Don’t Fear The Rewrite

Bard by BlueInkAlchemist, on Flickr

The truth that every novelist has to face is that you’re not going to get everything right in the first draft. Nobody does. It’s likely that George Lucas wrote a single draft of his prequel scripts, and look how those turned out. No, multiple drafts is more than just a means of editing out grammar mistakes and adding missed punctuation. If that’s what you’re looking for at this point, by the way, let me direct your attention over yonder to the Writing Haus of Wendig.

What I want to talk about is rewrites.

I’m not saying you’ll need to rewrite your novel, but you will almost certainly need to rewrite part of it.

As you write, your characters are going to grow and change. At least, they should. I’ve talked about this before. The tricky part is, you don’t want that growth to be spontaneous and unexplained. A character’s motivations should begin somewhere in the story. If you trace the character’s plot line from the end to the beginning, and lose track of where a change happens or don’t see it happen at all, it’s time for a rewrite.

Now, the prospect of a rewrite can be intimidating. But the good news is, it’s very unlikely that you’ll have to rewrite the entire work. Chances are, there are one or two areas in the narrative that just need some restructuring, a few conversations that need to be reworked, etc.

Of course, if you do find yourself rewriting great swaths of text, you may want to step back and take a look at the story as a whole. Why was this such a problem? Are you fixing it in the best way? What else will need to change as a result?

Whether you need to rewrite a little or a lot, don’t be afraid to do it. The end result is always going to be better than what you began with. Characters will grow more smoothly, plotlines will advance and complicate organically and your readers will be drawn in further to the world you create. I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing about those prospects I don’t like.


  1. The title of this post reminds me of Don’t Fear they Reaper.

  2. That was the idea.

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