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In Defense of Rewrites

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cabarrett
(@cabarrett)
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Posted by: @agathon

When I was learning figure sculpture, I used ceramics as the medium. I can assure you, there are no, count them, zero rewrites in ceramics. So if I didn't like something I my only choice was a do-over. I made dozens of some things. I went through an 'Ogre' series, a 'Mermaid' series, a 'Steroid Abusing Barbarian' series, a 'Dragon' series. All of it developed skill.

This is why I defend rewrites. I understand my writing process through the visual art I've done, and when painting, recognizing that something on the easel has become smudgy and overworked and reaching for a fresh canvas does not mean changing subjects. In fact, the second attempt to execute the same idea often has confidence and economy because of the work put in earlier. So I often just open a new document and retype between early drafts, making the words flow and removing unnecessary information. Very much like what Dustin's about to do, telling the story again after I am done changing the story. And if it's unsold and I think it's cool, I keep bouncing the idea around, slightly changing and repeating it in a series.

I do believe that everyone has to find their own groove for creative work. Iterating seems to be part of it for me in all mediums, and I find it interesting that Wulf writes fresh and he's also a watercolorist.

Vol36 - HM
Vol 37 - Finalist (upcoming on Podcastle), HM (published by Mysterion)
Vol38 - Q1 SHM, Q2 HM, Q4 pending...

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Posted : May 3, 2021 7:31 pm
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czing
(@czing)
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Posts: 196

With my short stories I don't think I've ever successfully "rewritten" one. Substantial edits for sure but not a wholesale rewrite. My novels I'm right now staring that rewrite prospect in the face and having a really hard time getting started. There is a desire to cling to the exceedingly few great things in them and I think that is blocking me from being able to get down to rewriting them.

And now that I think about it I have a few shorter stories that I think NEED rewrites to be any good and they also are mouldering on the virtual shelf in my computer.

I need the wisdom of the re-writers! Would you say there is a "trick" to getting started with a rewrite? Are you a pantser or a plotter with new writing? Does that change when it comes to the rewrites? How much/little do you reference the original work?

v36 Q1, Q3 - HM; Q4 - R
v37 Q1 - R; Q2 - SHM; Q4 - HM
v38 Q1 - HM; Q2 -SHM; Q3 - P

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Posted : May 9, 2021 8:08 am
Dustin Adams
(@axeminister)
Gold Member
Posts: 995

Rewrite is done, and story is with critters.

Unless they find loads to loathe, I'm going to wrap this one up soon and start looking at Q4.

2x Finalist
2x Semi
6x Silver
9x HM
1 of 6 SilverHM. 1 of 3 DSF: Short Stories. My Finalist #1 Finalist #2 coming soon in 4th & Starlight

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Posted : May 9, 2021 4:13 pm
Agathon
(@agathon)
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Posted by: @czing

I need the wisdom of the re-writers! Would you say there is a "trick" to getting started with a rewrite? Are you a pantser or a plotter with new writing? Does that change when it comes to the rewrites? How much/little do you reference the original work?

It depends. The only thing I can say about the method that follows is I like the story better when it's been through this process. My latest stories need less rewriting than the early ones did. I guess the trick is knowing what needs rewriting. I use beta readers and a critique group.

With new writing, I have to start with an idea but it can be pretty vague. I write the story until I get to the end, then daydream about it, preferably when I first wake up in the morning. Sometimes I'll leave it a week. During that time, I'm reading information on how to improve as a writer. I'll look the story over again, then once it's been critiqued, there'll be a list of issues that need to be addressed. After rewriting, the story usually gets another critique. Repeat as required. My recent sale was the first story I ever wrote. It stayed the same in spirit but the emphasis shifted around a lot. It went through this process more than a dozen times.

I have a story that was written in 1st person, I'm going to rewrite it 3rd person, which will be easier than starting from scratch. Everything will happen in the same way and in the same order and I'm looking forward to what I might learn from the rewrite.

I hope that helps.

Agathon McGeachy
Figure Sculptor, Mechanical Designer, Reformed Rakehell, Writer
Vol 37, Q2: HM
Vol 37, Q3: HM
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Vol 38, Q1: R
Vol 38, Q2: the waiting is the hardest part
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Topic starter Posted : May 10, 2021 12:56 pm
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DoctorJest
(@doctorjest)
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Posted by: @czing

I need the wisdom of the re-writers! Would you say there is a "trick" to getting started with a rewrite? Are you a pantser or a plotter with new writing? Does that change when it comes to the rewrites? How much/little do you reference the original work?

For me, I think the one area where I've had some success (and note, the word success here comes with heavy caveats) is when I abandon the original story's details, and just take the seeds of the idea that drove me to write it originally. Most of the time, if a story I wrote failed, the issues with it run deeper than just language selection or the specific way I wrote it. Rather, the story I chose to hang from the ideas I'd had didn't live up to them, and if I rewrite it on that basis, it'll suffer from the same flaws.

