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The dreaded rewrite

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by JBryden88, Oct 23, 2011.

  1. JBryden88

    JBryden88 Troubadour

    Now is the point where I face desk. In the process of developing my world as I write, I've kinda cornered myself. I see how I want my story to be, I look at what it is, and I know I need to do alot of rewriting. I'm not done yet with the first draft, so this leads me to ask...

    Is there a point where one is safe to start rewriting, even if the draft is still incomplete? I'd say I'm in the last act. In fact, I'm only a chapter away from the climax where things start happening. Should I toughen up and push through, or should I think about rewriting?

    This is the first time I've made it this far, so I'm quite happy with that. Now its just a matter of figuring out what is necessary.
  2. If you know you're going to make major structural changes to early parts of the story, there may not be much point in writing later chapters based on what you already have, since once you go back to make the early changes, the later chapters may not make much sense.

    My approach (so far) has been to write the story, and occasionally stop and look back at what I wrote, flesh out the story, analyze the characters, do some world-building, and figure out what I'd change in the parts I already wrote... but then keep writing new chapters, with those pending changes in mind. Partly that's because it was important, to me, to actually have a finished draft, even if it had jarring holes where entire sets of characters/backstory/organizations are mentioned as if they've been there all along.

    Then, once the draft is complete, go back to the start and start rewriting from scratch, massaging the early parts of the story into the shape they need to be in, in order for the later parts to make sense. To give an example in my novel, around chapter 30 or so I came up with an order of holy knights who so far had never been mentioned in the book. They ended up figuring into the last two chapters (just a little), so I wrote them in, but someone reading the first draft as written would be confused by (among other things) these Wardens suddenly showing up in chapter 31 without any prior mention. So now as I'm rewriting the first 90% of the novel, I'm rearranging things to introduce the Wardens here and there.
    Mectojic likes this.
  3. My own technique is to finish first. Even if I realize I need to scrap the first chapter(s) entirely (which happened recently in one book, as I realized after chapter two that I wanted first person POV, not third person!), I don't go back and fix it until I'm done.

    Everyone varies! =) For me, if I started going back to fix things, I'd worry that I would just continue fixing things ad nauseum and never actually get back to finishing the book. Once the book is done, I set it aside for a bit to get some distance, then get back to the rewrite a month or so later. And yeah, that sometimes involves scary amounts of ripping things out. ;) But not while I'm still in the middle of creation.
  4. JBryden88

    JBryden88 Troubadour

    Well, for me its a number of things:
    - The main kingdom is no longer stuck with a simple name. It's a proper kingdom name now.
    - Geography has been defined a TON more
    - History has been defined a TON more
    - World Events are slightly changed
    - Writing Style. I started this project around March 2011. My writing style's changed with my college courses on creative writing.
    - Finally, it's just the scope of the characters. I need to both refine long rambling paragraphs, yet I also need more time to develop my characters.

    So I have alot of reasons for rewrites, besides of the obvious notion that it's a draft :p
    Mectojic likes this.
  5. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I know if I were you, I would want to get through a few chapters of the climax before quitting. Otherwise you can't say you've written a first draft because it didn't build into anything. That's the part of the story that is the most essential for your writing, and the more practice you can have shaping the climax, the stronger your final revision will be, even if that portion of the first draft is scrapped entirely.

    For me, I need a writing and an editing phase, and I need them to be distinct or I won't get anywhere. So when I write I absolutely refuse to cut anything until I'm ready for a rewrite, and part of the reason for that is when I'm brainstorming, I find that the simplest and dumbest element could end up inspiring something much greater when I approach it later on. I would expect the same to be true when writing a climax that's sure to be scrapped.
  6. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    It really depends on what will help you most get the piece finished.

    A little revision now may smooth out the ending and require less time editing/revising in the long run. And yes, many writers improve from the beginning of a long project to the end.

    However, sometimes it's best to get it all out, so that in the revision process there is a clear focus and direction.

    Whatever you choose, good luck and hang in there!
  7. mythique890

    mythique890 Sage

    I ended up doing that, too. In fact, I had to introduce a whole new set of characters during the climax because the bad guy was coming for this epic battle... but he only had one henchman-type. Not scary, considering that there were six good guys. So I introduced four more characters and beefed up the bad guy's powers to make them scarier.

    Even before that point when I was writing the first draft, the end did NOT match the beginning. I had to keep going, though, because I knew that if I went back and started messing with the beginning, I would never finish it. And for goodness' sake, I just wanted to be able to say that I had finished the thing, even if it didn't make sense! So I wrote through to the end while making notes on what I needed to change in earlier parts of the story. The sense of accomplishment I felt upon writing "The End" made me much more motivated to go back and fix the earlier parts. Now I have a coherent second draft and am gearing up for a third draft.

