07 March 2012

Reconstructive Surgery (aka The Rewrite)

I just began a rewrite. Yep, my MS is getting a total makeover. I'm 5 chapters in and only 2 1/2 have survived. You hear that other chapters? That means you have a 50% chance of making it through this rewrite alive. Them ain't bad odds. Bad news is: this is just the beginning. I'm pretty sure by the end of this rewrite nothing but the original idea that spurred the urge to write the book will remain.  

The characters, setting, plot, almost every single word of my MS is disposable, err fixable. I can't get attached. I can't say "I'll never change that!" Because THAT is exactly what I WILL change. It's inevitable. I know, because I'm doing it right now. The THAT that I didn't want to change is the THAT that needed changing the most. 

Oh, you can revise, and edit, and revise, and edit until your fingers bleed, but what you really need to do is take a delete button to your MS and start hacking at the parts you "like just the way they are." Pages will get messy, paragraphs will be broken, and sentences will be sliced in two. It'll be uggg-llly! Your MS will be puffy, and scabbed, and bruised. You may even hate it (or wish it had died from loss of blood), but don't give up! The big reveal at the end will be well worth the agony.

Have you ever performed a rewrite? Yes? No? Scared to death of it?

Anyone have a spare Band-Aid? My second chapter is...totally gone.

68 comments:

Sarah said...

I rewrote the beginning of SANCTUM probably 6-8 times. Interestingly, the second and third acts are almost untouched from my original draft, but that beginning ... argh. I think I finally got it right--we'll see! But I think it's important to be fearless and unsentimental when it comes to rewriting or revising like this, and it sounds like you are! Good luck!

Lan said...

Urgh! The dreaded rewrite. It's like a recurring nightmare. I'd compare it to cutting off your own arm. I've done it a number of times and still felt like something was missing. It was only after I got an idea for a prequel novel that I was really able to look at my MS and think, you know what? This whole MS could use the good ol' delete button.

S.P. Bowers said...

Yes, I've done that. (May need to do it again when I hear back from betas) It's daunting at first but when you get into it adrenaline kicks in and it's pretty fun to rip it up, take the chaos and mold it into something beautiful.

Theresa Milstein said...

I have performed MANY rewrites.

In the beginning, my words were gems. I learned quickly to get over it!

Andrea Mack said...

I like rewriting when I know that I'm making the story stronger. There's something freeing about cutting away those clunky chapters and letting the story take a different direction!

Peaches Ledwidge said...

Oh, Emily. I don't like rewrites. Writing a draft, seems easier than rewriting.

Lindsay N. Currie said...

I've had to rewrite so much it's ridiculous. But, oddly satisfying at the same time LOL! Good luck!

Richard said...

After Tanra Reimer read my 117,000 word opus, it got cut to under 80,000 words. That's a lot of cutting. Funny thing is, it's a much better book because of it.

Kyra Lennon said...

I am re-writing parts of my WIP at the moment, and it's horribly painful lol! I think the worst is over, but I've had to cut out some of my favourite scenes for the "greater good."

Good luck with your re-write, I am sure it will work out brilliantly! :D

Julie said...

AGH! Rewrites are insane. I forget where I am, lose characters, entire chapters...it's murder.
But, it's all best in the end, for our books and ourselves.

Good luck with your rewrite, I'm sure it'll be amazing once it's finished!
~Julie

Tobi Summers said...

I'm about 100 pages into rewriting my first draft of Rosetta, and I'm fairly confident I'll be going back for another try when I'm done. What I've been doing is pulling scenes from my first draft in a patchwork quilt-esque style, then writing the stuff that needs to fill in the gaps. And it's MISERABLE. I sympathize wholeheartedly. Good luck with yours!

E. Arroyo said...

Yup, been there done that. Not an easy thing but once you start hacking it's amazing the things you can come up with. =)

Meredith said...

I usually cut about half of my manuscript in rewrites, and then I have a minor panic attack before I rewrite them. So fun! Good luck!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Since I tend to underwrite in my first draft, I usually have to add stuff during the revisions. But changes in general? Oh, yeah. I've cut out whole points of view characters - poor things.

Good luck with your revisions!

Miranda Hardy said...

I prefer to ignore the rewrites a together. May explain why I ignore the doctor as well. Lol

Good luck with the revisions.

L.G.Smith said...

You are a ruthless reviser! Ha! I love how you put your chapters on notice. No one is safe. Gotta do what you gotta do to make it right. Good luck. :)

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

Great comparison! I actually enjoy revising and rewriting. It's satisfying somehow, although grueling and frustrating, too. And when the story is truly better after all that slashing and surgery, that's exciting.

Rebecca H. Jamison said...

That's what I'm doing right now, Emily. My chapter 2 that I've rewritten 6 times is now completely deleted, and now that I've gotten over the trauma, I think it's better without it. My wordcount is negative for the week, but I've accomplished so much.

Melanie Fowler said...

This is TOTALLY how my manuscript feels right now. A 50/50 chance of survival as I cut away to make it better. Brilliant post Emily.

Cassie Mae said...

