The Art of the Rewrite
The novelist John
Irving says, on average, he
spends a third of his time writing and two thirds rewriting.
talent as average but thinks that his determination to perfect his work
the first draft is probably what has made him a successful writer.
In the publishing
industry, the author Ken
Follett is famous for his ability to rewrite his manuscripts to target
the needs of his audience.
He has a habit of showing his early
anyone who will read them because he believes everyone's opinion has
especially when he's creating a book that's meant to be a bestseller.
Follett He has
been known to rewrite novels extensively – almost completely -
feedback: developing character relationships, removing plot threads and
tightening up the story over and again, prior to the final publication
As a wannabe
fulltime writer, you should be inspired by these examples.
Way back in time,
F. Scott-Fitzgerald was
apparently once found hunched over the printer's block of one of his
rearranging the letters, just before the book went to print.
Perfectionism is a
healthy trait in writers
- as long as it doesn't stop you from finally letting go when the time
your own rewriting, consciously
be aware of your target audience and make any changes you believe will
your reader's experience of your book.
love you for it!
no doubt know you’ve done a
much better job, and you’ll be more pleased with the final
product if you
really care about what you’ve written – and thought
carefully about the words,
the structure and, most importantly, how you believe your reader will feel about your writing.
must be ruthlessly erased
from the final manuscript.
You might say you don't know when you're being
I don't believe it.
When you look back over your work, you
deep down, what has to go.
Trust your instincts.
Fact is, and this may
know, that there never was a book or piece of writing that didn't
Plus, don't think that
just because you've
completed a second or third draft of your magnum opus - and that you've
read it a thousand times - that it doesn't need editing again - by
perhaps, at some point, by another writer.
I currently have
only two people in my life
that I trust to edit my work.
One, my wife,
Robyn, herself a successful
children's writer and a person obsessed with clarity in writing and a
for grammar, tense, and sense.
Two, my friend and
fellow writer, Chris
Ryall. He's a budding thriller writer with an inbuilt radar for what's
and wrong when it comes to logic, flow, and impact.
Chris has done many
first edit passes on my
work and I value every comment and/or adjustment he makes to my
In the past I've
done Google searches to
find good editors. I’ve worked with a few – and I credit
them in my books when
I use them.
struggling to find an editor
yourself, I think the best way to go is to seek out people you think
able to help you BUT consciously work on improving your editing skills
yourself, all the time.
You eventually want
to reach the stage that
all you really want is someone to proof your material.
If your work
a good edit by your second or third novel, you're probably not learning
that you could.
And learning how to edit your own material is
caring about what you do.
Some legacy publishing
editors do a lot more than proof your books.
Often in-house editors are
ruthless book doctors who may rip your manuscripts to shreds during the
process – especially if they believe you have a bestseller in
If you're one
of those people who believe
that editors are there to fix your
writing, then you probably don't care enough about your writing - and
you shouldn't be doing it!
But that's just me.
There's no excuse for
being sloppy and then relying on others to fix your work for you.
Because the fact
is, if your manuscripts
don't work before an editor gets to
work on them, then generally no amount of work will make them any
Give your work the
attention to detail it
everything: every word, every
sentence, every paragraph, every section and every chapter, all the way
Always do your
best. And resolve to get
better with each new project.
It’s the only
way to stay ahead – and stay