Friday, November 13, 2009

Preparing to Rewrite (and My Revision Checklist!)

Have you ever rewritten one of your books? I'm not talking about revising, but rewriting one of your manuscripts. Is there a difference?

In my opinion, revising is when you keep the basic concept of the book but tweak and polish it to be the best it can be. Rewriting, on the other hand, is performed when your book has a fatal flaw and needs a major overhaul. When you're finished with it, it is not the same book as you originally wrote.

How do you know if your book needs to be revised or rewritten?
This is where feedback comes in. Maybe you've entered your book in a contest and the judges point out a big issue. Your critique group/partner might highlight a monumental problem. A round of rejections from agents and editors could also give insight.

I recently rewrote a book of mine. The catalyst came from an editor I submitted to. If you have a dream editor/publishing house, and the editor rejects your book and gives you a reason why, pay attention. Do you have to rewrite any of your projects? Of course not! But if you want to get published with a certain publisher and they give you a reason why they are rejecting your book, it's important for you to take this advice for either your future or current project.

Jill's Preparations for Rewriting

1. Gauge my commitment level to the manuscript. I love some of the books I write more than others, and if I'm not excited about the book, I'd be better off setting it aside and writing a new one.

2. Brainstorm possible changes to make the book marketable based on the comments I've been given.

3. Go back to the pre-writing phase and create a scene list based on the new direction of the book.

In my case, the book I rewrote is vastly different from my original version. It turned into a better, more marketable book. I love it, but I also love the old version. In many ways, they are two separate books, and in the end, that's why I found the experience to be rewarding.

Have you ever rewritten a book? If yes, would you do it again? Was the experience positive and informative or was it painful and annoying?

Have you ever gotten feedback you instantly understood to be true, but you weren't certain how to apply it to your current manuscript?

Revision Checklist Alert!

On a side note, many of you expressed interest in seeing my revision checklist. I've included it in a .pdf file, which you can open here: Revision Checklist. It will also be linked at the side for future reference. Feel free to print it out.

A brief explanation of the checklist:

It's broken down into five main parts.
1. I read the draft from beginning to end without making changes. While I'm reading, I jot notes in the file using the comment feature in Microsoft Word.
2. I evaluate each chapter. Many times, I only have problems in one or two areas in each chapter, so although there's a lot in this section, it doesn't take me long to get through.
3. Next is technical issues--mainly word choices, sentence structure, and grammar.
4. The book is very polished at this point, so I feel comfortable having my critique group read through it. As they return chapters, I evaluate their comments and make necessary changes.
5. I read the entire manuscript out loud.

That's it. My revision method. It's time-consuming and a lot of work, but it meets my needs. I love my final drafts!

Have a fantastic weekend!


  1. That's so cool how you made a pdf. I like your process, and mine is somewhat similar, only I read through and make changes, then I print it up and write things in the margins as I read (which is almost like using the comment feature).
    I've never rewritten a book, but I am lengthening some categories into single titles. I think that's somewhere in between rewriting and revisions, because I'm having to add new content that fits in with the old, while keeping my pacing solid, etc. Bleck.
    Not fun stuff, but I think necessary for these particular manuscripts. :-) Have a great weekend!

  2. Thanks Jill! I'm printing it out. This will be a huge help when I finish my first draft.

    I think a rewrite would scare me off more than a revision. But is feedback said it was necessary I would do it. I couldn't afford not to!

  3. Thanks Jill for sharing all of this. I must admit that as a new writer I sometimes get overwhelmed with advice and stop reading 'how to' stuff for awhile.
    I am presently rewriting my first book without getting any feedback on it but my own. I just concluded that it was not any good but I couldn't let go of the original concept. I am getting a little lost in the fog of it all...but can't seem to let go. I appreciate your 'methods' and will probably refer back to it sometime when I can be clearheaded for a change.

  4. I have a feeling my first MS needs to be rewritten but I have placed it on the back burner for now.

    Good luck with all your revisions :)

  5. Thank you for sharing, Jill. I loved reading about your process. I've only polished one book so far, and my process is similar--except I haven't read the whole thing out loud. Hmmm...maybe that's the key. :)

  6. Sometimes we're so close to the work, we don't see something in it someone else does with a fresh look. I've gotten very beneficial feedback that definitely worked to strengthen the story. It seems important to consider suggestions without sacrificing your own intent with the story.