Oh heck yes! I rewrote a few wip's ago. Changed the POV, so ya, pretty much wrote an entire new book.

It was super fun!

(Um, is this the one I get to read???) :)

Shiela Calderón Blankemeier said...

LOL! That picture is perfect! Love it!! Rewrites terrify me, but can be a necessary evil. Best of luck on it :)

Melodie Wright said...

I LOVE to revise so yeah, always doing so. Did major surgery for the MS we're going on sub for. I learned so much from that process tho, my next WIP has been a far smoother process.
Love that photo!! And good luck w/ your own story surgery.

Hope Roberson said...

I keep a 'slashed tid bits' file to paste the lines/paragraphs into after I've cut them. It's easier to throw them in another document instead of deleting them for good. I know I'll never go back and use them, it's just easier to know they're still there if I need them :) I haven't done a re-write yet, but I've added chapters to amp up the danger and intensity and I think those are my best chapters. Good luck with the slashing!

Shallee said...

Ah, the lovely rewrite. It's definitely a tough part of the process! When I have a hard time getting rid of something I'm in love with, I remind myself that what's most important is the book as a whole. If the scene/paragraph/sentence doesn't serve the book, it must go!

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

Currently in the process of butchering and frankensteining my WIP back together. It's a bloody job but somebody's gotta do it.

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

Currently in the process of butchering and frankensteining my WIP back together. It's a bloody job but somebody's gotta do it.

Morgan said...

I went through so many stinkin' rewrites with my last novel... now I just hate it so much I don't even want to look at it, LOL. ;) I'm *hoping* that won't have to happen this time around... too much... we'll see... ;)

Carrie Butler said...

You bet!

Rewrites can be scary, but don't worry. I have ninja Band-Aids in my car. :)

Samantha said...

You are too funny, but every writer needs to take the no nonsense approach! Good for you :)

Emily R. King said...

Andrea, I agree. Tear it down and build it stronger!

Peaches, I prefer drafts too. But rewrites can be fun with the right attitude.

Lindsay, it is satisfying!

Richard, that is a lot of cutting. But you do what you have to do, right?

Kyra, keep those scenes in an extras file. It helps ease the pain.

Madeline, I am an overwriter so cutting is inevitable.

Cynthia, you have the right attitude! Rewrites are so worth the effort.

Rebecca, it's not always about word count. Sometimes it's getting the story structure right that matters most.

Melanie, good luck to your chapters! I hope you have survivors. : )

Carrie, really? I want a ninja Band-Aid!

Samantha, one has to have a sense of humor about starting from scratch. It's better than the alternative: screaming.

Carol Riggs said...

You are one brave, courageous woman! Kudos to you for leaping in there with weapons in both hands, slicing that manuscript up. Keep up the good work! I'm doing revisions too, but I don't think I'm as brutal as you are...maybe I should be!

Deana said...

I am so happy that you made a decision and feel good about it! I know it wasn't an easy choice but I have no doubt you are going to make it awesome! I can't wait to beta read it when it's done:)

ali cross said...

Good for you Emily! You are a true writing ninja!

Laura said...

Scared to death of it - my patient is awaiting my attention in a box-file upstairs. It's been waiting for 6 months!
Lx

Imogen said...

Rewrites scare me. I'm still working on overcoming the fear of chopping up my hard work. Maybe a red glittery gel pen would help?

Lynda R Young said...

I try to avoid major rewrites by writing up a detailed outline first so at least I can get the main structure right. That's the thoery anyway. I still need to do some rewriting, but it's never as massive.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Yes, I completely rewrote the first manuscript I'd ever written. Became my first published book so I'd say it was worth it!

Ruth Josse said...

Emily I had no idea you were so ruthless. Good for you for having the guts to gut your book.

Carol Kilgore said...

I think I've done this with every manuscript. But I'm hoping I won't need to do it with my WIP. Keep your fingers crossed!

Lara Schiffbauer said...

I'm not sure what I'm doing, but I am cutting entire scenes, and rewriting them, and adding new scenes, so it sounds like rewriting. I have to wonder what I'll think when I'm done with this draft. Good luck with the rest of your WIP!

Jessie Humphries said...

Yes, I have performed a Jack the Ripper-esque surgery before...not pretty.

Jack said...

My first MS went from 120,000 words to just under 85,000. I went through 14 drafts. Gosh, in it's present form, it's the best it's ever been!

Without a little blood spilled, the MS couldn't become great! Rewrites are necessary to make a quasi-somewhat-dull MS, grand!

Kelley said...

I've edited a crap ton, but no rewrites yet...sounds dangerous...lots of blood :) haha.

Sophia Chang said...

haha that image is SO creepy - and totally spot on.

Yes, I've rebirthed up this current WIP so many times it might have permanent identity disorder. Wait that sounds bad. No, it's like Madonna. Constantly reincarnating.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I'm kind of embarrassed to admit that I started writing my second novel just so I could postpone revising my first one. I just got so excited thinking of what I wanted to put in my second manuscript; it was less overwhelming than thinking of what I was going to take out of my first one.
I think it's good that you're thoroughly editing your book. After all, it will make a difference when you start sending it out, because it'll show that you're not just turning in a first draft like some other writers do.

