Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rewrites Again



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. 

31 comments:

  1. I agree- I tend to think of rewriting as going back through your book and reshaping it, sometimes rewriting whole chapters but not necessarily the whole book. I've never re-typed an entire book from scratch, but I tend to add and rearrange scenes, move sections to improve flow, etc. Love the construction metaphors, it's a really good way of describing the different stages of the process! :)

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    1. That sounds a bit like my process. Thanks!

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  2. I love your construction analogy here, Sara, it's brilliant! For me a rewrite is always the actual re-doing of large sections of a book, so the huge bits. But I use the word 'editing' as the big umbrella to cover all kinds of revisions and when I say 'edits' I usually mean anything involving the changing/tweaking of an already existing book.

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    1. I've heard, and probably used editing in that way. I'm glad to know what words people use.

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  3. Excellent post, Sara. I consider rewriting as tearing apart and redoing. I am rewriting now, and this time I started with a blank page. And I'm pulling pieces that I want/need from previous versions as I re-create the new. I don't think I could redo a story from scratch though. Oh, and I keep having housing dreams--remodeling, buying a new one, etc. Thanks for the post. :)

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    1. Yikes, starting over with a blank page must be intimidating. I'm glad you can use some of your other stuff.

      On the housing dreams, are you having big changes in your life? That's the only thing I can think it might mean.

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    2. I'm associating the housing dreams with the rewrites. Crazy, huh?

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  4. There's no set break between restructuring, polishing, revision, or editing for me either. And you _know_ I get the buidling analogies. ; ) Good post.

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    1. I knew at least one person would get it. :) For the first few drafts I couldn't even say where the draft began or ended.

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  5. Polishing is so much fun. When you can almost hear the text squeak? :)

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    1. For me polishing is part surprise/joy that it actually sounds like a book and part terror that I did it all wrong and will have to start over again.

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  6. I tend to use them interchangeably, unless I really am just polishing. But even then, I still edit the odd sentence or too. Basically, for me, editing/revision/rewriting is anything that isn't the first draft. :D

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  7. I pretty much agree with your definitions. I have a feeling that I'm going to have to do a TON of rewriting in this WIP :P

    Whatever makes it the best story it can possibly be, right?

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    1. Exactly! And the more rewriting the better it will be.

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  8. Happy to see this thought expanded and hear people's views. I tend to think of rewriting as "Crap, let's see if I can do it right this time." And I think of revising as "Close, but this scene isn't quite right, or it flows better if I move it here" kind of thing. The rest (editing/polishing) is everything from line editing to proofreading.

    Great job on the analogies, Sara!

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    1. Lol, there might be a few, "why couldn't I do this better" and "Why did I think I could write" drafts too.

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  9. I've never thought of rewriting and revision as different, not that it matters to me. I just know that after I write, it takes A WHOLE LOT OF WORK to make the draft into what it should be. Someone (I don't know who) said that writing is 1% of the work and rewriting is the other 99%. I'm totally on board with that.

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    1. I'm on board with that too. It seems drafting is such a small part of it.

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  10. I did major rewrites on my book before I settled on the best draft.

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    1. I think that's the best way to do it.

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  11. I've done rewrites with every book I've written... and for me, that means deleting a character, changing the way I approach the story--something major that will affect the rest of the plot. And it seems like it never ends! Fabulous post, as always, Sara. ;)

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    1. It never does end, we could tweak forever.

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  12. I'm with you, Sara. I, too, know the formal definitions of rewrite, revise, etc. But in the end, it can just be a whirlwind of work! I am presently considering a major rewrite (bulldozer-style) of an old manuscript. However, that will have to wait until I have polished (used the windex ^_^) on my WIP...and submit!

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    1. We should just call it "work", that would simplify it.

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  13. I agree that revisions are smaller. For me, a rewrite is when I change something about my story that leaks into every chapter (like changing a character's age). Great post!

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  14. I like your definitions :-)
    Rewriting is pretty much everything I do, including filling in missing scenes, reworking whole chapters, cutting dreck, inserting info from research, choosing names, etc. until the story's gotten to the point where all it needs is polishing: word tweaking here and there, adding depth to scenes and character interactions, and so on. It sounds so easy when we put it this way!

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  15. I mostly agree with your definitions. I've done a complete rewrite, scrapping everything and beginning all over. I've also done a bit of "editing" rewrites, where perhaps a paragraph isn't working in the overall scheme of things so I might rewrite it in the name of editing.

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    1. I think all forms of rewriting are necessary. Some stories may need more of one than the other though.

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