Monday, January 14, 2013

Reasons to Rewrite

Today we're going to talk about rewriting. I'm in the middle of a rewrite, and was talking to two of my friends about rewriting, so it seems like a good subject to bring up. 

Today specifically we're going to talk about why you would want to rewrite a book. 

To be clear, when I talk about rewriting in this context, I mean rewriting the entire book from scratch. When you're revising a book and you rewrite three chapters, that's of course still rewriting, but there's a big difference between a few chapters and an entire book. The sense of self loathing, for example, is much higher.

The most common reasons (that I am aware of) to rewrite a novel is because a) you're redoing a book you've already written, but it's been a long time since you wrote said book and your skills have, hopefully, improved, or b) you're redoing a premise, and substantial parts are going to change. Parts such as a point of view character, genre of the novel, and/or voice.

There might be other reasons, but at the moment I can't think of any. Feel free to suggest reasons in the comment section. 

The important thing is to make sure you actually need to start over, and you're not just procrastinating editing your completed book. Rewriting is hard; really hard. You feel like a failure for getting it wrong the first time, no matter how many times you tell yourself this is not true. You despair, knowing you have write a book all over again. The newness is gone. All you have is the stubborn sense that you know how to make this book better, and you're going to do it, even if it means starting from square one.

Here's the secret. You're not actually starting over. Even if you've completely changed the premise, characters, and setting, you still have the experience of a full draft dedicated to explore these ideas under your belt. It makes a difference that's hard to describe. There's slightly less flailing about. 

But this is a last ditch effort. Your first job is to make all the changes needing to be made and make sure it can't be accomplished with a serious edit. This is a judgment call, of course, but most of the time no matter how broke the book feels, it's nothing a good edit won't fix.  

After a Google search, I found exactly one helpful post on rewriting by Justine Larbalestier

What do you think? Have you ever rewritten a book before? Why or why not?


  1. Rewrites are the writer's version of Book's special hell.

    But as you say, there are some really great reasons to rewrite a book, but I think you're right, the main ones come down to better at the craft than the first time, and major changes. So hard.

  2. For me, rewriting my WIP from scratch wasn't hard, to be honest. But maybe that's because I took quite a long break from it and changed enough so it felt fresh. The reason to rewrite from scratch was that I knew the old version wasn't quite working and I couldn't figure out how to fix it in a regular revision. So when I finally decided to rewrite the whole thing, it was a relief more than anything else. And it was fun, too! I got to start over and make everything better! :-) And it was definitely a step forward from the old version and not moving backwards. I couldn't have written the new version without having done the old one first. :-)

  3. I don't think I could handle that increased sense of self-loathing. Have a great year Elizabeth!

  4. I am re-writing a manuscript now. Every chapter, every page, every sentence needs to be reviewed and tweaked. It's hard work, but the bones of the original story are strong so at least I have a good starting point.

  5. Rena: I agree. It's hellish and hard and awful, but if you're doing it for the best reasons, it's worth it. So very worth it. :D

    Lena: I like your way of doing it. I am hoping when I finally rewrite GHOSTS BETWEEN US it will be like that. *crosses fingers*

    Desert: LMAO it's hard, but I ignore it like everything else in pursuit of the book. You have a great year too!

    Trisha: Yay! Another one in the trenches! I'm glad the story is strong; that's the hardest part imo. Everything else will fall into place once you get the story in place. Good luck and let me know how things go!