Sarah Pearson said...

I haven't yet, but I have a story that's waiting for one. It may be waiting for a while :-)

L.A Speedwing said...

been there...rewrote the first 9 chapters about 15 times. Cut about 3 or 4 chapters in the end. Never want to go through that ordeal again. I slowly learned to write with a purpose which is extremely hard when you don't know where your story is going! ;-) Rewrote/reviewed the rest 3 times at least. In the end though you do feel you have progressed and that's satisfying. So wishing you a good writing progression. There will be blood. ;-)

Hayley N. Jones said...

I've just spent the past 4/5 days doing intensive rewriting of a story I had to submit as an assignment and I completely agree. By the 3rd or 4th rewrite, I notice I'm attached to some words/phrases/paragraphs. I then know that these have to go, or at least be changed.

I might try to resist it for a while, cutting a paragraph instead of deleting it or refusing to substitute a particular word, but I eventually realise my story is better without it.

As a general rule, if I feel any part of my writing is particularly clever/poetic/beautiful, it has to go.

bookechoes.com said...

I too am in the middle of a rewrite. Sometimes it feels like I'm right back at square one, the first draft. You just have to remind yourself that you are doing this rewrite because of all the things you learned about writing and your story that you wouldn't have learned if it weren't for all the work that came before.

elizabeth seckman said...

I hope that goes well for you!

If I can help in any way, you know my email! (I rewrote per your suggestions, need to give it another once over then may bug you with it again.)

J. A. Bennett said...

I'm re-writing 2/3 of my books as we speak so I feel your pain. But at the same time, it can be quite liberating!

Angela Cothran said...

I'm SOOO excited to see what you end up with! It's going to be awesome :)

Brinda said...

Yes, I recently cut the entire first chapter of my WIP. Guess what? You can't tell anything is gone. :(

Leigh Covington said...

Oh man! I will hopefully be starting this soon and I wonder how many of my babies will survive. It will be interesting, that's for sure.

Caitlin said...

Oh god, the rewrite. The WIP that I'm currently editing was a rewrite. At first it was a bit rough, but once I got into it it really became much easier. The general idea and story stayed but everything else got chucked. As it went on, it felt pretty refreshing! But if you need one, I only have Sesame Street Band-Aids. Cookie Monster or Elmo?

Also, I tagged for the Lucky 7 Meme!

Emily R. King said...

Imogen, you can't think about it. Dive in and start cutting! It gets easier.

Carol, I'm crossing my fingers for you!

Lara, revising is changing a few things, but keeping the overall plot. Rewriting is changing nearly everything except the original story idea. I'm rewriting.

Jack, they are necessary. I just wish I was done with them.

L.A., I'm changing my book from New Adult to YA. Changing your audience changes a lot!

Connie, you have the right attitude. My sentiments exactly.

Leigh, take no survivors! Be merciless. It really does help.

Caitlin, an Elmo Band-Aid please! :)

Jenny S. Morris said...

I wish I had some cute band-aids I could send you but I don't.

Good luck on the rewrite.

Mark Noce said...

Great post:) I practically live in rewrite land right now. The danger I find is that after a while I start to lose perspective on what to keep or take out. I'm still looking for the trick that keeps me grounded.

The Golden Eagle said...

Nope--at least not yet, though I'm sure I'll have to sometime in the future.

Cherie Reich said...

Ah, the bloody rewrite. I sometimes feel sorry for my manuscripts when I get into editing mode. I've had pages that looked like someone stabbed them 57 times.

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

I'm always rewriting. Every single thing I've ever written has need re-writes. It's the REAL part of your writing. And, yes, you have to "kill a lot of darlings" to get a manuscript just right.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

Wow...50% are not going to survive. You have a lot of courage. It's difficult for me to trim that much from my writing without going through a fit. Best of luck to you in your goals.

cherie said...

I've most definitely done bloody rewrites. In fact, I've started one ms from scratch 4 different times. But the good news is, I believe my writing has improved because of the *painstaking* process.

:)

Medeia Sharif said...

I've revised, rewritten...yup, it's a bloodbath.

It's getting easier and less gruesome for me to use the backspace button.

tfwalsh said...

I am just about to tackle a huge rewrite for a publisher and I'm terrified... so much to change, but I can do.. or so I keep telling myself.

Daisy Carter said...

I came over to read your WIP, The Movie post and ended up reading this one, as well. What an excellent post - we all need to be reminded that our precious words are expendable. Thanks for that! Brilliant!

Emily R. King said...

Mark, it's hard to stay grounded. I turn off all outside voices and dig in. Just let lose!

Cherie, that's how I feel. :)

Tania, you can do it! The end result is sooo worth it.

Daisy, nice to meet you! I'm glad you read on.

Stacy S. Jensen said...

I'm finished my memoir manuscript at the end of February. So, I'm in my "not touching" it phase. I know the day I reopen the file will be when the real work begins.

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