Redrafting and rewriting a book are stages of the writing process that don’t seem to get as much attention as they deserve. I love rewriting a book because it’s means I’ve finished with the uncertainty of the first draft. I finally know what the story is and now I can focus on making it better. So, given the popularity of my infographic about writing first drafts, I’ve created an infographic about redrafting and rewriting.
1. Take a Break
Pull up a palm tree and read a good book. Take a break from your manuscript after you finish the first draft. I don’t mean put it down for a week. That’s a recess, not a break. You both need to spend some meaningful time alone.
Some writers worry about this; they think that to take time off working on their manuscript means they’re procrastinating, or that they’ll never be able to get back into their work, that they’ll lose the flow or the voice or some other crucial aspect. On the contrary, your manuscript will be so much the better for taking time away from it. You’ll return to it refreshed, and with lots of new ideas.
2. Read Your Book Like a Bought Book
Sit down and read your manuscript like a reader who’s just bought a great book from a bookshop. Don’t have a pen in your hand. Resist the temptation to make notes in the margin. Just read it from beginning to end to get a sense of it as a complete piece of work.
It’s still not time to get the pen out. If you get the pen out, you’ll get straight down to the small stuff of line editing. What you need now is the big picture stuff of redrafting. You need to, as Jack Hodgins says, re-see your book. Let go of how your manuscript is put together right now. It’s time to break it apart into individual scenes.
You need a way to overview your manuscript, to see a summary of all of the scenes on small cards. Some writers use post-it notes stuck on a whiteboard. Some use index cards spread out on the floor. I use Scrivener’s outliner and Scrivener’s cork board for this.
4. Experiment and Play
Now that you have your manuscript in scenes before you on small cards, or on Scrivener’s cork board, go crazy! Try new things. Put the scenes together in any and all different combinations.
What happens if you put the end at the beginning and the beginning at the end? Do you have the key moments of an inciting incident, complications, a crisis and a resolution and are they in the right place? Move scenes around, and consider what happens to the trajectory of your plot when you do. Play, have fun, give your manuscript a chance to be more than the story you originally conceived of.
5. Make Changes to Your Manuscript
Decide whichever of the crazy scenarios you’ve just tried work best. Commit them to paper. Go in and make the changes to your manuscript. This will likely involve lots of cutting and pasting and moving things around. It will probably involve expanding some scenes and compressing others.
The more ruthless you can be early on, the better your draft is likely to be. If you’re not sure about something, it should probably go. Only keep things in the book that feel absolutely right. If they don’t feel absolutely right, make them right or delete them.
6. Read it Again
You’ve been itching to do it, now you can get the pen out and go wild! Read with pen in hand and mark in all the small things: spelling, grammar, inconsistencies, scenes that go on for too long, scenes that are too short and need to be expanded. Add in new ideas that come to you as you read the book with the new structure you’ve given it in step 5.
Your manuscript should be as colourful as a rainbow, full of markings by the time you’ve finished, otherwise you haven’t read it closely or critically enough.
7. Take in Those Changes
Add in the changes from step 6. You now have a redrafted and rewritten manuscript, not something that’s simply been tinkered with and had a spell-check applied to it. But one redraft isn’t enough. Now you have to …
8. Take Another Break
Get ready to do it all over again in the next redraft.