Rewrites are like zombies-- they eat your brains.
Or at least that's what it feels like. I'm buried in rewrites for TUGL, and with my bit of leftover brainpower, I've been thinking about the difference between rewriting and editing.
After I finish my first draft, it feels overwhelming to look at it and know what to do with it. It's such a mess, where do I start? While it's tempting to play with sentence structure and tweak a certain scene and rewrite that awkward description, I leave those alone. At first.
Because here's the thing about rewrites: they're BIG. Even with the fairly extensive outlining and character building I did before I started TUGL, I have changed a lot of the structure of the book in rewrites. I cut over 5,000 words in my last rewrite alone, including entire scenes. I added new words as well, fleshing out a character arc that was practically non-existent. I'm planning on completely changing a scene near the end, and adding another one. On the whole, I've changed probably 30% of my book since the first draft.
Do you guys ever watch Extreme Home Makeover? Most of the time, they just do interior decorating. But sometimes, they add a wing, or knock down walls. I saw one where the house was such a disaster, they knocked it down and rebuilt the entire house.
Big rewrites are like that. You have to look back at your goals and refocus the story around them. You have to rebuild the entire book so it all points in one direction, instead of splatting on the page.
When I think of editing, that's more like doing interior decorating after you build the house. Do I need to tweak this scene so it has more tension? Reword and shorten sentence and paragraph structure? That comes AFTER I make changes on what the character's goal is in this scene, and how they reach it.
I used to think rewriting meant purely interior decorating. I hardly touched characterization after the first draft. My scenes stayed in the exact same order, and I rarely chopped or added to them. I had lovely painted walls, but it was the most sprawling, weak structure you'd ever see. The basic big picture stayed the same, and nearly 99% of the time, that big picture is going to be flawed in your first draft.
Author Aprilynne Pike once said that while you're working on your craft and trying to get published, one of the best things to do is dedicate SIX MONTHS to rewriting your book. If it's going to take six months, it's going to take big changes. And small ones, too. If you want someone to buy a house, interior decorating is important-- but you don't want the house to fall down around them, either.
So, my friends, how do you approach rewrites and editing? Can you make bigger changes to build your dream-book? How do you know what things need to change?