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? 

56 comments:

  1. I love the way you tag your edits with what you need to do. I’ve been using my bold/highlight whileI draft though I know Scrivener has a ‘comment’ ability as well. I might try doing the same as you from now on. Thanks for showing us your editing process, too. That new version does sound better! :)

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  2. thank you Sarah for co-hosting this month and for your extensive explanation of your editing process. A lot of hard work going into it, well done. Wishing you a fruitful June writing.

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  3. Sometimes less is better! Sounds like you have a handle on your edits, good luck.
    Thank you for co-hosting.

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  4. Your editing process is inspiring. Thanks for sharing. Spelling and grammar are easy enough to catch...it's the telling, not showing that I often miss.

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  5. I appreciated reading your editing process while I reflected on mine. I can see the long list of comments could be overwhelming. At the same time, an excellent editing tool.
    Thank you for co-hosting this month.
    Lynn La Vita @ http://la-vita.us/write/

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  6. I think rewriting and editing is very satisfying! Feels like I am getting something done.
    Thanks for co-hosting today.

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  7. I like your idea of leaving yourself comments. Sometimes when I'm not sure, I do a strike through of all the text I'm not sure about. Then I read the piece without it. Most times, it flows better when the portion is gone. Thank you for co-hosting IWSG this month.

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  8. When I'd get in an editing bind, I use to put AND THEN A MIRACLE OCCURS and move on. By the time I came back to it, after a chuckle, I'd usually find the miraculous had happened and I knew what needed to be added. Thanks for co-hosting, Sarah!

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  9. I leave myself notes too. I also revise as I go because I love revising much more than writing the first draft.

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  10. I'm with you, I love rewriting. It's what I live for. Thanks for co-hosting, Sarah.

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  11. Sounds like you have a method for doing your edits that works! Editing is hard for me even though I leave notes and highlight sections...

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  12. My favorite thing is to see that comment count go down! Thanks for co-hosting!
    Kathy--Imagine Today

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  13. That's a great rewrite!
    I'm more a fan of drafting than revising - but I'm learning to love it too!

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  14. Rewriting can be really satisfying, kind of in the same way that setting order in a disordered environment can be. I agree with you that the time needed varies, depending on the project. @samanthabwriter from
    Balancing Act

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  15. Agree. Editing can be satisfying. And then there are times when I read what I've written and feel like a failure. LOL

    Love the waiter passage revision. Good stuff! Thanks for co-hosting.

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  16. Excellent revision! Sounds like our revision techniques are similar. I write (meh) or (cliche, fix later) and keep going, then tackle those upon first rewrite. Thanks for co-hosting! I wish you happy writing in June.

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  17. Thanks for hosting today. I agree! Rewriting is where it's at. I see the first few drafts as just story vomit. Sometimes it takes me dozens of rewrites to get mine write.

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  18. Hi,
    I agree that rewriting is fascinating, and it is also inspiring. That is when my characters receive life.
    Thank you so much for co-hosting and have a lovely month of June.

    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

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  19. Thanks for co-hosting the blog hop this month, Sarah.
    I love the passage you shared. Thanks for the peek into your rewriting process. Really interesting.

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  20. I've gotten buried in a story like that, and even when I returned to it after giving it some time, I still couldn't make it work. You have the right plan--focus on one thing.

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  21. I love rewriting, editing, and revising my oldest books. Since they need the most work and in many cases needed rewritten almost from scratch, or to have certain sections removed and replaced with new material, it's like getting to write them twice or thrice and going on that journey all over again.

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  22. I do enjoy rewriting and editing. I love it when a story or article comes into full focus, which never happens for me on the first go-around. Deadlines make all the difference for me in terms of how quickly I turn something around.

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  23. First off, Woot for making progress!! That's awesome. I like your rewrite. It's been said showing takes more words than telling. I'll have to do a "show" pass on my work... once I'm done with all the plot rearranging.

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  24. I love revising. The thing is already DONE, and I'm making it better. Hopefully. A very satisfying experience.

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  25. You sound like you've been making great progress on Uneven Lines.

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  26. To be honest, I like writing the first draft when I'm revising and vise-versa. LOL I think the way you're tackling going through all the notes you've left yourself throughout Uneven Lines is a great way to get things straight in your head, again. I totally write myself notes throughout the manuscript. Half the time, I don't understand my note. #faceplant

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  27. Oooh, I loved that re-write. Very effective! I also like the idea of just leaving little notes to myself that say 'show'. I also tend to tell a lot and this kind of brief note would be very helpful for when I'm editing!

    Thanks so much for co-hosting this month :)

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  28. I like your idea. I also leave notes to self. Great advice. Thanks for visiting my blog.

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  29. Love how you really did SHOW what you meant by revision and why this revision process is so much fun, bringing the story into sharper focus as you go. Yes, I also put those editing notes throughout (all in CAPS). During the early draft, I'm not really sure how the story will end. I hope I know the ending and trust I will be able to write it when I get there, but my characters and the story often surprise me by taking an unanticipated direction. Please persevere! Your story sounds like one I'd like to read!

