Writer Resource

Learning From The Rewrite


I thought rewriting my first person science fiction piece (for NaNoWriMo) would be easy. I thought achieving those 50K works would be done in no time flat, but I was wrong… I was so wrong.

When it came to my rewrite for Nano there were a lot of things I knew that first draft needed fixing. Plots holes, character motivation, moments that just. didn’t. make. sense.

But the biggest item was the voice, the POV. I needed to expand the world and to do that I needed to tell the story from third person POV not first person.

I needed to jump into the minds of the other characters and fill in the gaps with their motivations and challenges. But when you’re writing on a distinct timeline, with a job, and other responsibilities there just isn’t time to fix all the problems. The project changed from an in-depth rewrite to just tackling the POV problem.

On the surface, it looked like minor changes. “I saw…” changed to “MC looked around.” But as every paragraph began to start with, “Protagonist this…” and “Antagonist that…” I knew I had a load of extra work cut out for me on the 2nd draft.

I eventually hit that point that all writers hit during nano. That moment when I think “this is crap” even though I was sure doing a rewrite would make my first “crappy” draft better.

But it didn’t feel that way. I kept pushing like every good nano writer does. About two weeks in the realization hit me: This is harder than I thought.

In the end, I had to face several harsh realities about my rewrite. I’m going to lay them out to hopefully spare you are the same hardships. Or, at least, temper expectations.

Rewriting doesn’t mean everything is magically going to be better, but it does mean it is getting better. You’re moving forward to a point where your novel is turning into a better story and that is what you have to keep in mind. For years I held myself back from this rewrite because I knew it was going to be hard. And I wasn’t wrong, but at some point, you have to embrace the suck and make the corrections. Your story isn’t magically going to get better after a rewrite. It is important to get that thought in your head now, but at least it is better than the last draft.

Rewriting also isn’t simply retyping words. Though, at this stage, it is for me. In essence, rewriting is reworking the entire chapter, shifting things around, and making notes for future exploration- because rewriting doesn’t just happen at once. Rewriting will continue on well into the revision stages but at a smaller level. You may rewrite a chapter, a paragraph, a sentence but the effect is the same; the act of rewriting is trying to find the best way to get the story across.

Don’t worry about punctuation, YET. Those are things for an actual revision (especially when you are writing for Nanowrimo.) In this case, my rewrite was under a time constraint and there was no time, but as a general rule punctuation slows down the rewriting process considerably. Why focus on constructing the perfect sentence when you’re just going to go back and rewrite it in draft 3 or 4?

Come in with a plan. During this rewrite, I was focused on the biggest task that needed fixing, the POV. If you’re going to undertake a rewrite, figure out what is the one (or two) things that you need to focus on and do that. Believe me, it will be enough.

When it comes to crater sized Plot Holes…  I have a rewrite/revision book for every story. I write down the big plot holes as I see them. Smaller plot holes are written on a different page and are only addressed when the larger ones are filled. Then as I do the rewrite and reread I try to tackle each one. Most of the time I tackle one plot hole per editing session and it can last a couple days. But this keeps me goal focused on what I’m trying to fix in each rewrite.

For this Nanowrimo there was no time for plot hole editing, but I did take some notes as I went through the rewrite. My list grew and I’ll be tackling them another time. Like I said before, I needed to pick one thing to focus on and this time that thing was POV.

My notes. The one with check mark shows an already edited piece. On the left you’ll see my new notebook for this rewrite.


That’s all for today.  I’ll keep all of you posted on how the rewrite goes! If you have any recommendations for organizing while rewriting or your own rewriting experience I want to hear it!

1 thought on “Learning From The Rewrite”

  1. I’m in the same position right now – I’ve been putting off rewriting my manuscript for years because I know it’s going to be difficult and that one or two more drafts are not going to be enough to fix all the problems. At some point, though, I just have to do it!


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