You finally finished the first draft. It weighs in at a decent 90,000 words. You gather together a group of your close friends, some beta-readers, and general critics. You send it off for feedback and criticism. Time goes by and the comments start pouring in!
“Your draft has problems,” is the gist of many comments.
So what do you do? Abandon the project? Give up writing? Or rewrite the darn thing and give it another shot?
First, understand what a rewrite is versus a revision. A revision is simply editing certain scenes or plot points within the draft. Much of the story hasn’t changed.
A rewrite is major changes to the story. If you compare the first draft to the rewrite, it’s significant enough that the original story is unrecognizable. An example of this is when I wrote the first draft of Fallen From the Stars. My draft had the Main Character, confronting the wolves in Chapter 6. After I finished the first draft, the entire draft read flat; no tension, too many jokes, sarcasm, etc. I hated it. So I went back and rewrote it, adding a major supporting character to the story. That wolf confrontation chapter went from Chapter 6 to Chapter 22. I ended up rewriting so much that over half my original plot had to be pushed to the next book. The second draft read so much better for it; however, I revised the work again. Once I finished with the third draft, I felt it was ready for beta-readers.
The Two Types of Rewrites
As a writer, we’ll face two types of rewrites – voluntary and involuntary.
Voluntary rewrites are where you as the author came across something in your story that you slammed the breaks. It could be a eureka moment in that you know if you did a rewrite, it will make your book stronger. Or it’s a moment where you scream at yourself, “What the hell was I thinking? There is no way that would have happened!” An example of this is when you realize a good twist, but it means you have to go back and rewrite a lot of chapters in order to get this twist out.
Let’s pretend you’re writing a sci-fi story about a mystic apprentice training to be a master mystic warrior. At the beginning of the story, our hero has a vision of some evil dark lord killing his father and throughout the story, he trains to hunt down his father’s killer. At the end of the story, he confronts his father’s killer, fights him, gets his butt handed to him, and will face off in the next book tentatively titled, Return of the Master Mystic Warrior.
But you have a eureka moment and decide that the father’s “killer” really is his father the whole time. Now you need to go back, delete the vision, and rewrite some scenes that don’t tip off the reader ahead of time.
Involuntary is just as self-explanatory, but more painful. You’re told your work has significant problems, and when you read the comments…they’re right. Or maybe you submitted it to a traditional publisher and they say, “We’ll buy this story, but you need to kill off this major supporting character by the middle of the book. Oh, and change the time period from 2018 to 1978.”
First thing is to breathe. The second is to tackle the easiest tasks first regarding the rewrite. Did your beta-readers point out minor problems and grammar issues? Get those fixed first. Next, identify the chapters where your significant problem shows up. From there, work on it one chapter at a time.
In summary, rewrites are typically a big ball of no fun, particularly if they are involuntary. Accept them as a possibility in this line of work. Even Stephen King’s Carrie had numerous errors, cross-outs, and corrections to his script. No one is perfect, which leads me to my next post: Practice Makes Perfect, But…