Rewrite – Revise – Rework- Retire

13 10 2012

The best writing is rewriting” – E.B.White

It has come to the attention of this blogger that rewriting is not the same as revising. In fact, reworking might resemble revising, but it is a horse of a different color. Can you tell it makes me want to retire?

No, not retire from writing. Retire from rewriting – or maybe reworking. In any case, if I want to create a masterpiece, I had better stick to the revising.

Then revise it and rework it

Rewriting, according to Peter Elbow, author of Writing with Power, one of the textbooks for my feature writing class, is exactly what it sounds like. You write the thing again. No, you don’t cut and paste and rearrange things. That’s revising. To rewrite, you pick up your pen, pencil or typing utensil and write the whole thing over.

Uh – a three page essay might get this treatment, but surely he doesn’t expect the whole novel to be rewritten?

Most of us know something about reworking. This happens when we have all the nuts and bolts of a story on the page. We’ve even done a decent job writing using concise and powerful language. But something’s missing. It’s not smooth sailing from start to finish.

This is where reworking comes into the picture. That cut and paste feature on the word processing software burns rubber on those pages. Roget’s Thesaurus sidles up beside this flurry of activity and offers up unique verbiage. A minute amount of excess fat gets lasered off in the process.

For writers, it’s revising that makes us look professional. Revision is the process of looking over or manuscript in order to correct and improve it. Fatty scenes that add nothing to the plot meet the delete key. Passive language scampers off the page, chased by its active counterpart.

Every scrap of writing that’s meant for an editor’s eyes should be revised five or more times. I can hear all my students whining in unison over this pronouncement. And you, dear reader? What’s your response to such an astronomical estimate?

I have to wonder: is writing ever done? I know I can always find some way to improve what’s been written. The first read-through is probably about glaring errors and the story line. On second glance, I’m circling weak verbs, over-used words and repetition in types of sentence constructions.

Writing is never done. It’s just due.” –William Zinsser, On Writing Well

I haven’t even focused on making the language sing yet. There’s no chance this writing is ready to meet an agent or editor.

Of course, it might be time to retire. I mean, put the manuscript on the shelf for a week or two and work on something new. When you pick it up later, you’ll be able to look at it with fresh eyes and see weaknesses in the prose that went unnoticed before.

What’s your advice on revising? Do you ever rewrite? How helpful is reworking? How do you know when it’s time to retire the manuscript (maybe forever)? Your opinions matter on this blog.

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3 responses

14 10 2012
likeitiz

I’ve had my share of revising, rewriting, reworking. But, I have not ventured into the writing of a novel. I’ve done mostly essays and short stories. I don’t think I’m ready for a novel, although I have put away some outlines of story and character lines. I admire people like you who have begun the journey. It’s such a commitment. I say this because I know how all-consuming it can get. Good luck to you in your quest.

If it might help, sometimes, it may be good to leave something be for a period of time then come back to it with a fresh outlook. It may take days or weeks though. In the meantime, you can write something else. I don’t know if you have a time frame for this particular piece.

14 10 2012
sharonhughson

Yes, taking a break from a project for a short time is often a great way to get new perspective. Right now I have a hole in my story because I haven’t decided how a certain encounter is going to happen, so I just skipped that scene and went on as if it had happened. I’m also coming up on the final turning point in my story, and I’m not sure how I’m going to handle it either. But, I have 21,000 words on the page and that’s exciting!

I would like to be able to hand a revised copy of my manuscript to a 7th grade language arts teacher at the school where I work. She has offered to read it aloud to one of her classes, so they will be my beta readers and give me feedback from my intended audience. That will be priceless information.

Sent from my iPad

12 11 2012
Advice For Novelists: Via F. Scott Fitzgerald « ProgressDaily

[…] Rewrite – Revise – Rework- Retire (middleagedcoed.wordpress.com) […]

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