  7. I set out a while back to revise my ms. Well it has definitely turned into rewriting. It's fun. I told one of my beta readers that it was like writing a whole new book. It's work, but it's worth it.

  8. My current rewrites are similar to what you're talking about, but maybe not quite so extensive. I'm definitely not rewriting the book, but going back and threading through or deleting specific areas. Mostly the book is still intact. Hope that makes sense.

    Have a great weekend!

  9. I've not had to rewrite an entire book (yet). I agree you need to feel passionate about the MS to be willing to hack through it entirely and reestablish a newness to it.

    Great revision tips. I'm getting close to passing mine along. I have a hard time reading through the first time w/out slashing and cutting and chopping away...
    ~ Wendy

  10. Good morning!

    Jessica: There's more room for subplots and extra characters in single titles than categories. I hope you have a lot of fun with it!

    Tamika: Well, both scare me off! If I take it one step at a time, I can get through it, otherwise it's too daunting.

    Wendy Love: I know what you mean. I've found that I've modified almost every bit of how-to advice I've gotten. We all have methods that work better for us, so taking blind advice isn't always the best option.

    Marybeth: It's good to throw projects on the back burner sometimes! Have fun with your new project!

    Ralene: Reading it out loud exposes little flaws, like when a word or phrase would be better in another spot. It also reveals choppy dialogue.

    Joanne: I agree. I've been blessed to have people critique my work who I agree with!

    Susan: Yay! I'm so glad you're having fun with your rewrite. It is worth it!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  11. Jody: I love your idea of having a spreadsheet for each chapter when revising. In the book I rewrote, I overhauled both main characters' personalities. Every action and reaction changed based on this. I ended up with two books!

    Wendy: So close to finishing--yippee!! It sounds as if you revise as you go more than I do. I'll bet you have a much more polished final project!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  12. Jill that's a great list or two! I'll be knee deep in revisions in December (and yes the revisions will keep me sane). I always write down a blurb regarding each scene in each chapter so when the book is through I know exactly what happened and when. Easy way to help with the synopsis too. I hate that thing.

  13. As I think you know, I've rewritten Monarch. I've probably said that here before. It took me 5 months. And it was the hardest decision to make - to rewrite it instead of revise, to just close the document and open an entirely new blank document and start completely over. So many words to get through to tell the story again, but better. Those first drafts just had too many problems.

    I'm glad I did it, though. Very, very glad. It was a good experience. Thank you for sharing your revision list!

  14. T.Anne: Oh, I love that idea! Write a blurb for each chapter! Cool!

    Lady Glam: You and I were in revision/rewriting muck at the same time. Did you find you now have two distinct books? The original Monarch and the new one? That was my experience. It was draining but worth it.

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  15. Yes, Jill, they are two very distinct books. Many similarities, but even the characters changed. Interesting experience!

  16. I like how you define revisions verses rewrite.

    I did rewrite my very first story once, and have done a slew of revisions on it since too.

    I'm going to check out your revision checklist. Thanks for sharing it, Jill.

  17. I've printed this checklist off! What a great resource.

    I'll be diving into two complete rewrites in the near future.

    After NaNo..and NaNo revisions. :)

  18. I have one novel that I'm experimenting with rewriting. Changing the POV from third person to first person. I've completed a couple of chapters and I think I'm going to keep going with it.

    I'm doing a big revision on another manuscript, mostly character development.

    These were my first and second attempts at writing novels. I love the premise of each story but know that the execution needs work.

    My third novel, (which is out on submission as of yesterday!), I revised by using Donald Maass's book, Writing the Break Out Novel, as a guide.

  19. Escellent! I am printing it out too:) You've organized it nicely so that we won't forget anything:) Thanks!

  20. Lady Glamis: I thought so. Thanks for stopping back!

    Eileen: Some books just beg to be rewritten, don't they? I'm sure I'll rewrite another at some point.

    Erica: Thanks! And good luck rewriting! After NaNo...

    Paul: Cool! I'm crossing my fingers for you on the submission! Isn't Donald Maass's book incredible?

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  21. Terri: Thanks! Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

  22. Great revision checklist! Thank you for sharing it. I agree most with number one of your list of your preparations for rewriting. There are books I know could be rewritten. They would have to be if I ever wanted to try to publish them. But it's more about what I'm passionate about.

    I've only rewritten one book so far, and the primary reason is because I wrote it before I was a Christian. It still had a message I wanted to get across but it worked even better as an inspirational piece.

