Monday, June 8, 2015

The Rewrite!

“All Writing is Rewriting”
-John Green

“Rewriting is a pain in the…”
-Paul Heingarten

I don’t know about you, but of all the parts of the writing process there are, re-writing is a strong contender to be my least favorite.  The forming of ideas, characters, themes, plot elements and weaving them together… lots of fun.  But after everything it takes to put a story of any length together, isn’t it enough?

Isn’t it… done yet?

When I wrote my first manuscript, I had little to no knowledge of the writing process like I do now.  I was at least several months out from finding the Bayou Writers Club for one.  The school training I’d had for writing of any kind came from one creative writing class in grade school and the writing for TV/Newspaper/Radio in college.  I could write a sentence but the concept of editing was not really something I dealt with much.  Tweaks for news stories, OK.  But when I worked for the school newspaper I relied on others, the copy editors, for more in-depth editing.

Fast forward to now, and I’ve been establishing a method for writing.  I wouldn’t say I’ve embraced it, but I’ve found a way to at least get through it.

Last year, my wife Andrea and I went to Comicpalooza, an annual comic convention in Houston, TX.  There, we saw a presentation from Pamela Fagan Hutchins, an award winning author of several bestselling books (Her website is  This particular presentation dealt with rewriting.

I’ve incorporated much of what Pamela spoke about in her presentation.  Here’s a list of several items I use when I rewrite:
·       Start from the beginning of your manuscript and work your way forward page by page until the end.  Maybe this is redundant or obvious to most of you, but when I was just trying to rewrite something, I was hopping around the pages, trying to catch things.  No.  Front to back.
·       If you add things to your story: characters, plot elements, etc… do you follow through the entire manuscript with them?  Don’t let something major you added for resolving the plot go unexplained until the end like a Deus Ex Machina.
·       Have you met your story objective?  Has the plot been resolved satisfactorily?  Good or bad endings for characters aside, make sure things get wrapped up to some kind of resolution.
·       Does a scene matter?  Does it help move the story along?  If not, remove it.
Those are a few points I look for.  There are more but I think you’ll find as you start to rewrite, you will develop your own method for what you look for and change.  Like anything, practice makes perfect… or just better than before.

Another thing I do on my rewrites is to not try and get it done on a single rewrite.  Again, maybe this is redundant to some of you as well.  But I’ve been a “planner” writer more or less since I’ve started writing novels.  And as a planner, I always have some small feeling in the back of my head that when I’m done writing the story, it’s done.  And when I’m done on a rewrite, it’s done.

The way I got away from that mindset is to do my rewrites in passes.  In other words, when I start on a rewrite, I make up my mind to look for either one thing or a small collection of things in my manuscript.
Here’s how that might look:
·      Pass 1: Add scenes that I’ve come up with for beefing up the story.  Make sure the parts of the story the new scenes might affect are also adjusted so each new scene is now a needed part of the story, not just added fluff.
·      Pass 2: Check the dialogue for all characters.  Make the dialogue less formal.  Break up the lines of dialogue if necessary so each character doesn’t speak a soliloquy each time they say anything.
·      Pass 3: Make sure your characters each have a distinctive voice.  Perhaps you can give one of them a catchphrase they use a lot, or maybe an accent, etc.
I think you get the idea.  Of course, every story is different so I don’t use the exact same list of passes I mentioned each time.  But I think multiple passes is what finally got me to get through the tall (but necessary) task of rewriting my projects.

Happy rewriting!

Paul Heingarten

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