May 12, 2013

Knowing when to rewrite

There comes a time when a rewrite -  a complete tossing-away of the original MS - is necessary. In fact, it's been my experience that most successful authors do this at some point. The first draft is the draft you write to get into the world. The first draft is for YOU. Yes, you can revise. Yes, sometimes it's successful.

But more often, it requires multiple revisions to shape a story. I did six revisions before a rewrite of my latest MS. SIX.  Believe me, the idea of a rewrite after all that time and hard work did not make me jump for joy.

So, how do you know when to start over? Here are the four biggies:

1. There's a major plot hole. It could be the villain's motivations (or lack of). It could be the premise is too impossible for readers to swallow. It could be a major character isn't strong enough to carry the action.  Fixing this plot hole will cause your entire MS to shift as if the earth has moved. A revision won't cut it.

2. Readers don't connect with the voice OR the main character is unlikable. Perhaps it's too snarky or removed from the action, or there's not enough deep POV to keep a reader engaged. Perhaps the main character has a flaky personality that doesn't lend itself to overcoming the tension in the story. Either way, this problem is a draft-killer.

3. You have a serious structural problem (aka your pacing is too slow). This is where pantsers realize that outlining isn't optional in certain genres. Pacing is key in any story. Each chapter should build to a peak while still leaving a reader hanging. This is a delicate dance that is akin to brain surgery on a MS. If your draft's brains are screwy, it might be time to jettison your Frankenstein and start fresh.

4. An agent has given you an R&R with instructions that go far beyond a revision. 'Nough said.

If your MS has one or more of the first three, is it worth a rewrite?? That's the million-dollar question, right?
Well if you...

love, love LOVE this story, go for it.

If there's nothing else on the market, or that you've seen queried in contests similar to yours, go for it. 

BUT if you haven't ever:

gotten a request, had anything more than a form reject for a full submission, and if the market is saturated with your premise, it might be time to shelve. Seriously, don't beat a dead horse. Moving on may be the smartest career move you'll ever make.

Hope this helps!


ilima said...

Great tips!

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Sometimes the toughest medicine is the best cure. Excellent advice. said...

It took six manuscripts before I found the one I loved enough to rewrite. And it was worth it! The other five are sitting in a bin for the one day I may decide to go back and revisit them. Good post. -RB Austin

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

Excellent advice, Melodie. I love this! Once again I say: writing novels is not for the faint of heart!