I’m sure you’re familiar with the quote “all writing is rewriting”. It’s been attributed to many writers, including Truman Capote and Michael Crichton.
New writers find rewriting an unpleasant, and even a frightening chore, until they see the possibilities. If you’re a new writer, you may think that “rewriting” means changing a word here and there. No so. Once your first draft is complete, you’ve got a chance to make your book the book you want it to be.
When you’re writing a first draft, you’re creating raw material. The more material you create the better. First drafts tend to be messy; your only goal is to write through to the end – to tell your story. You’re telling your story to yourself.
In rewriting, you’re shaping the raw material for the reader. Now it’s time to think about what readers expect from the genre in which you’re writing:
Why pick a genre? Essentially, because readers want what they want, and they want certain types of books at certain times. Paranormal novels are a genre, which Amanda Hocking has mined to the tune of $4 million in a year.
For me, that means that the first stage of rewriting is going through a novel scene by scene, and eliminating as many scenes as I can. Then I write fresh scenes, and make all the scenes as strong as I can.
Rewriting scene by scene
I’ve been thinking about rewriting, and the importance of scenes, because I’ve just finished writing the first draft of a novel, and now the fun begins: carving the worthwhile material from the dross.
Tomorrow I’ll be starting on another story, and letting the current book rest for a week or two before I start the rewrite.
In preparation for rewriting, I’ve been dipping into Raymond Obstfeld’s excellent book, the Novelist’s Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes again.
When talking about scenes, he said:
When you finish reading a scene, ask yourself: “So what?” Is this scene necessary?… Does whatever happens deserve its own scene? Could the information be place in one of the neighboring scenes?
Novelists have various ways of rewriting. I prefer to start with scenes. Until I eliminate unnecessary scenes, those scenes I wrote when I was telling myself the story, there’s no point about tinkering with anything else. As I eliminate scenes, I’ll be thinking about the characters, and plot points.
I’m a fan of the 7 Point Plot System; it’s elegant, and works for any genre. I’ll be making sure that all the points are roughly where they need to be.
Rewriting is fun. For me, it’s just as much fun as writing a first draft. As you may know, I use Scrivener. This means that I’ve already created a document for each scene. I’ve compiled the rough draft into MOBI; it’s on my Kindle, waiting for a read-through before I get started on the scenes.
Scenes are at the heart of your novels. You can make the most of them once you’ve completed your rough draft. Have fun writing your novel.
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You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels.More info →
Updated: March 8, 2017
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