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  30. I like rewriting once I get into it. Having a manuscript sitting there staring at me is pretty terrifying, though.

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  31. I'm with you. Every project has its own journey independent of how I envision the process going. Like I said, "I'm a scheduling outliner in theory, and a pantser in denial. Happy IWSG, and thanks for co-hosting!

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  32. I like the original writing part best, but I'm coming to hate editing a little less. It's certainly satisfying to get the rewriting underway then done.

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  33. Thanks for co-hosting today! The writing and rewriting process can be both fun, inspiring and arduous. But it has to be done. It's the only way to bring out the story to its full imagined potential.

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  34. Those small tasks inside the monstrous project are so satisfying. Sometimes it takes me days to just figure out what my next "micro-goal" is so I can accomplish something. That was a really nice re-write, by the way.

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  35. I leave myself notes in the text as well. Similar to Nancy Gideon, many of mine say "I WILL FIGURE THIS OUT LATER". I hope the magic occurs before I get back to the editing.

    I think the paragraph rewrite worked very well. I especially liked "...didn't feel like hunger anymore" Excellent!

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  36. Interesting rewrite. The original didn't throw me. But the rewrite definitely pulled me in more and gave me the impression that this is a couple that just broke up. I wonder if earlier it said what they ordered. Were they looking forward to this meal? Or are they just eating out because they aren't home, food just to reach that 1500 calorie a day goal? I guess I want to know because it's a lot sadder if the meal is something you were really looking forward to, and now you're just eating to live and not really enjoying the flavor experience.

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  37. I enjoy rewriting, tweaking, editing so much after I've finished the first draft. Amplifying what I've written is such fun. But there comes a point where you can't stand your ms anymore. Then it's time to say enough!

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  38. I usually add notes too. Quite enjoyed your rewrite. Thank you for answering this so well.
    Sonia from https://soniadogra.com

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  39. That is a good point. If there is a deadline you have to get back to it indeed. I don't mind the process.

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  40. Thanks for co-hosting this month and stopping by my blog. Eventhough deadlines usually help me stay on track, I feel they stifles my creativity. I never do well when submitting with a deadline. I need at least 3 drafts before anything I write can really be called good. Thanks for sharing your rewrite process with us. I love seeing how others work and create.

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  41. I agree. All the comments or feedback I was lucky enough to find has helped my work and improved my craft more than anything I've experienced. So grateful. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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  42. You sound like a writer dedicated to the craft. I'd just like to get it done with a first draft. A dream I know, but I guess I have a lazy streak.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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  43. Thank you for co-hosting IWSG this month, Sarah! You see, I write short stories, so I have trouble creating longer works. Feedback is crucial to me. It truly helps in my work. All the luck with your writing.

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  44. It does feel good, doesn't it? That feeling of taking your work and making it better. I used to HATE editing/rewriting until I realized I was simply "making it better." Works like a charm, and now I do enjoy it.

    Keep working on it! I want to read Uneven Lines one day :)

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  45. When you finally get it right, it is so satisfying! I edit much like you. Basically make a list and whittle it down.
    Thanks for co-hosting!

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  46. Hi Sarah!

    It does depend on the story. And the length. Sometimes I'll write in a frenzy, and revise at a snail's pace. Other times, I revise as I go.
    Whittling your rewrite comments that much in one sitting was amazing! I hope you celebrated;-)
    Thank you for co-hosting!

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  47. Thanks for cohosting this month. Mostly, it depends on what's going on in my life. Sometimes I'm in a race to finish because I set the date on Amazon for pre-orders. Sometimes the story just doesn't "feel" right and needs to sit.

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  49. Rewriting is definitely not my favorite thing. Thank you for sharing that example. Hope you have a great June.

    Anne from annehiga.com

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  50. I like rewriting because it generally leads me to making my story better. It can be exhausting and tedious and all the things, but it's worth it in the end.

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  51. I told my students that they should set aside their first drafts for a few hours at least, so that it will be easier for them to identify anything that needs to be revised later. Often when they reread it right after writing it, they read it as if it's correct and don't see the mistakes. Rewriting for me is hard because I want to keep everything, but then my draft ends up being dozens of pages too long.

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  52. Hi Sarah. I love rewriting. A bit too much. Never want to let go. But I'm finally taking the plunge and put it out there.

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  53. There is satisfaction in rewriting--it's like reorganizing your favorite room!

    As for how long I allow my first drafts to sit, that depends on how I'm feeling! xD

    ♥.•*¨Elizabeth Mueller¨*•.♥

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  54. I've found rewriting to be satisfying, too. :)

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  55. I still fall into telling not showing, so it's a big thing to look out for when I edit. Definitely better to focus on getting a few lines or scenes done than be overwhelmed by how much work an entire book needs.

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