Revising Equals Rewriting

I admit it. I fall into the trap all the time. When I go back to revise a chapter or a scene, I drop my cursor right in the middle of the offending sentence and make the changes. I hop around, tweaking sentences, and buffing up verbs. Yet when I read the writing back, it still has that sour dull taste it had going into the revision process.

What went wrong?

Mostly, it’s a flow issue. When I need to make substantial changes, jumping in and surgically altering select words won’t cut it. I need to bite the bullet and rewrite the whole section. It doesn’t mean I trash everything. At least not at first.

I tap the return key a few times to create some white space. Then I rewrite the section, glancing down to see the bits I liked. What’s the point, you ask. Well, as I add in the edits, this changes the quality of the writing. If often find that the words come out a little different typing them again. There’s a natural flow to the writing that can only be achieved by typing it over again.

I’m not a masochist, though. I do copy and paste sections back in. In fact, I keep multiple versions of my manuscripts. I have this odd knack to remember a certain phrase from a draft months ago. I’ll dive in, find it, and graft it into the current writing. Usually I end up rewriting this bit so that it too flows well.

Once upon a time, I used to write everything longhand on yellow legal pads. Man, would my hand ache. I did this so that when I typed it in, I could revise on the fly, making changes and edits as I went. It worked well, except for the aching muscles.

Bottom line, don’t think you’re saving time by changing a word here and there. Ultimately your edits have to jive with the piece as a whole. Sometimes, rewriting is the best way to revise.

Tim Kane

About Tim Kane

Tim Kane is a young adult fiction writer.
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7 Responses to Revising Equals Rewriting

  1. Tim, I can relate to a lot of this. When I get stuck trying to find the voice for particular story or character, it helps me to write it out long hand – and then go back and type it out, reforming sentences here and there, smoothing the flow, etc. I don’t know what it is, but sometimes it just helps me to physically write it out on the page. But once I get going, I can easily transition to the laptop.

    I also keep multiple copies of my manuscripts on hand – especially during the revision process. I’ve gotten better about shredding them when I know their use is up, but there are times when I have stacks of the things everywhere. Drives my husband nuts. 🙂

  2. Hi Tim, totally agree with the above and glad to know I’m not the only one that does this (right down to the making a white space to rewrite in). I haven’t had the writing monkey on my back for long (a year and a half) but I’ve found the only way I can edit anything is by rewriting a fair chunk of it. Somehow during the process I get ideas on how to phrase the scene better, resulting in a better story overall. A number of times I’ve even come up with a better plot moment too…

    Editing to me is like surgery – it has to be deep and beneficial, at least on the first round. I figure you can add the little makeup touches later but on the first attempt you’ve got to be brutal.

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  4. Shari Green says:

    I’m with ya on this — I like to do a “from scratch” rewrite after my first draft of a ms. After that, I’m much more likely to do “insert cursor here” tweaking (and a ton of copy-and-drag moving around), but it’s so easy to lose the flow that way. I’m in the midst of revisions right now (draft six — the omg-I-can’t-believe-I’m-still-working-on-this-book draft), and I’m going to be more intentional about re-writing scenes and chapters from scratch instead of trying to patch them up. Thanks for this post!

  5. Rebecca says:

    I often hit the return key to create all that wonderful white space too. It’s amazing how much rewriting I do, even when my revisions are “minor.”

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