Rewrites: My Excuses and Tips

Those who follow my Instagram account know that this week I’ve been working on rewrites for book one in my YA supernatural series. I’d actually finished writing this book two years ago and sent what I thought was the best version to a handful of agents, some publishers, and a competition. It was rejected on all fronts.

Knowing there were issues with it, and having no clue how to fix them, I turned to a professional beta reader who pointed out exactly everything that I knew deep down was wrong with the MS but had refused to acknowledge. My excuses why were…

  • Stubbornness. The book was finally complete after years of being stuck in my head. It took a long time to write and edit, and I was sick of looking at it.
  • It’s the first book in a four-part series so I can’t change anything because the others are already written (insert eye roll here).
  • It’s currently still sitting in the slush pile of one publisher (and bound to be rejected because the version they have is terrible).
  • I’d paid good money to have it professionally edited.
  • I’d paid good money to have it professionally assessed.
  • Five different beta readers gave me good enough feedback (although now, myself and the two beta readers who have read all four books, know that this first one is the weakest).
  • I’d rationalized there were enough good parts that the right agent/publisher would see the gold underneath. That doesn’t actually work when the weakest parts are the first three chapters (the only chapters most submissions ask for), and I have the rejections to prove it—you can read them here.

I knew this wasn’t the best version of the book I could write. I’ve since finished the whole series and I know I’m a better writer for it. The current version of the first book doesn’t reflect how I’ve grown as a writer or feature the improvements I’ve made to my writing voice.

To fix it, I sat down and started rewriting, forgetting all the excuses I’d clung to, and now the book is finally working. It shouldn’t have taken a stranger to point out all of the things that I knew were wrong before changing the book, but it did.

Because of this, today’s blog post is short and to the point, because all I really want to do is be a selfish writer and keep working on my book. There will be a longer post about amateur writing mistakes next week (I’ve made plenty of them), but until then, I’ll leave you with the best tips I learned this week when it comes to rewriting…

  • You can change what you’ve written.
  • You can make it better.
  • Trust your own instincts.
  • Write as much as you can while you’re inspired.

— K.M. Allan

18 thoughts on “Rewrites: My Excuses and Tips

  1. Great advice. I hope you’re inspired and working away right now! In order to not cling to what I’ve already wrote during a revision–if I know a scene isn’t working, I glance at what I had in the first version and then just begin again–clean slate. This, rather than having two documents open side-by-side helps me truly re-see a scene, rather than cling to the old stuff.

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    1. Thanks, Rebecca! Great to hear about your process. I usually open a new scene (I work in Scrivener) and write from scratch, look at the old scene to see if there was any important stuff I needed to make sure is still included, and then delete the old.

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  2. I think your excuses are so understandable. It takes such a long time to go from initial idea to first draft, especially completing the draft. It’s hard to admit that some parts need to go/change. I had a scene in my mind from the very earliest stages of plotting, that I loved. I kept working it into the novel, even though it didn’t really fit. I have recently, finally, accepted it and taken it out, but I think there are other scenes that will face the same fate, and I SO won’t be ready to see them go.

    Your advice is, as always, spot on and really helpful especially as I continue to edit. Thank you for another great post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading, M. As I’m rewriting, I’m also finding scenes that either need to be cut or changed. Sometimes it’s a hard thing to let go of, but I think it’s easier when you replace it with something better. That’s the hope, anyway. Good luck as you continue your edits 😊.

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  3. I have the exact opposite problem, I am always re-writing, and I think I may end up with truly worse versions in the end. My first published novel was the one I think I re-wrote the less, although it took me a year of editing and re-reading and analysing before I found the guts to simply self publish it. As for the ones that followed, they were half written waaaaaaay before the other one, and I re-wrote so much of it – especially in Preternatural – that I think I did not do myself any favours. I realised through writing that series that I cannot let things stew far too much, or else I won’t stop re-writing things. Even after I published Unnatural, I went back to re-write a lot of scenes because I was listening to Darkher’s album Realms and it had the exact mood I wanted to convey on the first two novels of the series, I went back to try and infuse that kind of mood into Unnatural – I was writing Preternatural already with that album influencing the overall mood – but I am afraid I might have done it more harm than good. Went through the same thing while writing BLOOD, and actually had to stop myself at a point, because I was re-writing the whole first part daily, and was actually ruining it. Right now, I am catching myself doing the same with both my current WIPs, and because I tend to forever delete what I change in my novels, I fear I may have lost pieces that were actually much better in their earlier versions. QUestion is, when do we know we must stop? I never seem to know that, have had to stop myself from going back to my published novels and tell ,myself that that was how I wrote at that point, that moment in my life, that was who I was, and it must stand as a witness of my work, my evolution as an author, a writer. If I don’t, I will be re-writing it for the rest of my life, and won’t move on to other stories, other books, which is my main goal at the moment. But after reading this post, am actually considering doing a re-write of every single thing I ever published ihihih

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I understand what you’re saying, Ruth. With this book, I was never completely happy with it and the rewrites I’m doing now are changing the parts I disliked the most. Whilst I don’t think writers will ever look at their own work and not want to change things, there comes a point where the best you can do just has to be good enough.

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