Why You Should Rewrite and Not Edit

Congratulations. You’ve just finished a novel. You’ve taken some time to decompress and relax, away from the world of writing, but now you need to dive in and start getting your piece ready for publication.

The first edit. That’s a term I’ve mentioned before, even written a whole post about it. Though looking back on the process I went through then, I should have probably titled that blog post The First Rewrite. Because when it comes down to it, that’s what it really was.

There’s a difference between an edit and a rewrite, and I don’t know if everyone always remembers that. Editing is a broad term meant for modifying, correcting and condensing written material in preparation for publication (at least, that’s what the Google definition gave me I just looked up). Rewriting is slightly different, more specific, I guess you could say. Google defines it as writing something again to alter or improve it. Similar to editing, but yet different.

For writers, we will eventually need to do both editing and rewriting before our manuscript will be publication ready. Most people assume that an edit is the first thing you should do upon finishing a first draft of a manuscript – I like to think differently.

To put it in other words, there’s a difference between polishing up something which is silver and polishing up something which is nickel. Though the nickel may still look nice once it’s all nice and shiny, it’s going to pale in comparison to the polished silver. The silver will hold up better over time, and is more valuable. This is the difference between doing an edit and a rewrite (or a series of rewrites) and THEN the edit. If you simply edit a piece, you’re only polishing up that piece of nickel, which won’t stand out amongst the rest of the field and won’t be a high quality. But, if you take your time and rewrite your manuscript before putting it out there in the publishing world, you’ll wind up with a piece resembling silver – something of value and good quality.

Analogy aside, rewrites really are an integral part of the writing process. Maybe it’s taken you a couple of years to finish your manuscript. Well, chances are your writing style has matured and changed in those couple of years since when you first began it. If you go through and do a rewrite, you can add that maturity to your piece and make it richer – make it better. Most writers don’t like doing rewrites because it takes so much time – and personally to me, it always feels like I’m completely scrapping the however many months of my life I dedicated to writing that draft. Yes, it does take time. And yes, it does feel like you’re throwing away months of good work, but it will also make your final product better. You can learn from your previous draft what worked and what didn’t work and use that knowledge to your advantage. You can stop yourself from making the same mistake again.

I want you to know that it’s not like I believe editing isn’t important – editing is EXTREMELY important to the whole writing process. I just think that edits should occur as a step after the rewriting has been completed.

So there you have it – a quick reason why I believe rewrites should be preferred to a simple edit while in the early stages of your manuscript preparation for publication. As always, if you have anything to add, please feel free to comment below.

Until next time.

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2 thoughts on “Why You Should Rewrite and Not Edit

  1. Very interesting post. I think you make an excellent point. Many writers out there do a re-write and are convinced they’ve edited…whoops! I’m working on the first draft of my first novel and it’s definitely going to go through a lengthy rewrite…now rewrite for me will be: adding scenes, deleting scenes, and moving things around. For instance as I write I realize I need to involve character A more and character B less, that sort of thing. I even have dialogue’s written out in a separate folder that will be inserted at the “appropriate time.” :-).

    I use a professional editor but that doesn’t mean I can’t edit before I send her the ms. I do. Editing takes almost more time than the rewrite! I edit. Then set the ms aside for maybe a week or so then edit again. Gaaaa, it’s as if I hadn’t edited at all. And, editing for me often leads to more rewrite…sometimes…

    So your message is a good one. Thank you so much for sharing. And I’m now following, and I look forward to future posts!

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