To Rewrite, or Not to Rewrite, That is the Question

Whether you’re slogging through the middle of your manuscript, or you’re finally at the end of that first draft, the prospect of rewriting can be daunting. Heck, it’s downright intimidating. You’ve got all these words down and now you’re considering doing them all over again? Yikes.

Now first, what exactly is a rewrite? I’ve seen a few definitions  of what people consider a rewrite, but for the purposes of this post I’m going to define it as entirely rewriting a portion or all of your manuscript word for word. Essentially a really intense edit that probably needs its own rounds of editing.

So why on earth would you do this? Well, a few reasons. When I finished my first draft of my WIP I spent months editing and polishing it afterward. This one is more vague than my other reasons, but essentially I knew something was wrong and didn’t know what, so I started rewriting to change the style of writing. That version became much better for many reasons that had nothing at all to do with style.

That said, years passed and I examined that first well edited rewrite with a more critical eye. I knew there were some problems but I figured I could fix them with deeper edits. Then I realized I had to change a few characters… a lot of them… my cast was ok but needed a rework.

Essentially, I embarked on this second rewrite because I saw enough intense changes that had to be made that rewriting would actually be easier than scanning the entire WIP changing every character-based moment. In making the decision to rewrite this time though, I felt a lot more like Eren Jaeger in Attack on Titan facing down the Colossal Titan for the first time. Back in episode one. As intimidating as starting it was though, I can already say that this rewrite is better than the last version.

I’ll mention one more rewrite I did. My NaNoWriMo Novel from November 2017 was the first one I finished during Nano and my first time winning Nano. It was an amazing experience finally finishing it BUT there was one major problem.

Back at the 10k word mark I introduced a big Deus Ex Machina because I couldn’t figure out how to get my protag out of a jam, nor could I think of further plot for the setting, but dang it I had a word count goal to reach. The rest of the plot went well from there, but that one point needed fixing.

So in December I pulled the manuscript back out, copied the first 10k into another document and rewrote from there. That rewrite ended up being a huge growth experience for me as a writer since I had to write my way out of the Deus Ex Machina and think of real solutions, even though I had to kill a few darlings along the way.

Now that I’ve said what I did do, here’s what I didn’t do. I did not write a story and immediately dump it because I thought it was garbage. Don’t do that. Even for the NaNoWriMo one I saw a problem and went back after the month was over and fixed it. And for the first rewrite it was still months of observation and editing before I realized it had to be done.

A rewrite is a pretty drastic measure to take, and with one exception a lot of editing, reading and writing of other things happened before I made the decision. Heck, I went through several beta readers before deciding to embark on the rewrite that is my current WIP.

Rewriting is not an easy thing, nor should it be taken lightly, but if you feel your WIP might need it, don’t be afraid to do it. It may need its own edits and revisions, but your story can be made better by doing this, and that’s what we want in the end, right? To make the story the best that it can be.

So what about you? Are you looking at rewriting something? Have you rewritten something? Let me know down in the comments!

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