A how-to reflection on the importance of rewriting

"The best writing is rewriting." ― E B White

An author and professor from UBC once told me that the worst writers in her classes were often the students who got straight As in high-school English. They were used to churning out tight essays in a single evening and ending up with perfect grades. However, first-draft essay mastery doesn't translate to fiction. 

A large part of writing a first draft is discovery. Even if you start with plenty of research, character maps, and outlines, big-picture issues can creep into your manuscript when you are staring at it one page at a time. That's completely normal. Every writer should expect their early drafts to be full of problems, many of which they don't immediately see for themselves. Beta readers are crucial at this stage, and writers should always be prepared to make significant changes as they tidy up a novel's scaffolding.

How significant? This same author and UBC professor told me her award-winning novel, which is 200,000 words, took her about 600,000 words to get right. Similarly, my first manuscript (100,000 words) was a complete mess, so I set it aside and re-wrote the entire thing from scratch.  That ended up being my MFA thesis project.  Even still, several drafts later, I've decided to trash it one more time and start fresh. I tried to fit too many pieces into one story, so on the advice of my agent, I will next attempt to twist my concept into two or three novels.

Does this sound demoralizing? It's certainly not easy to turn your back on so many hours at the keyboard. However, nothing is lost.  With every long writing session, you improve, the process becomes easier, and the story takes a sharper shape in your mind. Even a fully scrapped draft represents solid time you spent getting to know your world and characters.

Book a sample edit with a professional editor from the Darling Axe

A local theatre troop wrote a brilliant musical called Ride the Cyclone, which ended up on Broadway. A few years ago they held a fundraiser show in which they performed several numbers that had to be cut because they didn't end up fitting the story. This was an eye-opening experience for me. The songs they cut were amazing!

At the end of the day, the narrative must come first. 

 

—David G Brown 

About the Darling Axe

We are professional editors as well as award-winning writers. We understand the intense effort and emotional investment you have poured into your work. It's our job to help you realize your vision and take your manuscript to the next level.



Work with a professional fiction editor from the Darling Axe: manuscript development and book editing services



Darling Axe Academy – online courses and writing workshops

Book a sample edit with a professional fiction editor from the Darling Axe: manuscript development and book editing services

Related Posts

Huge congrats, Katie! Darling Axe editor wins Exile Quarterly's short fiction contest
Huge congrats, Katie! Darling Axe editor wins Exile Quarterly's short fiction contest
Darling Axe editor Katie Zdybel has won Exile Quarterly's Carter V Cooper Short Fiction Competition, as selected by Joyc
Read More
Dialectal spelling: why it's probably not helping your manuscript
Dialectal spelling: why it's probably not helping your manuscript
We frequently advise clients against using dialectal spelling. For better narrative immersion, and to put the “sound” of
Read More
Book Broker – An interview with Katie Greenstreet
Book Broker – An interview with Katie Greenstreet
Take the manuscript as far as you yourself can possibly get it. You almost never get a second chance with an agent, so y
Read More

Leave a comment

Name .
.
Message .

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published