The Joy of Rewrites

You may have noticed that I’m not updating my word count bars (or you may not have. You may have better things to do than to check my word count bars!). The simple reason is that I am rewriting and find it too complex dicking around with existing word counts as opposed to rewrite word counts. Anyway, what has been interesting for me is not so much the word counts as the rewriting part. And it’s brought me face to face with the reason my revised full was rejected last year.

I didn’t rewrite enough.

What I tried to do was to put entirely new conflict into an existing plot structure. I went so far as to write new dialogue and even changed how a scene went. But what I should have done is REWRITE THE ENTIRE THING!

Yes indeedy folks, that would have been the answer. Why? Because with with new conflict, your character becomes a different person. And therefore they would have different responses. Which may mean some scenes are no longer relevant. If you have an existing plot structure, the temptation is to try and keep it, no matter that it may no longer work. And that’s when you run into problems because then you start trying to force the characters into behaving the way you want them to instead of how they actually would naturally.

Ah well, I guess that’s all part of the learning process. And the main thing is that I now have no qualms about starting from scratch. What I need to do is instead of putting new bits into the old, I need to start with a fresh slate and, if appropriate, but old bits into the new. It certainly has been working for me so far. I am rewriting another favourite ms of mine that will be my next sub and certainly starting afresh seems the best way to tackle it. That way you’re not trapped by the stuff you’ve already written. Starting it new leaves you wide open for all sorts of possibilities.

So how does everyone view rewrites? Is it a chance to make your story stronger? Or is it something that would give you nightmares?

20 thoughts on “The Joy of Rewrites”

  1. Well – this is a timely post considering the massive revsions that landed in my inbox overnight. Rewrites? Soooo hard, so I’ll be taking your advice and starting from scratch – well, sort of, leaving some chaps but ditching others!

  2. I hear ya Jackie. Last year’s nanny book taught me the rewrite thing, totally different book. Though some scenes and elements lingered. Although it feels weighty – a whole rewrite – I pretty much now think it’s where the real good stuff begins. You’ve written yourself into it. Then you write it properly (I suppose because the bones are there). Sorry probably obvious to everyone but me. Though I suppose there are exceptions, the Doctor book I write just came out fully formed (happy day!) But I think it was a fluke. You can and you will and it will be amazing! jx

  3. I’m there too Jackie. Marooned on Rewrite Island. My rewrites are along the lines of re-organising the order that things are done, and I have taken whole scenes from the heroine and re-written them from the hero’s pov. I’ve found that their characters have become far more definitely defined as a result. I’m on the final stretch now and hope to have them done in the next few days.

  4. Got a big shock when I realised that most people re-wrote before submitting work. In my earlier days I did, ocasionally, send first drafts to editors (blush). But it was very long ago and I was very very young.

    XX

  5. The thought of actually re-writing a manuscript scares the living ‘you know what’ out of me. It would be difficult for me depending on what needed to be changed. Changing plot would be annoying but I could do it if I had to. If it was rooted in the characters, I’m not sure how I would do it. I develop the characters so vividly I’m not sure I could change anything substantial about them. They’d be difficult people. The only way I could do it would be to rename them and actually make them different people. Even if it meant just changing one, the other would have to become someone else because they’re a couple, and in my mind certain of my characters belong together. They can’t swap! I’m nuts I know.

  6. Lacey – embrace rewrites! Go on. 🙂

    Judy – That’s pretty much what I do, Judy. I write myself into the book so the first draft is usually complete pants. But the bones of the are there and the subsequent drafts strengthen them. 🙂

    Sally – your rewrites sound great. Apart from the marooned part. 🙂 Sometimes the change of POV is exactly what’s needed eh?

    Suzanne – Lol! The things we do in our youth…:-)

    Kaily – I had to change my heroine in my current sub and she became a different person. But starting all her scenes from scratch again actually helped because the scenes were for this new character, not the old. It’s true that my hero had to change because of that too but not so much.

  7. A VERY appropriate post, Jackie! I’m rewriting as we speak, which you already know.

    My accepted MS, His Virgin Acquisition was half rewritten and this one is getting the full treatment. But my heroine especially has changed so much, and I love her so much for it, that she really needed the freedom to be the new her, and a rewrite was the best thing for it.

    I’ve had such good experiences, and such positive feedback from my ed, over rewrites that I highly recommend them. 😉

    And Suzanne, are you not supposed to sub first drafts?? LOL. No, really, thank God my editor is so nice because my sub was essentially a first draft. It never even occurred to me to rewrite before I sent…hey, I did spellcheck. All that to say the editors are actually very nice, patient type people!

  8. I find rewrites hard. I hate cutting anything which is why i end up with many word files full of “cut” pieces. lol! comes from my hoarder mentality.
    But i finally got the word count meter to work – doing a happy dance!! yay, thanks for the website Jackie.
    Good luck with your rewrite.

  9. Hmm, no I hate them. But only because I feel like I’m not producing anything when my word counter metre doesn’t move. Somehow I feel as though I’m failing. Silly really and I’m with Lacey, I’m going to learn to love rewrites this year even if it kills me. And it just might 🙂

  10. I hate rewrites. The thought of rewriting an entire ms from scratch fills me with horror. I would only do that if I felt it was impossible to write ‘around’ the necessary changes or if I was ordered to rewrite from scratch.

    I feel bad about admitting this, but I was never asked to rewrite any of the six books I published with Virgin. And I only did single line copy-editing changes with my novel for Sceptre.

    But the bottom line is, if I’d been asked to do rewrites, I would have done them. Because otherwise I wouldn’t have got paid!

  11. Maisey – We need a bumper sticker here. I Heart Rewrites! 🙂

    Kerrin – you’re like me! I never get rid of anything entirely either. I cut all my uneeded text and put it into kind of out-takes document. Very useful to pillage for other mss. Glad you got the meter working.

    Joanne – if your rewrites are working then you are producing! No writing is ever wasted, be it rewriting or getting that word count up.

    Jane – you’re a lucky woman. No rewrites sounds fab! I could not rewrite stuff of course, and just write something new but I love my characters. And I feel it’s actually quite good practice to see if I can make a story that wasn’t working right, work properly. And in effect, they are brand new stories really, only the names are the same. 🙂

  12. Rewrites are a nightmare for me Jax.. and I always end up chucking the piece aside and coming up with something new.. either entirely different or basically some plot alterations along with character change !

    Since mine are mostly bites or briefs, 15K is a manageable figure..

    But I cant escape “revisions” once published right 🙂 I have seen many pubbed authors agonising over revisions too..But then the best is what is expected as a writer- in your works and in your books.

    So revisions I would say – are most essential – even though it is a bitter pill.

  13. I should probably add, in case you’re thinking ‘Wow, no rewrites!’, I do huge amounts of self-revision before submitting anything. Draft after draft. There are always a few silly little errors even then, but I try to submit work in as clean and polished and ‘sorted’ a condition as possible. That may be why I’ve never yet been asked to do rewrites.

    Though it seems to me that most romance rewrites are to do with plot and narrative structure, and how editors think they can be improved. And while I do the best I can do on my own, what an individual editor thinks can be improved is not something over which I have any control!

    I guess one day the order to rewrite will finally arrive, and I’ll just have to suck it up. 😉

  14. Ju – yep, rewrites are something you have to master once published. A very important skill to learn. 🙂

    Jane – yeah, when you’re unpubbed I think, you sub the very best you can do. But you don’t know ultimately whether what you’ve written is acceptable editor-wise until they tell you. I think Harlequin are very particular about what they want, hence the revisions!

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