  23. Jill, I had many chapters in my MG novel that I went to the end of the chapter and clicked on backspace and erased the entire chapter. The entire middle. Like probably ten chapters. Then I started over.

    I don't want to do that anymore. I want to write the first draft as close to a second draft as I can.

    I am printing out your fantastic revision checklist though. Thank you. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Next week is unplug week. I'll see you after. I need the rest what with my cat's passing.

  24. Great system. I have one book that needs a rewrite and I just can't bring myself to get it done.

  25. On my first novel, just after finishing it, I saw an article where I realized my title had to do with witchcraft (because the title was from a song,I didn't realize this.) So I changed it and some themes that didn't seem right.

    Love the checklist. It's very helpful.

  26. Cindy: Oh yeah! I have a three book series that I loved, but each book would need to be completely rewritten, and I don't have the heart for it right now. Maybe in a few years? At least I know they're always there if I do decide to rewrite them.

    Robyn: I'm so sorry about your kitty. My ultimate goal would be to eliminate most of my revision process. I have noticed that the more I write, the more some problems clear up on their own.

    Amy: Maybe now isn't the time, then. I don't think I could rewrite a book I didn't feel really excited about.

    Nancy: Whoops! I'm glad you found that out!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  27. That checklist is awesome! We have one chapter left till we type the end, so this is very timely for us!

  28. Both of those forms are so tedious. No wonder authors are so committed to their books. We put everything into them!

  29. I just got my baby/WIP back from a manuscript evaluator who pointed a two major flaws in the work that I instantly recognized as being true. I knew even before I sent it that the book still needed work. This will be a rewrite. I know it needs it, but at first I was at a loss on how to put those things in to place. I think the trick is to write your way out of holes. That is what I plan to do anyway:)

    All the best for your writing.

  30. Hi Jill -

    I ran into problems with my first manuscript because it was too short. This necessitated a re-write to add subplots and enhance the setting.

    Writing the second manuscript provided some distance. I think I can go back to it soon with fresh eyes and renewed enthusiasm.

    As always, I'm a SOTP writer. Following a checklist only gives me a headache.

    Susan :)

  31. I've never rewritten a book. If I ever want to publish my first book, I'd have to rewrite it, and I'm just not sure I'm that committed to the story.

    Love your revision process. Sounds very organized. It's motivated me to get organized too! My revision is all over the place!

  32. Jill, thanks for sharing your Revision Checklist. Great resource.

    I'm days away from finishing a major rewrite.

    Was it hard? YES! Admitting how much work the story needed was painful. Realizing the addition of a new, improved beginning rendered most all of the first 50,000 works obsolete hurt. However, cutting five lackluster chapters at the end and replacing them with a far better ending was fun. Yes, fun and rewarding. To see the conclusion of my story go from ho hum to happening was awesome.

    Was it been worth it? YES! I've learned a great deal about myself and my process as well as craft. The story is far better than it was. [Whether it's "good enough" remains to be seen.:D]

    Would I do it again? YES! I enjoy editing almost as much as writing a first draft, so rewrites and revisions don't scare me. I love seeing something I wrote improve before my very eyes.

  33. Lisa and Laura: One chapter left--yay!! Have fun!

    Kristen T: We DO pour everything into them!

    Tabitha: Good plan. I'm glad you had valuable feedback. Good luck!

    Susan R.: I hear you! Not having a detailed plan stresses ME out. We're all different. Good luck on the rewrites--I know you'll do fine!

    Katie: As with all of my writing "helps," I use them with two goals in mind: a better book and a quicker completion. Hope this proves useful!

    Keli: Each time we challenge ourselves, we can't help but further our craft. Pretty amazing, huh? And I don't doubt your book is good enough!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  34. I'm definitely rewriting. I'm cutting out a huge portion of my current MS. The shell of what I wrote is there, but a huge middle section is being thrown out, and I'm deepening the POV. I like it. I wish I had more long chunks of time to work on it instead of small bursts. But it's worth it no matter how it gets done.

  35. Yes, I've done complete rewrites, and usually, they cause the book to blossom into what it's truly supposed to be.

    I love the revision and/or rewrite process. My checklist is very similar to yours, only I focus on specific elements in various drafts.


  36. Heather: Wonderful! I'm so glad revising is going well! The deeper the POV, the better!

    Devon: Welcome! I love how you phrased that, "...blossom into what it's truly supposed to be." What a great way of thinking about it.

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

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