Rewriting sucks.

Writers spend months on their first drafts – some, even years. It takes time to turn loose ideas into a full-fledged story with characters and a cohesive narrative. That is why, for nearly all writers, the prospect of rewriting seems nightmarish and cruel. But it is usually necessary.

I am writing this article while engaging in a rewrite of my own. Mid last year, I finished the first draft of a novel set in a post-Apocalyptic England. I spent two months tinkering with the draft and trying to fix massive plot holes until reality dawned on me: this story required a rewrite! Whilst there is a long journey ahead, I have realised many benefits of rewriting. Your book will improve upon rewriting in four different ways. For one, your ideas and themes will be narrowed in. Secondly, the quality of your prose will shine superior. Thirdly, a rewrite offers the exciting opportunity to add depth to your story and to make your themes shine. My article will also investigate the reasons why this occurs and how you can add depth during a rewrite. Finally, I will make the argument that a rewrite will strengthen your story overall.

To begin, it is crucial to consider ‘narrowing your ideas.’

The opportunity to narrow your ideas down is a good reason for a rewrite. First drafts are messy and disordered; a rewrite, or a few, allows writers to specify their intentions and ideas for storytelling success.

When writing the first draft, I put many ludicrous and far-fetched ideas into my story. These were not mere plot holes, but outrageous moments where events occurred without explanation or logic. In one scene, my protagonist would shut his eyes and get visions of Australia or Petra. This made no sense! Because of this, I made sure to narrow my ideas in the rewrite and consider carefully my storytelling intentions. The result promises marvels; a stronger story, with more precise ideas and structure. This is possible, of course – but you should entertain a rewrite if that is your goal.

Prose, and the quality of it, is also important as you cannot understand the micro without first mastering the macro. This applies for scientists, artists, historians, economists and particularly, writers. Having a solid grasp of your story and your intentions will take a couple of drafts to clarify. While rewriting, your perspective will slowly shift from big picture narrative concerns to word choice, syntax, flow, and grammar. This will not occur in the rewrite or second draft. Rather, a writer’s grasp on language is cemented throughout the book writing process. This is partially because writers have considered the use of language and have clarified their intentions for the novel during the later drafts. Overall, rewriting will strengthen your story.

Making Sure the Technology Is Right

It is important to understand the role technology plays in rewriting. If you are attempting a rewrite in the same Word or Scrivener document as your first draft, you may encounter a cluttered and confusing writing process. This is why I suggest starting a fresh new document. Not only does this encourage freer writing, where you do not feel constrained by previous paragraphs and chapters, but this also helps clear your mind and move on from your original draft. Writers who understand the role of technology and their own writing process are well equipped to composing a wonderful rewrite.

Also, writers may have self-imposed deadlines regarding editors, contacting literary agents and sharing work with beta readers. These steps are crucial to your literary journey – but at this stage, after your first draft, you should focus on the rewrite and understand it will take time. Rewriting is often gruelling and difficult. Therefore, it is important to focus and allow yourself the time needed to strengthen your story. I suggest printing your first draft out – a thorough read will assist with brainstorming developmental editing ideas and goals for your second draft.  

Have you rewritten a novel? What are your thoughts on rewriting and composing a first draft? Comment below, I would love to hear your experiences!
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