Rewrite after rewrite; edit your book until it’s finished.

Rewrite after rewrite; edit your book until it's finished.Yet another rewrite. My fifth and I’m told to expect more.

So I am working on a new book, as you know. It’s a novel – my first actually as my last four books were either creative non-fiction or non-fiction. The pages before me are fourth draft. The first draft was in third person and that didn’t feel right. The second draft became first person. I rewrote the third draft because the story needed big character changes and improvements. The text then needed a fourth draft to make it fit into a tight ‘thriller’ genre with a big suspense emphasis. This need to restructure the fourth time became screamingly obvious after a reread as I wanted to follow the rule ‘the story should turn about every four to six pages.’ Nowadays, if you want to sell, and sell well, you basically have to follow that rule.  

Now, after having shown it to a good friend who is also a top New York literary agent, the advice is that my new book needs, yet again, another draft. This will be my 5th draft and now the book will be in third person (again).

Rewrite after rewrite; edit your book until it's finished.

Whining about rewrites will do no good. We write, that’s what we do. Again and again and again, changing, recrafting, improving, omitting, and adding. Part of being a writer is knowing that rewriting is compulsory. If you don’t want to rewrite – then get out of the game now. If you think what you’ve written is perfect and doesn’t need rewriting, you’ll never be published.

A dear friend of mine, on a three book deal with Little Brown, is on her TENTH rewrite. I have nothing to complain about.

Rewrite after rewrite; edit your book until it's finished.The more you rewrite, the faster you become at writing. I am a slow writer (no surprises there, you’ve only been waiting for this new book for about three years, or more) and I need to be faster. The only way I am going to write faster is by writing more. I need to rewrite, write faster and ultimately write better, without fear of the text being crappy. I can edit the bad bits out later. Right now I have to rewrite, then write more and faster.

Everyone has to rewrite, there is no way around it.

I totally do NOT buy into this (a tip I found on the internet) attitude:

Eventually, redrafting will just spoil the novel – there is a danger that the story you set out to write ends up so ‘surgically’ enhanced that it no longer resembles the original story – the intrinsic core of the story has been lost.

Rewrite after rewrite; edit your book until it's finished.I do not agree with this advice because fundamentally I am a journalist, accustomed to being questioned, subjected to Fact Finders, sub-editors and finicky editors who know what story they want and how it should be crafted. I bow to their expertise. I trust those with more experience than me. I humbly accept advice though do not automatically take it. If I see what they mean, I accept their advice.

But I know, after being in this game for my entire life, that I must rewrite. Again.

I agree with Michael Crichton, ‘good books are not written. Good books are rewritten.’

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2 thoughts on “Rewrite after rewrite; edit your book until it’s finished.

  • Sigh………I kept this post in my in-box Lisa as i knew I would need to refere to again and again. I too am writing a new book. I am on the rewriting/editing stage trying to get it to a shape where I feel comfortable to hand it over to my editor. My last book I spent a year writing it and then a year editing it. I am on my third rewrite of this current book and I already know there will be a fourth and possibly fifth………..I find it such a SLOW process. I think I need to get quicker at writing too. I also find it so frustrating when I have worked and worked on a piece and then come back the next day and see it needs to be worked on again. Then again when it is finished I love re-reading and re-reading it, admiring its polish and beauty, and I get goose bumps and feel like its no longer mine. It belongs ‘out there’ to my audience. Sigh……… back to it. Thanks for all your advice and encouragement :)))

    • mm

      Lisa Clifford

      Hi Bronte,
      nice to hear from you.
      And good luck with your new book. Yes, it is a slow process. I too think I need to be quicker. Just let it flow, then perhaps go over it once it’s done. Then again, if I had done that I would have a lot more to rewrite now that I am on to my 5th draft. I think this time it is it. This is the one. So I am going to try the old 500 words a day, just something, anything, whack it down and then edit at the end. I tend to be a perfectionist.
      Let me know how you go, please let me know how the process works for you.
      It helps me to know that others are going through it too,
      A presto!

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