Rewriting: An Overview of the Process

Absolutely one of the best dicussions of story structure I’ve read. Resonates on so many levels for me! I just wrote to a writing group colleague that a story that’s working tells me what it’s about, and I think that sentiment jibes with this discussion. Let me know what you think!


“It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.”

— C. J. Cherryh


The goal of the rewrite is simple, but not easy. You want your story to live. To accomplish this, it’s helpful to have a basic confidence in the arc of your heroine’s journey before getting more specific with character, dialogue, and the refinement of prose. You’re seeking to create a story that amuses and entertains, but also captures some complexity and truth about the human experience.

This is a daunting task because—be honest—there’s a bit of inflexibility in your relationship with your first draft. On the one hand, you fear that if it’s not told as precisely as you imagined it, it won’t work. On the other hand, it feels somewhat unsatisfying as written.

So the biggest challenge in the rewriting is being able to make a thousand little painful paper-cut changes while avoiding…

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Filed under Editing your novel, Learning to write, Myths and Truths for writers, Plot Development for writers, self editing for fiction writers, Writing, Writing and Learning, writing novels

7 responses to “Rewriting: An Overview of the Process

  1. Pingback: New Wisdom from Donald Maass! Make Emotion Work in Fiction | Just Can't Help Writing

  2. “a story that’s working tells me what it’s about…” — I couldn’t agree more, although one has to take care not to be heavy-handed, I think. No one likes a writer who’s didactic, or who feels they have to spell out the theme for the least among us as readers. But by exploring what the characters want from their story (regardless of the random arrangement of plot-bunnies between them and their goal), through the characters own voices and actions, the reader will organically come to understand the overall theme, even if it’s only subtly related to the plot-bunnies at large in the work. This is how a book like “Heart of Darkness” succeeds both as an adventure story and also as a commentary on madness and the evils of colonialism.

    Liked by 1 person

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