• Donna Hewlett

Revising, Rewriting, Redrafting…

Oh my!


Someone once told me that writing is rewriting. But what about revising and redrafting? Writing is not linear. It is a process that dips down, doubles back, and jumps ahead. It’s messy. Editing your novel is a combination of revising, rewriting, and redrafting.


Revising is defined in the dictionary as “to look over again in order to correct or improve a manuscript; to study again or review; to make a new amended, improved, or up-to-date version; to provide with a new taxonomic arrangement." Revision takes multiple runs at the finer points of your prose. You have the basic plot, character arcs, and nuances of structure in place. Revision is tinkering to get the best word or paragraph down.


Francine Prose says: “Among the questions that writers need to ask themselves in the process of revision – Is this the best word I can find? Is my meaning clear? Can a word or phrase be cut form this without sacrificing anything essential? -perhaps the most important question is: Is this grammatical?”


Perhaps revision is really polishing the many facets of a novel to shine brilliantly in the published book.


Rewriting is “to write in reply; to make a revision of (something, such as a story); cause to be revised; to put (contributed material) into form for publication; to alter (previously published material) for use in another publication. " Rewriting requires more than tweaking words. It is a deep look at what works or what doesn’t. If a first draft has plot holes, rewriting is required. Significant changes can be addressed in a rewrite. New scenes added. Perspectives changed.


Michael Crichton suggests, “Books aren’t written – they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.”


Finally, redrafting is “to make a new version of a document, plan, etc.)” Sometimes a manuscript just isn’t working. Time to go back and redraft after thinking about different aspects of the story and what message you are trying to share.


Sometimes, an entire draft goes into the trash. Recently, I dumped over 200 pages into the trash. It wasn’t working. I tried to tell the story from one point of view because I was afraid to tackle four points of view. I learned a lot from that first draft, so it wasn’t wasted effort. If you learn something from it, every failure can be a win.


Janet Hulstrand suggests: “Bad writing precedes good writing. This is an infallible rule, so don’t waste time trying to avoid bad writing. (That just slows down the process.) Anything committed to paper can be changed. The idea is to start, and then go from there.”


Comforting words that help the old ego from sustaining too much damage. Just in time for me to face the attachment of my work from my editor.


As I go through my manuscript, littered with comments and red “track changes,” my mindset remains strong. Writing is a recursive process. My editor and I want to produce the best version of the novel possible. I will revise, rewrite, and redraft as needed.


As Ernest Hemingway wrote, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” Well said, Mr. Hemingway!


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