for inspiration. It definitely makes me smile.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. 🙂

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