    Anyway, for me, finishing then fixing is what works. Find what works for you and do it! Good luck!
  8. JBryden88

    JBryden88 Troubadour

    I'm going to finish what I started.
    However, I'm also rewriting the prologue, if only because if anything needs a rewrite ASAP, its that piece of crap I wrote a year ago :p
  9. JBryden88

    JBryden88 Troubadour

    I rewrote my prologue. 9 pages double spaced went to 13. More detail, I -think- more showing, and more character. I basically refined my prologue character, I hopefully made it more believable, and hopefully one might give a damn about him. I'm gonna post in showcase, comparing the two.
  10. Related question: How many of you tend to rewrite the book (as in, begin typing anew from the original ms., making changes as you go) and how many of you simply revise the existing ms.? I've done both - I confess to revising more often than rewriting these days, though. My first fiction was on a manual typewriter, which made rewriting mandatory. ;) I also am partway through rewriting an SF novel - I had a hard drive crash and lost the file, but had a printed copy.

    It's interesting to return to that sort of experience, and very different from simply revising on the computer. I think I am seeing more substantial change and improvement in the story from actually rewriting the piece than I do from revision of an existing file.
  11. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I think that sentence captures the difference. As our writings gets better, the rewrites get smaller. Some pieces may not need substantial rewrites and revisions.

    I also think preplanning has a lot to do with it, depending on the work. It's harder to get a feel for how a character develops before you've started writing, but a plotmap is easy enough to figure out beforehand. The strength of rewrites may depend on work's balance between plot and character.
  12. I did complete rewrites on the first handful of chapters in my novel, but now I'm being more targeted. I read the chapter, and if it's good -- character development, interesting, entertaining, conflict, no stupid crap -- I just do a smoothing rewrite rather than starting anew.

    The complete chapter rewrites ended up going in more or less the same direction, but with slightly different scenes. The prologue was similar in structure (the king's spymaster going about his business in the palace) but who he talked to and where he went changed drastically.

    The smoothing rewrites I think are more effective, because they let me start with something I think is pretty good, and get rid of the fat or bad parts. Last night I rewrote chapter 10, which included a scene where a noble spends 300 words explaining something to some servants. I realized after trying to rewrite it that she didn't need to explain this thing at all, and simply cut the entire scene, which suddenly made the chapter flow way better.

    I had another chapter where someone is escaping from a palace, and her escape (which involved lots of hiding and avoiding people) was around 2600 words long (the whole chapter was around 3700 to start). It was really tedious. I ended up rewriting it from scratch, condensing a lot of it, and cut it down by 1000 words. The chapter's a lot tighter now, and we're not spending pages and pages watching her slowly wander through the palace.

    Complete rewrites are hard, and time-consuming, but they can give you new perspectives on what could or might happen. I think if you have a good sense of whether or not your current material works, they're less important, but exploratory writing can give you new avenues which can improve something that you already thought was pretty good.
  13. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    I revise, sometimes heavily, unless something got totally blown out of the water by later events, or the writing was a really bad day's work. In part also because I am almost constantly in revision, no need to rewrite anything more than a section here or there. I use revision as my launching pad to get me into writing new stuff, to get in the groove, if the groove is hiding.
  14. Devouring Wolf

    Devouring Wolf Troubadour

    My first drafts are usually so unworkable that revising just won't do. I have to rewrite the whole thing. After that though, I focus on revision, but I usually rewrite at least once.

    Maybe one day when I've figured out a method of planning that actually works for me, I won't have to do that.
  15. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    Ok, just got the rough draft for the second book in a series 'done enough.'

    I wrote the rough for the first book several years ago, and when time came to knock it into shape...well, about half got cut outright and most of the rest was a complete rewrite. Did the third edit/rewrite a few months ago, and a few things from that experience kind of sunk in.

    First, the more you write, the better you get. I find I can dodge most, but not all of the more annoying grammar and plot points.

    Second, when you start to write yourself into a hole, stop. This is where you go back, figure out what went wrong, and then figure out a way around it. Yes, the daily word count might drop way, way down for a day or two (or three or five) - but better that than a major rewrite. This happened to me a couple times during the recent NaNo, and is probably why I fell short of the 50 K goal. (I was at 48.5K).

    The third item gets into the rough draft of that second book. Basically, you got the core of the story, the things that make it work, and then you have the add-ons - the bits that fill in the blanks and help build character. The thing to focus on is the core. As of now, the rough for the second book stands at about 80 K. It revolves around three POV characters, the ones whose actions move things along. But there are also gaps. At one point, one of these characters is in a major battle and goes over a cliff - literally - right in the middle of it. He couldn't tell how that battle went, so I couldn't write the rest of it...at least from his POV. So, my current solution is to introduce a minor POV character (also present in a couple other truncated scenes) who does get to see the whole thing (and who is involved with other things.) At this point, I am contemplating three such minor POV characters, each with just two or three chapters, none more than a thousand words or so. But those POV's are not 'core,' their 'add-ons.'
  16. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I think there's an important distinction to be made between how someone who has a couple of novels under their belt works, and someone who has yet to write their first one. It sounds like the OP is among the latter.

    For the newbie, I'd say it almost doesn't matter. Do whatever you want to, because you will almost certainly not be doing it that way three books from now. This is the one where you make lots of mistakes, so don't sweat the details. No matter what you do, once your editor gets hold of it, you're in for rewrites anyway. Guaranteed.
  17. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner Scribe

    You can try - I'm sure most of us do so to some degree - but the big caveat is that you can invest in reworking a scene to brilliance, only to find you have to cut that all out later.

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