When you open a book and begin to read, what you are reading is not a first draft. Really, it’s an accumulation of edits, rewrites, and more often than not, the original draft rarely resembles the finished manuscript you bought off the shelf.
As writers, how do we tackle the rewriting process? We’ll offer some tips and strategies to make the process easier, and even enjoyable.
Write, Delete, Rewrite
When working on a project, we become attached to the work as if it is another appendage. Imagine your project as an extra arm. It can be frustrating spending hours and days constructing a hand and then having to erase three fingers and reconstruct them later. Welcome to the writing process!
There will not be a “right” number of drafts, but there will for sure be more than one. The rewriting process gets you a little closer to the finished product.
Have you ever heard the phrase “kill your darlings” when referring to cutting the sentences you love because they just don’t fit in your current project? There’s a nicer, perhaps easier, approach. Keep the parts that you don’t plan to include in a “Scraps” document for later. That way your darlings haven’t been killed, rather they've been gently removed. You never know what you may need or what might appear in your next project.
When rewriting a particular section, start with a blank page. Rewrite the scene and see if any new information comes up. You can always add the parts that work really well in, but you’ll leave out the parts you definitely don’t need.
Tips and Tricks
Read your manuscript out loud. This helps not only with finding syntax and grammar mistakes, but assists in maintaining a consistent voice throughout the narrative.
Do not expect your readers to assume information that is not clearly written down. As we write, the scene is easily created in our heads (as well as the characters) but readers can not see what you see in the words on the page.
Consider the order of events in your manuscript. Are they in the best order to convey the message you are sharing with your story?
Show rather than tell. For example, “She was scared” is telling versus, “Goosebumps rose on her skin as her feet carried her to the dark corridor” which shows the fear of the character.
Children’s stories should focus on the child main character, as well as using a child-friendly vocabulary. The voice should sound like a young child, not an adult.
Keep in mind that the rewriting process is when the true writing begins. This is where the arm you spent working on begins to resemble an arm not just to you, but to your readers too. In other words, the plot is clear, the characters are people the readers can relate to, and the message of the story is conveyed.
Another Set of Eyes
After spending so much time with your work it will be too difficult for you to look at your writing from a constructive lens. Time - such as a couple weeks or a month - can offer you the space required to look at your manuscript as a work in progress.
Other writers are good for this too. If you are in a writing group, then your peers can offer suggestions and feedback that elevate the manuscript in ways you may not have considered before.
Another useful tool is working directly with people within the publishing industry. Exisle Academy’s Manuscript Review service offers helpful feedback from experienced publishers so your manuscript is one step closer to being publishable.