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Rewrite, or extreme makeover?

Just a few revisions for marketability.
A friend near Seattle is letting me crash at his place next week. (Thanks Kyle). And aside from spending Sunday trying to run down a scalper for tickets to the Seahawks’ game, I’ll be rewriting my first draft the whole time.

The question is, will it be an edit, or complete overhaul? I’ve tried not to think about it since I tucked it away last month. But my hunch is that it will be more open-heart surgery than wart removal.

So, for those who’ve plowed this field before, what do you end up doing? Is your draft so tight that you only need to give it a spit-shine? Or are you throwing out huge chunks wholesale and changing the fate and focus of major characters? 

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Reader Comments (8)

Wart removal = better sentences and words. Right after it's done, I'm still too close to it to edit effectively. After four or five months, it's easier to be more mercenary. But the first edit after the first draft, wart removal works for me.
January 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBob
Hi, Jamie. Thanks for stopping by my site. :) This is a nice blog, btw.

Um, hmm, rewrites. It depends, doesn't it, on how many times you've done this before? It does for me. I'm working on my 5th mss. The first one, I rewrote as I went, changing things, going back to the beginning to insert stuff, etc. Not efficient, and it took me a year to write. Also not saleable.

The second, I wrote really quick. I then lost all enthusiasm for it and never got around to rewriting. The third I wrote fast, did some rewriting, but decided the idea ultimately wasn't commercial (oddly enough, it is now, but not sure I have the desire to play with it).

The fourth I wrote fast and I still plan to rewrite it because I plan to follow it up with three more connected books. However, I know it will be a major rewrite because I need to change the characters goals and make them more concrete. Basically, at that point, it becomes a new book.

The one I'm working on now is in its 3rd incarnation. I wrote 3/4 of it, got stuck, went back to shore up the goals and motivations, got stuck again, and decided to change the plot. I am rewriting almost from scratch now, but I think it works this time.

Sorry to ramble, but you know what, writing this out here is helping me to see my process. I've never actually done that before. I wish I could find a more efficient way (outlining would help, but I'm more a seat of the pants writer though I do try to sketch out 2 or 3 chapters ahead) but this is what I do.

I think a first draft, for most of us, isn't ready to be polished. Some can do it, yes, but I think a first draft is to get the story down, no matter what, and then to go fix it. I try to do something along the lines of Stephen King's method: fast first draft, let it sit, reread for errors, rewrite. I used to think it had to be perfect to begin with, but now I can throw out whole chunks, even chapters, and not blink. I think I get to know the characters so well that by the time I hit the 3rd or 4th rewrite, it goes much faster.

I have a friend who's on the 6th rewrite. She's been working on the same book for 6 years now. I keep telling her to move on and write another one, but she just can't seem to do it. That's another danger, getting stuck in the revision loop forever. She's so invested in this story now and she wants to see it in print. But the time has moved on and the idea isn't as fresh as it once was.

Good luck with those revisions and don't be afraid to rip it up! Aloha. :)
January 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLynn Raye Harris
Thanks Lynn, I appreciate the feedback on the rewrite. After over-plotting a few book attempts, I just roughed this one out and hammered through the first draft. It was so much easier, and more enjoyable too.

Aside from minor corrections, I’m thinking about some major changes now––so it will be a pretty drastic rewrite.

January 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJamie
Sounds like you're on the right track then. I agree that hammering out that fast first draft is fun. I just keep telling myself that it doesn't matter, I'll fix it all later. And that's what I end up doing. But the story is there, and I always make a backup copy that doesn't get fooled with (just in case, but of course it's mostly for peace of mind; I never revert back).
January 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLynn Raye Harris
Hi Jamie.

Are you a member of a critique group? With my book, "The Bridge Beckons," I've let it go through so many reviewers in my critique groups that I think if I touch it any more I'll ruin it. I'm sure an editor will think differently, but for now, I've revised it as much as I'm going to.

Good luck with yours.
January 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterValona
We're all in the same boat here, us newbie writers.

I see the second draft as a structural rewrite. Instead of spending time perfecting scenes and the language in them, look at the structure of the book as a whole. I went crazy with a few spreadsheets before I could see it, but you may be able to visualise it just by reading.

With each scene think, do I need this? Does it drag and if so, can it be condensed into a paragraph to sneak in somewhere else?

Do I have too many characters? Can I get rid of ones that serve the same function as others, and improve the remaining ones?

Sometimes things can be improved by changing the order of some of the scenes. There's a great post on this over at Flogging The Quill.

BTW, great site, and good luck. Thanks for your comments on my blog too.

January 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Hatadi
Typically, my second draft is a complete rewrite and sometimes I do a third (or forth, or fifth) if that's what it takes to make the story work. Then I'll do three or four or five runs-through the story, looking for 'friction' spots and smoothing them out. On my current project, I've gone from what I thought was a 125k 'final draft' last July to a 91k (and shrinking) final draft as of right now after some helpful advice in a rejection letter.

Awesome site. You've got me anxious to redesign my site again. Thanks for stopping by the blog.
February 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam G.
Thanks for the feedback William. Very much appreciated.

In my naiveté I thought my 2nd draft would be more editing than actual rewriting. In reality I’m making wholesale changes all over the place. I’ve added about 20,000 words, which I’m sure I’ll trim down on a 3rd draft.Or a 4th. Or a 12th...
February 14, 2006 | Registered CommenterJamie

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