02 June 2021

The Rewriting Rush

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's the posting day for the Insecure Writer's Support Group! Click here to learn more and sign up!

This month I'm a co-host! The other awesome co-hosts are J Lenni DornerNatalie AguirreLee Lowery, and Rachna Chhabria!

This month's optional question is: For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

For me, I think it depends on the story, and whether I am so excited about it that I just want to keep going, or if writing it was so exhausting that I need a little break from it. Or, if there's a deadline involved, you usually have to jump right into editing once the first draft is done. When I wrote the first draft of "The Last Dragon" for the Hero Lost anthology, I had to jump right back into it in order to submit it in time (and get my word count waaaaaaaaaaay down). 

Uneven Lines is a whole other animal. There have been so many versions and drafts and breaks and hiatuses that I don't even know where I am anymore sometimes. Technically I'm on the third draft (of the novel version), but there have been draft changes halfway through, and while I'm mostly editing right now, this draft isn't actually complete. I still haven't written the last two chapters. What happens isn't completely clear to me, and I hope getting the previous chapters to exactly where I want them will help me figure it out. 

Sometimes, in order to just get something done, I just have to pick a specific task and focus on that. I've been trying to purge all of the editing comments that I've left myself in the Word document for the whole manuscript. A couple weeks ago I tackled every "rewrite" comment, getting it down from 78 to 11, only leaving the ones that will involve a big rewrite (at least a page), or more brainstorming to figure it out. Most of the ones I fixed were either a sentence or a paragraph, so it was easier to go through and improve on those sentences. 

And you know what? Rewriting is really satisfying! There have been plenty of times where I've stared at a page of writing, having absolutely no clue and no desire to try editing it. But when I focus on a specific part, knowing that if I just take a moment and really think about it, I can fix it and make it better. And doing that feels great! 

Last week I went through my comments again, finding the ones that said "show," meaning that the sentence I wrote was telling when it should have been showing. There were only 22 this time, and I only left one incomplete because it's part of a whole page rewrite. 

But I just love the feeling of taking a sentence/paragraph that isn't so great and transforming it into something better. For instance, I had this passage marked in my manuscript: 

Before we could say anything else, the waiter came back and set our food in front of us. I wasn’t really hungry anymore, but we started eating because there was nothing else left to do. 

I had specifically marked "I wasn't really hungry anymore," with a "show" comment, because I didn't really think I conveyed why Jordan didn't feel hungry anymore. It took me a while to actually figure out what I needed to say in this moment, but I finally rewrote it as: 

The waiter came back and set our food in front of us, pulling us out of this moment and back to reality. I stared down at my plate for the longest time, not wanting it because that emptiness in the pit of my stomach didn’t feel like hunger anymore. I didn’t know what else to say, and Tom didn’t say anything, either. We started eating because there was nothing else left to do. 

Sometimes less is more, but I think in this particular instance, I needed more words to show how Jordan was feeling in that moment. I really like how this rewrite turned out. It's a really great feeling when you just know you've changed something for the better.

Do you like rewriting? How long do you shelve your first draft?