So when I do rewrites, usually of stories I set aside years ago, the rewrite rarely resembles the story it's based on in more than just the basic concepts that drove it. As for pantser versus plotter, well...I've been both, and I'm experimenting at the moment to try and figure out exactly where the right balance is for me there. I suspect that both of them have their place for me, but that I do better with something inbetween the two--enough of a sense of what the story will do and how to be able to write it, but not to the James Patterson extent of an outline being damn near a whole scene-by-scene synopsis of the novel he's going to write. I tried that, but ultimately I never found writing the long version any fun--it seemed that the outline work had consumed all my enthusiasm for creating the story.

R: 0 / HM: 8 / SHM: 4 / SF: 0 / F: 1
Currently in for Q3.V38 and Q4.V38 / Q1.V39 20% done on draft 1
Last result: SHM for Q2.V38
Revised SHM ('Ashwright') at PodCastle
Revised HM ('The Winds of the Mind') forthcoming at Abyss and Apex, ~October 2023

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Posted : May 10, 2021 8:56 pm
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SwiftPotato
(@swiftpotato)
Silver Star Member
Posts: 555

Oh, rewrites. That's been a Thing for me lately, as a couple of our fellow forum members can confirm 😬 

Every story is a different beast. Every rewrite will, as a result, be a different beast. Smile Personally, I try to look at what moments I felt were strongest in the original, the points that held the essence of what I love enough about the story to rewrite it rather than trunking it. They don't all have to make it into the rewrite, but for me, most if not all of them will, or I feel I'll lose that intangible something that made the story what it was. And then I look at what the weakest points of the story were and I yank those out and see what they need, whether it's brain surgery or a few slices or organ transplants. And what comes out will be a total frankenstory, but that's fine, because that's what editing is for! Some stories need it more than others. That is totally fine. Yellow and Pink got sent to WotF after probably five drafts. Last Letters (Zombies Need Brains) had the entire last 2,300 words ripped off and rewritten before I sent it out. Static (Cossmass Infinities) needed the whole character arc smoothed out. Pull (PodCastle) needed 400 words chopped off before it sold. 

Tl;dr: do what the story needs. There's never going to be one monolithic process by which you can rewrite every story, because they're all weird in their own ways, and that's what makes them good! Just don't get caught up rewriting one story over and over again if you can help it, because after a certain point, a story will have taught you all it can teach you already. 

R, 3rd place Q4 v36!!!
Stories in Apocalyptic, Cossmass Infinities, and Podcastle

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Posted : May 14, 2021 8:23 am
Scott_M_Sands
(@scott_m_sands)
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Posts: 158

Someone may be able to clarify for me--when you say a second (third, fourth, etc) draft, do you mean completely re-writing the whole thing from scratch? That's the vibe I'm getting from some. I certainly edit like mad, sometimes chopping whole scenes or changing the opening. But I can't think of a story that I've gone right back to the start and completely re-written. I think I just start a new story.

I've also written a couple of (as yet unpublished) novels. Serious edit? Mulitiple serious edits? sure. But I don't think I could possibly go back and re-write the entire thing from scratch.  hmmmm  

"Many people will tell you that you can't write. Let no one say that you don't." -Ken Rand
V36-37: R x6
V38: R, HM, P

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Posted : June 9, 2021 6:25 am
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storysinger
(@storysinger)
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Posts: 880

When I read one of my stories I have to keep my hands to myself to control my CES(compulsive editing syndrome). It seems I always find something to change that is probably better left as is. Just saying.

Today's science fiction is tomorrow's reality-D.R.Sweeney
HM-V32/Q3
HM-V36/Q4
HM-V38/Q1

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Posted : June 9, 2021 9:37 am
Dustin Adams
(@axeminister)
Gold Member
Posts: 995

I rewrote my Q3 from scratch - twice.

Is it better? <shrug>. I am partial to the first draft myself. But I'ma not ignore all my critters saying the same thing.

It's an odd thing starting over, but as frustrated as I sound when I start, the frustration is not getting it "right" the first time, not the work. I'd rather be up and at my keyboard than sleeping or watching TV. So, rewrites don't bother me.

2x Finalist
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9x HM
1 of 6 SilverHM. 1 of 3 DSF: Short Stories. My Finalist #1 Finalist #2 coming soon in 4th & Starlight

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Posted : June 9, 2021 12:48 pm
Cray Dimensional
(@craydimensional)
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Posts: 152

@axeminister Rewrites for me were fun once I got past the fact that I had to rewrite. I hope I can read your 3rd quarter in the next volume.

