Note: I’m swamped with my own rewrite! So here’s a throw-back-Thursday post from last year.
The Power of A Rewrite
Q: Dear Therapist, I hear that novels are not written they are rewritten. But I edit as I write. Is that considered rewriting?, all I feel I need is a final polish. Why should I spend time with a rewrite? What do I gain?
A: I love this topic. To rewrite or not to rewrite… that is the question. Let’s just say up front, everyone has a different writing process. Fast, slow, edit-as-you-go, write and rewrite. Early risers, late nighters. A thousand words a day. Five thousand words a day.
Writers come in all shapes and mind-sets.
Some writers plot to the minute detail. Others have a loose idea of what they want to do when they sit down to write and let the story come to them day by day.
Some writers mix it up – do a bit of planning while letting the story underneath develop as they write.
You really have to do what works for you as a writer and I advise you to find that routine and stick to it. But with an option clause. Change is often necessary.
That being said, I’m a big fan of the rewrite. Even for the planners and edit-as-you-go authors, I think a rewrite before polish and submission is critical.
Here’s why. Nuance. Those little tie ins, the ping-back, the loop-in where something discovered at the end of the story can be foreshadowed or hinted at in the beginning of the book.
A rewrite allows you to tighten prose, to tweak character. It allows you to punch up dialog. Get rid of trite exchanges like, “Hey, how are you?” “Fine, you?”
A rewrite allows you to dig deep and ponder word choices where a first pass, or edit as you go, may not because you’re still discovering the story.
At the rewrite stage, the story is fully realized. You know where it’s going. You know what works and what doesn’t. Maybe something you thought was going to work in the beginning as a plot point never played out in the end and now you’re free to rewrite and make adjustments.
Take any college football team on a given Saturday. They hit the field with a game plan. But as soon as the first “hut-hut” is called, all the planning is subject to change based on what the opponent brings to the field.
At half time, the players and coaches go into the locker room and make adjustments. This is good news for the fans of the losing team. They pray, hope, believe their team will come out with a winning strategy for the second half.
When my team is losing, I’m so comforted when my husband says, “They’ll go in the locker room and make adjustments.”
Do you have a writing locker room? Are you free to go in and make adjustments?
As authors, we should be intuitive to our own stories. We should know what makes our story ping and sing. But we should also be aware of what needs to be changed. Open to what needs to be changed.
We should be keen to eliminate backstory dumps, slow or no-tension scenes. We should know when we are writing in circles just trying to discover the story.
Many, many times, rewriting is the very thing that shines the “light of truth” on our weaknesses. Not that we don’t need a skilled editor, we do! But learn to recognize where your story is weak and attack it in the rewrite.
Nothing is sacred in the rewrite.
Back to our football team. What if, at half time, they went into the locker room and said, “Coach, we’re getting killed on the short pass out to the flat.”
But coach said, “I spent all week designing that play. I love it. It’s so pretty when it does work. And it works well unless the quarterback is sacked and on his back looking, up at a defender.”
Would that make any sense at all? No! That coach wouldn’t be coaching for long.
Writers, if something isn’t working in your story, if the pace is slowed by your verbose prose, or retelling of the same plot point for three points of view, or from chapter to chapter, over and over, cut it. Time to change the play!
Rewrite gives you an opportunity to take a second look. To pick up the pace. To trim. Or in my case, add emotion and coloring.
Even if you edit as you go, and it works for you, take time to do one last pass through your story with a “rewrite” in mind.
Is every scene effective?
Is it powerful?
Does it move the story forward?
Does it illicit emotion?
Does it reveal something new?
Am I over telling? Over writing?
Is there too much internal dialgo?
Can you add symbolism?
Can you add foreshadowing?
Can you add metaphor?
This my friends, is the power of a rewrite. Embrace it. J
Happy Holidays! And keep writing.
With a love for teaching and mentoring, Rachel comes alongside writers to help them craft their novel.
A worship leader, board member of ACFW and popular writing teacher, Rachel is the author of over 15 novels.
She lives in Florida with her husband and her dog, Lola. Contact her at: Rachel@mybooktherapy.com. Her next book, Once Upon A Prince, releases May 7!
Go forth and write!
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