Confession Time: this was not the first article I wrote for this week. But the other one is going to need an overhaul. You may see it someday or it may languish away on the Google Doc. Time will tell on that one.
It’s not the first time I’ve found myself on a project and had to take serious course corrections.
Rewrites are a critical part of writing but it’s one that people often overlook. To me, it can take longer to do a rewrite than the initial draft.
But it’s vital to the process. Because rough drafts are just that, rough. Especially if you’re like me and that first draft is little more than a glorified outline. For me, it’s the later drafts that help it to take shape.
Trust me, I get it. It’s hard to settle down and do a rewrite. You feel like all you’ve done is thrown away hours of your life for nothing.
But, it’s not for nothing if you look at it the right way. As writers, we are always growing, always changing in our craft. I’m about due for another round of reading my own past writings to get a feel for how far I’ve come.
Sometimes, that ego boost is necessary. I’ll be honest about that.
I found a good definition for what rewriting means from MasterClass: “Rewriting is the process of going through a rough draft and fixing things that don’t work for you, whether that’s changing the word choice in a single sentence or cutting entire sections that feel like fluff. Rewriting is the part of the editing process that usually refers to the larger changes that comprise a whole new draft. If you put real work into your rewrite, a good piece of writing can become great.”
I’ve been writing for ten years and sometimes, I still struggle with this. With experience, I’ve started to see the value of it. Like outlines, rewriting has grown on me.
Let’s take a look at some of my projects (two of which haven’t been released yet) where I had to write some or all of it.
James loves to tease me about this one. And to be fair, it’s totally justified. The ending of that story is at least the fourth version I wrote. I wrote this piece, guns blazing, and then he was like, “Yeah no.”
The setting. The style. The tone.
The setting flowed all over the station. At first I had it upstairs in office and interrogation rooms. Then it moved outside the station, into the rain. Finally, we ended up in the basement where it stayed.
The original ending to Midnight lacked the suspense, the drama that came out in that last version. Honestly, I am really proud of how it turned out. I’m glad James pushed me.
What does he tease me about?
I had Rosella get into a proper fight – and she made one-liners as she flung the villain around.
Not sure what inspired that. But we talked and both agreed it’s out of character for her and didn’t fit with the image that I’d created in the story.
We both laugh about it these days.
2) Why a Show Changed how I Write
Yes, I’m talking about my Only Murders in the Building article (also season 2 is out and I’m here for it!).
I wrote the first version of that article and, honestly, I wasn’t entirely happy with it. But to be fair, I’m not a fan of most of my writing so I’m not the best barometer on that. James read it over and didn’t like it either. I hadn’t given myself the space to really discuss what made the difference for me.
So, I went back to the drawing board. I zeroed in on my focus, got some insight from him, and wrote the whole thing. Luckily, that wasn’t as involved as the earlier example. I think I had the entire thing rewritten in less than an hour.
This is partially why being open to the rewriting process is so valuable. Sometimes, it takes a lot longer. Other times, it goes by fast.
Sometimes, you’re rewriting to find what you really wanted to say in the first place.
3) The Importance of Glass Slippers
I’ve been writing this book for three years. There have been ups and downs to the process. Over a year ago, I finished a draft of this story but it lacked an ending. I couldn’t quite figure out how to make what I envisioned work.
It was very frustrating.
James took it and spent significant time on it. He came back with suggestions. One of which was to take the original draft, turn it into a glorified outline, and basically rewrite the book.
In the spirit of honesty, it took me a second to realize that he was right. Because in that moment, all I could think of was how I had spent ages on this and was basically throwing it out.
When I calmed down and took a detailed look, I realized that James had a point. For that project, it was the best decision I could have made. I’m in the middle (yes, this is the project that inspired the Melancholy in the Middle post a couple of weeks ago) and it’s so much stronger than the original draft.
Never be afraid to take a first draft and put it to the side of though it was you clearing your throat. Sometimes first drafts come out basically ready to go (or mostly), but sometimes they come out misshapen and needing another attempt for you to find the sculpture in your block of marble.
4) Jazz Street
Someday, this book will come out.
This one had similar problems to Glass Slippers. But this one I’m on version… four I think? I haven’t been able to make it work. Part of it was I was a bit too ambitious in my initial ideas, but I was also chasing other people’s ideas to a certain extent. By narrowing my focus and making it my own, I’m getting better content.
Watching Only Murders in the Building also helped with this. Seeing how they put together a mystery inspired me.
As I did with Glass Slippers, I chucked the most recent version. Unlike other times when I’ve done this, I didn’t copy chunks of it almost verbatim. In hindsight, I should have known better than to do that previously.
And this time, I’m finding the novel I always wanted it to be.
Rewriting is both exciting and frustrating. It’s taken me years to properly embrace this. Even a few years ago, I would have gotten upset with James for asking for another article and wasting my time.
I decided to turn the experience around and write about what’s going on in my writing life in a way that’s slightly different than what I usually do.
Share your rewriting stories with me. I’m on Twitter @Girlinpink44!