Small steps add up to miles.
V38: R, R, P

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Posted : June 9, 2021 3:03 pm
DoctorJest
(@doctorjest)
Silver Member
Posts: 361

I think rewrites can be fun, if you come at them as a full rewrite with new ideas, or with the idea that it may be better written from a completely different POV or in a different tense. In that case, it's a lot like writing a new story, as everything feels fresh, which I think is important for any piece of writing. But if you're just trying to rewrite the same thing you wrote before, only to try and do it better, it can be heavy to do--I find that difficult even when I'm just rewriting a passage of text that I lost thanks to a computer freeze-up.

I've tried rewriting the same story, without major alterations to the concept, from scratch before, and I'm invariably frustrated not far into the process--but that may just be me. I get no pleasure out of that process, and I find that it stilts and stifles my writing when I'm in a place like that. I have to step back from the original story and change an idea, add a new idea, or otherwise twist the concept, otherwise I won't get the best out of any rewrite. 

R: 0 / HM: 8 / SHM: 4 / SF: 0 / F: 1
Currently in for Q3.V38 and Q4.V38 / Q1.V39 20% done on draft 1
Last result: SHM for Q2.V38
Revised SHM ('Ashwright') at PodCastle
Revised HM ('The Winds of the Mind') forthcoming at Abyss and Apex, ~October 2023

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Posted : June 9, 2021 7:46 pm
Scott_M_Sands
(@scott_m_sands)
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Posts: 158
Posted by: @doctorjest

I've tried rewriting the same story, without major alterations to the concept, from scratch before, and I'm invariably frustrated not far into the process--but that may just be me. I get no pleasure out of that process, and I find that it stilts and stifles my writing when I'm in a place like that. I have to step back from the original story and change an idea, add a new idea, or otherwise twist the concept, otherwise I won't get the best out of any rewrite.

I think it's similar for me that I'd be frustrated not far in. Stepping back may work, though.

"Many people will tell you that you can't write. Let no one say that you don't." -Ken Rand
V36-37: R x6
V38: R, HM, P

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Posted : June 9, 2021 8:48 pm
Dustin Adams
(@axeminister)
Gold Member
Posts: 995
Posted by: @craydimensional

@axeminister Rewrites for me were fun once I got past the fact that I had to rewrite. I hope I can read your 3rd quarter in the next volume.

Thanks Cray.

You're one of the few who saw the "living draft". The current one is more page turning, I hope. Eh. Guess we'll find out in four months. Smile

 

2x Finalist
2x Semi
6x Silver
9x HM
1 of 6 SilverHM. 1 of 3 DSF: Short Stories. My Finalist #1 Finalist #2 coming soon in 4th & Starlight

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Posted : June 10, 2021 6:58 am
Joel C. Scoberg
(@joel-c-scoberg)
Advanced Member
Posts: 38

I find if I rewrite something with an element of humour, the rewrite can kill it off. Whether that is because I have read and fiddled with it too often and it takes away the punch and spontaneity, I don't know, but it can lead the story to fizzling out (to me).

I do struggle rewriting generally, as I can lose interest in the story. I am trying to learn some discipline to push through this feeling and stick with it. When I have, the stories have improved. It's just remembering that my idea won't be perfect or as I imagined it first time round and sticking at it, editing and refining until it becomes what I imagine or closer to it.

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Posted : June 10, 2021 1:22 pm
Scott_M_Sands
(@scott_m_sands)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 158
Posted by: @axeminister

Guess we'll find out in four months.

That part pains me sometimes. I think, "Yes! I've got this great story!"

And how good is it when put to the test? Oh, got to wait a few months. (I'm totally not complaining about that length of time for the judges to get through all the stories- they have so many! Just means we don't know until then)

I'm sure each little victory with HMs etc. is worth the wait.

"Many people will tell you that you can't write. Let no one say that you don't." -Ken Rand
V36-37: R x6
V38: R, HM, P

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Posted : June 10, 2021 11:06 pm
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
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Posted by: @joel-c-scoberg

I find if I rewrite something with an element of humour, the rewrite can kill it off. Whether that is because I have read and fiddled with it too often and it takes away the punch and spontaneity, I don't know, but it can lead the story to fizzling out (to me).

I do struggle rewriting generally, as I can lose interest in the story. I am trying to learn some discipline to push through this feeling and stick with it. When I have, the stories have improved. It's just remembering that my idea won't be perfect or as I imagined it first time round and sticking at it, editing and refining until it becomes what I imagine or closer to it.

That’s the danger of the rewrite, and even the heavy edit. You think you’re polishing, when in fact you can be grinding off the very thing that made it unique. The inspiration that made you write the story is in the first draft. Be careful you don’t lose the shine by running a grinder instead of a buffer over the delicate finish.

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Posted : June 11, 2021 8:35 am
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
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Posted by: @scott_m_sands
Posted by: @axeminister

Guess we'll find out in four months.

