Alina Popescu, Writer

Writing Myths: #1 Edit and Rewrite till You Drop

Writing Myths: #1 Edit and Rewrite till You Drop
January 06
10:07 2015

A first draft is a piece of raw material that has to be edited and rewritten and edited some more. Preferably all by yourself with some critique partners. After much sweat, blood, and tears, it’s finally something relatively good. Or that’s at least how the myth goes.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you should write “The End” on your first draft than send it to your editor, publisher, agent, beta reader! Well, betas maybe, especially if they like what you write enough to want to read as you write it. Yes I’ve done that a couple times, to get feedback on the overall story.

I do believe you should let your first draft sit there quietly, clear your mind, then go through it again and edit what needs editing. Then, especially if you are like me and can’t see your own mistakes because you see what you wanted to say, not what you ended up typing, have your betas read it for you and edit/rewrite some more based on their input. You can repeat this process as many times you need.

But! Yes, there is a but! Of course there is. The point I am trying to make, and it’s as much for my own benefit as it is for others’, is not to obsess about how much rewriting you actually do. We are different people, with different processes. Some require more rewrites than others. 

I have just realized how important that is. I had a manuscript come back from my editor earlier and I went through edits, recommendations for changes and rewrites, the dreaded reddened document! There was valuable input and great insight, but it wasn’t bad, I did not feel like I needed to cry over it.

In all honesty, after reading a lot of posts and everything, I had hardened myself for a grueling, heartbreaking process that would leave me in tears. That was about a year ago, when my first edited piece was emailed to me. I then realized that I loved my editors. They make my work flow better and my writing sound better. They add just the spark I need to have amazing stories published.

Then, after more reading, I started to feel like a fraud again because I didn’t rewrite that many times. Once I am done with a draft, I go through it one more time. Maybe twice. This at times made me expect to cry after the editors saw it, or at other times had me wondering if I wasn’t a bit of  a fraud. I mean… I did end up keeping most of my first draft. I have never edited the actual story, just the words used to paint it.

After a lot of puzzled thoughts, a lot of self-doubt, I just stopped and reconsidered my process. I never start writing a story until I have almost all the action down in my head. I may scribble some notes, but it’s mostly a movie being filmed in my head. I just sit back and watch it come to life. When I start the actual writing, the story is very clear to me, as are the characters and their interactions. I visualize everything up to the point where it flows nicely.

Did my characters act out midway through my typing the story (it is a furious undertaking and hurts my wrists, by the way)? Of course they did. Quite a few times. When that happen, I no longer write. I move back into my head and figure out what’s wrong. When the negotiations are successful and we have an agreement, I start again.

When the first draft is done, I let it sit for a while, and then go back through it. I should also point out I never go back to edit till I complete the story . After a couple rounds of reading and tweaking, it’s time for my betas or my publisher. Then the manuscript goes through the editing process, which is handled either by my publisher or the editor I work with for my indie published stuff.

Is what I do wrong? Nope. Is the fact other writers tweak their manuscripts more than me wrong? Nope. We’re different people with different processes and we should stop shaming or looking down on ourselves because we don’t fit into other people’s frameworks, methods, or style. 

What do you think? What’s your process and how much rewrites do you go through?

About Author

Alina Popescu

Alina Popescu

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  1. Kait
    Kait January 06, 11:43

    Excellent blog, Alina. Your writing process is very similar to mine. One draft, one or two full edits and then off to the betas. I have to have a full manuscript before I begin the editing process. In my current WIP, I did edit seven chapters in the middle. That’s because I realized my book had gone out of sync. I needed to go back and restructure part of it to have the proper flow.

    Reply to this comment
    • Alina Popescu
      Alina Popescu Author January 06, 22:26

      Yes, that’s pretty much it for me 🙂 I have had to sack chapters rather then edit them. I like to get really lost before I start finding my way back *grins* It hurt a little to delete over 10.000 words, but the story needed that.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Vivienne Tuffnell
    Vivienne Tuffnell January 06, 11:44

    I’m another along the same lines; I’ve never gone in for extensive and protracted rewrites. Much of the original draft was in my head before I began to write, so it came out fairly clean.
    I get quite cross when people assume that everyone has to do it the same way.

    Reply to this comment
    • Alina Popescu
      Alina Popescu Author January 06, 22:27

      I don’t think it’s other people who assume as much as the author in question. I assumed i was either faking it or doing something wrong.

      That is why it’s important to talk about how different we all are, so that everyone stops assuming 😀

      Reply to this comment
  3. Dianna
    Dianna January 06, 13:03

    I think the most important lesson any writer can learn is that the process is not only different for every writer, it’s different for every book. One of my books is on its twelfth draft and still not ready, but another is on its third draft and almost there.

    Everybody’s different, and just because your process is different doesn’t mean you’re a fraud. I am kind of jealous though.

    Reply to this comment
    • Alina Popescu
      Alina Popescu Author January 06, 22:29

      True, the process is different from book to book. And I’ve realized that the more I write and the more I read and review for other authors, the less rewrites I have to do.

      Don’t be too jealous! This only means I spend moths with a story trapped in my head, trying to figure it out, while one or more MCs demand I just get over myself and write it 😀

      Reply to this comment
  4. Marj
    Marj January 06, 16:46

    ‘a movie being filmed in my head.’ That was how my first stories came to me. The writing was easy, and while I might have twiddled with some of it now and then, I didn’t need to do any re-writing.
    It is just a bit sad that I have to work harder these days. The movies are no longer playing for me.
    An excellent article.

    Reply to this comment
    • Alina Popescu
      Alina Popescu Author January 06, 22:32

      Marj, yes, that’s true. I do very little rewriting, I do edit and clean up my writing though… I tend to write fast and in huge bulks, and no, that doesn’t only happen in november. But unless I got stuck, I’ve never really re-written a scene to make it different. I did add a few though.

      Maybe you just need a nice little break or a different source of inspiration? I went out of my usual hunts and I have to say manga/anime and male pole dancers have proved very effective 😀

      Reply to this comment
      • Marj
        Marj January 07, 14:42

        Male poledancers. I hadn’t thought of that inspiration. I’d definitely best try it. 🙂

        Reply to this comment
        • Alina Popescu
          Alina Popescu Author January 08, 01:04

          Oh that led to a demon pole dancer. Incubus 😀 Blake turned out just perfect and he was inspired by my favorite pole dancer 😛

          Reply to this comment
  5. Tesa
    Tesa January 08, 17:44

    I really enjoyed this post! I think its funny that as someone who builds worlds with words, I expected some creative “standard” to write. I have read info from authors who say they re-write no less than 6 times. (Yikes!) And sadly, I tried it, but it just didn’t work for me. So I learned that there is no one thing that works for every writer (except writing). Now, I focus on getting the story out, then I do a run-through for correcting SPAG, and one to check plot mechanics.

    Reply to this comment
    • Alina Popescu
      Alina Popescu Author January 09, 00:19

      Yes, that is quite funny actually! We do try to take some pretty rigid frameworks and apply it to something that rarely fits any one standard. That’s pretty much how I go about it. And reading a manuscript once or twice did not use to make me feel like I was doing it right. it took me a bit to learn 😀 And I still think I might be ‘faking it’ at times.

      Reply to this comment

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