Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rewrite, rewrite...

Anny's definition of rewrites: Starting the book over. Or major revisions of more than six consecutive pages.

I don't often rewrite once I've started a book, but I have done so a couple times. I'm what's known as a clean writer (no, get your mind out of the gutter) because I tidy up my work as I go. I tend to be a bit OCD about spelling errors, punctuation, and the odd missing word.

That's not to say there aren't huge plot holes big enough to drive a trailer through. Plot holes might require major revisions so I try to avoid them if at all possible.

And continuity issues (heroine is wearing skirt at beginning of scene in restaurant, but complains about how tight her jeans are in same scene) are relatively rare for me. I am capable of holding a mass of unrelated details in my brain while writing. Just don't ask me to remember where I put my keys or watch.

Now where was I going with this thought...oh, yeah. Rewrites. I confess I just don't get the idea of rewrites--in general. I'm not talking about gentle tweaks here and there. (See definition above.) It's the massive revisions some authors mention/complain about. Working on fifth round rewrites...should be done with this round in three weeks.

No. At that point the book would be deleted, merely a bad memory. I avoid that by invoking time. If the story is not working, I set it aside and work on something else. Hence the usual three or four works in progress I have running. When one isn't working, it goes on the back burner for two or three weeks (or in one case, two years). When I get to it again, I'm able to read it with a fresh eye and decide what the problem is.

In the meantime, I've maintained productivity by working on something else while the old brain has simmered a raft of possible ideas. I find as I get older, it takes longer for full-fledged ideas to bubble to the top.

I think the thing that puzzles me the most is the sheer futility of working, working, working on a story that isn't cooperating! Why? Why not set it aside and put all that effort into something productive?

Several authors have declared they can't possibly work on more than one story at a time. Okay. My style is not for everyone. But if that one story is not working, why not move on? I suppose I just feel my time is too limited to spend it working on a story that's not going anywhere.

What about you? What's your working style--and why?



  1. I'm like you -- I tidy up as I go, so when I finish a book, I'm relatively sure it won't require rewrites. I, too, am stumped by those who complain about their edits. Maybe we just have so many ideas percolating that we can move around from one to another easily?

  2. I'm with you. I can't rewrite four or five times. If something doesn't work I move on to another story until it does. :)

  3. I can occasionally work on more than one story at a time, but I prefer not to do it.
    Rewriting? I constantly rewrite, but it's the small stuff I'm tweaking, not removing any major scenes.

  4. Well, I consider rewrites to also be...change this scene so that they're not out on the oval but are in the VIP room. Or "move this scene from the hotel room to the concert venue..." Stuff like that ;)

    I do find myself removing large chunks and either filling in gaps or just revising what's left.

    I never 'rewrite' as in "stare at a blank page & start from scratch" though. I always have words on the page to work with, when revising.

  5. I write "clean" also and the majority of my re-writes are really tweaks. I write so slowly that I don't work up enough speed to write myself into a problem that will later need deleting, LOL. Perhaps those authors who are doing major revisions are working with editors who suggest big changes?

    I have tried working on multiple stories as well but so far I haven't mastered that trick. I'm a start-one-thing-and-finish-it kind of person (books, quilts, etc)

  6. I have a random, haphazard jump from one book to the other style that seems to work so why mess with it?

  7. I envy you your ability to keep your details straight:) I'm somewhere in between, I don't do massive rewrites but I do have to go back and clean and tighten.