The Business of Rewriting

EditingAs I embark on yet another rewrite, and hopefully the last, on my first screenplay, I’ve been reviewing all the notes I’ve taken on rewriting (from books, articles, webinars) and thought I’d share a few things that should be relevant for all writers.  We’ve all heard it, and I’ve said it a time or two here, that all writing is rewriting.

First off, there should be a distinction made between editing and rewriting.  Editing is working with that final draft to make it great (and ready).  Rewriting is improving each element within your story; characters, dialogue, scenes, using the right words for impact, etc.  According to Dictionary.com – Editing means:

1. to supervise or direct the preparation of (a newspaper, magazine, book, etc.)
2. to collect, prepare, and arrange materials for publication
3. to revise or correct

Whereas Rewriting means:

1. to write in a different form or manner
2. to write again

So we will first rewrite, then edit.  Unless you’re like me, who loves to edit while they write.  Don’t follow my lead.  The first draft should be all the things you hope your story will be.  You should write it from the heart, because the subsequent drafts will be from the head.  The first draft should be free of restrictions, over-thinking, and self-censorship.  You should be carefree and wide-eyed, because it might be the last time you feel that way for the rest of this story.

One of the first lessons I learned in regards to rewriting is to remember “your vision”.  Sometimes while writing our vision gets lost.  Rewriting is the time to get reacquainted with it.  Remember why you wanted to tell this story.  Look for holes, problems with story or structure, forgotten characters (I did this once.  I had a character in the first half of a screenplay who I forgot to use later.  Oh yea, they must have been really interesting.), and logic.  Logic is one of my favorite rewriting techniques, “What would really happen?”  Trying to force a situation to get our characters where we want may make it read false.  How our characters (and people in general) would really respond in any situation is a great way to judge if our story is reading true, and might actually solve some problems we’ve run into.

I primarily write screenplays, so I have a lot of rewriting tips specifically designed for screenwriting which I can share in another post.  I wanted to keep this one a little more broad and offer some sites with helpful tips.  Many I’ve referred to myself.  LitReactor is great.  If you haven’t discovered them yet, take a look.  Use the search bar for editing or rewriting tips and you’ll come across articles like, How To Break Up With Your First DraftWriting Sentences With Impact, or 5 Steps to a Successful Digital Rewrite, in addition to a great many other articles.  The Write Life has articles about 25 Editing Tips, or Write Better Stories By Asking These Questions.  This may be part one in a series, because there is a lot of information out there.

So, if I find anything else, I’ll pass it along.  I hope you’re all having a great and productive week!

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