The dreaded rewrite has always struck me as one of those dirty little secrets no one tells you about when you begin a career.
Take for instance the kids who dream of working at the zoo. They romanticize about working with animals, but nobody tells them how often they’ll need to sidestep manure (or the size of elephant dung).
Every job has an unglamorous side. Fire fighters battle fires, and celebrities contend with the paparazzi. Writers fear the rewrite.
I don’t know a writer who doesn’t cringe at the thought of reworking a chapter. If you think editors relish asking for a rewrite, think again.
No editor wants to break out that red pen a second (or tenth) time.
As a writer myself, let me go on record saying I hate rewriting. It stinks compared to the thrill of the first draft—the euphoria of plotting a story or giving birth to an idea to the page.
We all adore the beginning stage of a writing project. I like to call this “the Disney phase” because it reminds me of Disneyland—effervescent happiness tied together with iridescent rainbows.
But rewriting, on the other hand, reminds me of building Disneyland—not vacationing there. It feels like we’ve joined a sweaty construction crew and been asked to drive dozers through the dirt and hoist steel beams into place.
Not to mention that working with an editor can resemble communicating a thousand details over walkie talkies.
But if we embrace the editing process, we’ll see a theme park slowly rise out of the dust. Like building a park full of rollercoasters, rewriting requires time, patience, and work.
Rewriting distinguishes the good writers from the great writers.
I’ve never met a manuscript that didn’t need tweaking. Even Pulitzer Prize winners need editors.
But what do we do when rewriting means starting from scratch? When (not if) this happens, take five minutes for a little trash-can basketball. Then restart.
So stop fearing the rewrite—instead, embrace it. Tell yourself the truth—it needs the strength and clarity that come through rewriting.
Don’t quit when your editor mouths the fearful word, rewrite. Instead get to work. Drag in some better verbs. Take the wrecking ball to awkward sentence structure. Level flailing chapters and build a stronger story.