The Rewrite – Tips and Tricks

Last year was the first time ever that I actually completed nanowrimo. I wrote over 50,000 words in a month after three previous attempts. Every day I allocated three hours to write at least 1250 words and I actually managed it.

I was lucky in that I had an idea already. In the workshops for my masters, I had been able to use the activities to work on my characters, getting to know their secrets, how they really felt and working out the plot. Or at least, most of the plot. Endings are tricky and I don’t see much point in planning one because I have always changed my mind by the time I get to the end.

Anyway, after November, Christmas and then assessments took over and I still have the ending to write. However, I felt as though I needed to reread the whole thing before writing the end, hopefully a fresh perspective would bring fresh inspiration.

After reading the first few pages I knew that some major editing and redrafting was needed. The first two chapters needed a complete rewrite. And so, as of a few days ago the great redrafting process has begun.

As we all know, every writer is different, but I thought it might be interesting to explain how I go about redrafting, or rewriting a longer piece of writing. I begin by looking over my work while it’s on the computer, asking myself what I think I need to work on. Are there any chapters I didn’t really like even as I was writing them? Are there moments where my dialogue becomes cliche? Does my writing grow repetitive or dull? Is the word count right?

This saves on paper, because from there I go through and fix what I can. I cut the bits I know, deep down, are unnecessary, I add in details where needed, rewrite the odd stilted conversation. Then I take a breath, I spend a week or two reading and writing anything but the piece I’m redrafting.

Then, I print. For a shorter piece this isn’t such an important moment, but with a novel there is something special about printing that first draft MS. It’s like a glimpse of what a published copy will look like.

From this pile of papers I work in chapters. I scribble all over each page if I’m not completely rewriting and if I am I read through the chapter twice and then make bullet points about how I will rewrite. X needs to be more likeable. X needs to talk more. Move more quickly. More description. Less description. Does this scene matter?

I type up each chapter as I go because I find it less daunting. I used to do three chapters at a time but I find I work more quickly this way. I take a break after typing up a chapter, a walk outside, five minutes playing with the dog, a trip to the vending machine if I’m at uni. This stops me from becoming repetitive or lazy with my rewriting and helps me to keep a fresh perspective.

I am currently in the process of redrafting and I hope to focus on this for the next three to four weeks. By giving myself a time frame I’m hoping I’ll make strong progress. That I won’t get bored and move on to a sparkly new story, but that there’ll be real improvement in my work, ready for sending off to friends to read in the next month or two.

It feels exciting, but I know it will become more challenging. Editing is just as important as the writing itself, but my instinct as a writer is always to write. This time I’m determined to stick with it, I’ll let you know how it goes in a few weeks…


Speak soon,


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