More Ways To Rewrite Your Novel

I’ve always been more of a rewriter than a writer.

In a lot of ways, that’s a good thing. I write first drafts very fast because I know I can fill in gaps or fix whatever’s not working in rewrites. For the same reason, I rarely get stuck. If you’re not sweating over the perfect word, line, or plot twist, it’s a lot easier to get words on the page.

But it also means I spend a lot more time at the keyboard.

So lately I tried a new way to revise. Comparing it to my previous techniques, it gets me away from the keyboard more and helps me work faster.

First Drafts Are Different

When I first draft, I use dictation software or dictate into my iPhone. I love dictating for several reasons:

  • It helps me write faster
  • It makes my tone more conversational
  • I’m more comfortable standing while dictating than while typing so I break up my many hours of sitting
  • My neck and shoulders ache (and eventually I have serious pain) when I type a lot

But I’ve never found a good way to dictate revisions.

Rewriting At The Keyboard

My first rewrite is typically at the keyboard. I read on screen and correct as I go. These changes include errors from the dictation as well as obvious plot issues, changes to character names, and other problems I noted as I wrote.

This rewrite usually goes very fast. I consider it part of the first draft process, as I don’t feel my initial draft is done until I’ve gone through it once on screen. (I talked about this more in Writing The Zero Draft Of Your Novel.)

After that I print, and here’s where I’ve started varying my process.

Looking At Manuscript Pages

After letting my complete first draft sit a week or two, I print it and read it. I note big picture issues separately and I handwrite in changes.

Over the years I’ve dealt with those handwritten changes two different ways. I’ve entered the changes myself, doing further revising as I go, and I’ve sent them to an off-site assistant.

The last time I sent the manuscript to an assistant it cost me $200 for half the manuscript. While she worked on first half, I entered the handwritten changes myself for the second half.

I’m not sure which way is more efficient timewise.

It was nice to be able to work on my half while she did the other, but I feel I lose something not making the edits myself.

And for both, I found it difficult physically. It amounted to a lot of time in front of the keyboard because for the assistant’s changes, I did a second pass through of my own as well on screen.

A Different Way

For what I hope is my last major rewrite of my current novel, The Charming Man (Book 2 in my Q.C. Davis series), I tried something different.

I printed all the pages and rather than mark them up by hand I read them on paper but typed the changes I wanted directly into the Word version.

Here’s what I liked about this process:

  • Reading on the page rather than on the screen altered my posture, leaving me with almost no neck or shoulder pain despite typing the edits
  • I saw errors on the page that I would have read right through on the screen
  • I saved time because I didn’t need to first handwrite changes and then enter them

What I didn’t like:

  • Nothing

The real test will be what I think of my novel after I set it aside again.

For now, though, I’m pretty sure this rewrite process is one I’ll continue using. It seems easier on my body and my budget (both in a time and money sense) and I feel pretty good about the changes I’m making.

That’s all for now.

Until next Friday, when I’ll talk about figuring out when your novel is finished

L.M. Lilly

P.S. Still working out the plot for your novel? The Free Story Structure Worksheets from Writing As A Second Career might help.