The other week someone asked me how they should start rewriting their novel. At first, I was stumped on the question because I honestly wasn’t sure how I should go about answering it. Last year I posted on the Joys of Rewriting, but I never really elaborated on how I actually rewrote my novels; so in this post, I thought I would outline my personal way of rewriting a novel.
Every writer has a different style of writing. Sometimes they don’t even need to rewrite their novels. Maybe their first drafts are relatively clean. Let me say first that I am definitely not one of these people. I like to get my first drafts as quickly as possible, which means that they’re messy, and that’s frustrating, but all that means is that I need to rewrite. Sometimes even more than once. And you know what? Rewriting is hard — not to mention frustrating. But here are a few tips I want to share with you all.
For your second draft, start a fresh document. Or Scrivener file. Or whatever word processor it is that you use. I generally only use the first draft as a reference to important storylines that I want to keep, the odd line that I might line. Keep your first draft somewhere where you can access it easily, you never know when you might have to refer to it for something.
Distance yourself from your manuscript. Space from your own work is good — no, it’s better than that. It’s great. Put it away in a dusty part of your computer where you won’t be tempted to look at it. Don’t re-read it (not yet), don’t commiserate over its crappiness (because it will be very crappy), and write something different. Get your mind focusing on other things, giving yourself some space from your first draft. This way, when you’re ready to look at it, you’ll be reading it with fresh eyes.
Change your font. This might sound stupid, but for me, it makes sense. I like change. I like different things. And sometimes I feel like seeing your novel in a different font it’ll help me see things I hadn’t before.
Print it out and re-read your first draft. This one is entirely optional. Sometimes I don’t even bother to read through the first draft because I know where I’ve gone wrong and what I want to change. But I know some people do like to read their first draft to get an idea of where they’ve gone wrong.
Make a list of the thing you don’t like. Plot has flaws? Love interest kiss to quickly? The ending isn’t tightly wrapped up enough? Listing the things you know you need to improve on will give you a direction of where and how to start your rewrite.
Get feedback. I know, I know — it’s scary. Really scary. Just a week ago I wrote about receiving criticism, and it’s definitely a necessary part of rewriting and editing.
Don’t give up. I think this one speaks for itself. If you don’t even try to edit and rewrite your novel, then all it’s going to do is gather dust and remain that crappy first draft. In fact, my NaNoWriMo 2012 novel was so bad I didn’t even finish the first draft, but I liked the premesis enough for me to want to give it another shot at becoming a decent novel. Now it’s the favourite novel I’ve ever written, and was good enough to win the Sourcebooks Development Prize on Wattpad.
Let me know your thoughts on the matter in the comments below!