I’ve had some questions generated by my last post about what exactly I consider a rewrite. For me I use rewrite for in two ways. Now, let me say upfront that this is how I think of it. I’m guessing others might have different ideas and I’m open to correction or thoughts.
The first way I use rewrite is a general umbrella to cover rewrites, revisions, editing, and polishing. Because sometimes it gets tiresome to type out each word, and really aren’t we all trying to cut word counts? Ok, not really, I’m just lazy.
The second way I use rewrites is for the heavy duty part of, well, rewrites with the first definition. It’s like the part of construction that uses the big machines, the bulldozer, the backhoe; the ones that change the landscape. For me, that sometimes means, taking a scene and writing it from a new POV, or with a different emphasis and better dialogue. I’m rewriting if I move scenes around, and have to change transitions.
Revisions are a bit smaller. The basic arc is set, the characters are themselves and not nebulous. But you may still move things around within a scene or change part of it to bring out a theme or provide better foreshadow. They’re like using a jackhammer, or a floor sander, changes are being made but only within certain boundaries.
Editing is like using hammer and screwdrivers. They’re the tightening, straightening and fixing of each sentence and paragraph.
Polishing is using the Windex to make it shine. You change the word “ran” for “darted” or “galloped”. You weigh each word separately and as part of a whole to make sure it carries the weight it needs.
Personally, these tend to blend together. Rewriting may change to revision without conscious thought. It’s not like crossing a state line where you can say, Now I’m in Ohio and now I’m in Indiana. It’s more of moving from country to town in Wyoming (If you’ve ever been in Wyoming you know what I’m talking about) First there’s just one random building, then there’s two. There’s some animals, maybe a dog or kid, the houses get closer together and more plentiful. Before you realize, and without leaving the freeway, you’re downtown.
I don’t think you have to “rewrite” the whole book to have it be a rewrite. Maybe the beginning is fabulous but your ship changed course and you need to get it back on target, so you just reshape the middle chapters. Personally I have not yet ever taken a story and rewritten from scratch, either keeping the plot and changing the characters, or vice versa, or some combination of the two. If you don’t keep any of the scenes is it rewriting or drafting?
Now once again this is all my opinion and if there are actual definitions of this then I’d LOVE to know.
How do you define rewriting? I’d love to hear everyone’s ideas on this so tell everyone to come on over and let’s get a discussion going.