That part pains me sometimes. I think, "Yes! I've got this great story!"

And how good is it when put to the test? Oh, got to wait a few months. (I'm totally not complaining about that length of time for the judges to get through all the stories- they have so many! Just means we don't know until then)

I'm sure each little victory with HMs etc. is worth the wait.

If we bare our souls and put our heart into the pages we write, that’s a good thing. The problem for aspiring writers is that their level of craft may not be there yet to the level a professional editor would consider it for publication, which is what a win in this contest means. A humble writer recognizes this and works hard to improve their craft, as I know you and others here are doing. A proud writer says I wrote, this is genius, and the editors are fools for not seeing the greatness of my words. They go nowhere, because they refuse to see that to become a master, you must apprentice and learn your craft through much study and practice, hopefully under the tutelage of a master. 

That’s the beauty of this contest, the online writing workshop, and this forum. It gives one access to professionals that can teach you the skills required to turn out professional work. You get guidance to direct your blows properly, so they hit the target.

There’s an excellent article on this subject coming out this Sunday in DreamForge Anvil magazine by WotF winner, Scot Noel. Don’t miss it!

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"Super-Duper Moongirl and the Amazing Moon Dawdler" wins WRITERS OF THE FUTURE VOL. 35 & BEST SF&F STORY OF 2019. Order WotF Volume 35 HERE!
“Muzik Man" in Deep Magic Fall 2020 wins BEST SF&F STORY of 2020
NEW! Don't miss the Super Secret "Character Agency: I Need a Hero!" in DreamForge Anvil Magazine!
JUST RELEASED! BEST OF DEEP MAGIC ANTHOLOGY TWO! Three Super Secrets Workshop members made it into this best of the best anthology! KD Julicher, Brittany Rainsdon, and some guy named Wulf Moon. Click HERE to get yours!
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Posted : June 11, 2021 8:52 am
Cray Dimensional
(@craydimensional)
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Posts: 152

@wulfmoon I have to admit the wait time is tough, but I was glad to receive feedback from the forum. You can't learn without it. 

Small steps add up to miles.
V38: R, R, P

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Posted : June 12, 2021 7:43 am
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storysinger
(@storysinger)
Gold Member
Posts: 880

I can say with certainty that interacting with fellow forumites has advanced my skill set more than any other avenue of study.

I recommend immersing oneself into the Super Secrets and enlisting the aide of the many members willing to help. Just Do It!

Today's science fiction is tomorrow's reality-D.R.Sweeney
HM-V32/Q3
HM-V36/Q4
HM-V38/Q1

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Posted : June 12, 2021 10:43 am
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Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
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Posted by: @craydimensional

@wulfmoon I have to admit the wait time is tough, but I was glad to receive feedback from the forum. You can't learn without it. 

Then you will appreciate Scot Noel’s article on the relation of martial arts  to writing in DreamForge Anvil tomorrow.

JOIN THE WULF PACK! http://the super secrets.com
"Super-Duper Moongirl and the Amazing Moon Dawdler" wins WRITERS OF THE FUTURE VOL. 35 & BEST SF&F STORY OF 2019. Order WotF Volume 35 HERE!
“Muzik Man" in Deep Magic Fall 2020 wins BEST SF&F STORY of 2020
NEW! Don't miss the Super Secret "Character Agency: I Need a Hero!" in DreamForge Anvil Magazine!
JUST RELEASED! BEST OF DEEP MAGIC ANTHOLOGY TWO! Three Super Secrets Workshop members made it into this best of the best anthology! KD Julicher, Brittany Rainsdon, and some guy named Wulf Moon. Click HERE to get yours!
NEXT MASTER CLASSES AT FYRECON ONLINE, NOV. 18-21ST. Click HERE before they are sold out once again!

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Posted : June 12, 2021 10:49 am
David Hankins
(@lost_bard)
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Posts: 140
Posted by: @wulfmoon
Posted by: @craydimensional

@wulfmoon I have to admit the wait time is tough, but I was glad to receive feedback from the forum. You can't learn without it. 

Then you will appreciate Scot Noel’s article on the relation of martial arts  to writing in DreamForge Anvil tomorrow.

Just read that article, excellent analogy. As someone who tried writing alone in my basement, I can attest that getting beat up at competitions (e.g. by a string of agent rejects) was a painful surprise.

Who knew that you have to home your skill against others? Well, apparently all of the people who have actually been successful.

I am really appreciating the content over at Dream Anvil. They have a way of explaining the writing process in relatable and understandable ways. Plus, they publish some pretty good stories too.

Thanks for sharing Wulf!

V38 Q2: HM
V38 Q3: Submitted
V38 Q4: Submitted

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Posted : June 30, 2021 7:43 pm
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
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Posts: 2277
Posted by: @lost_bard
Posted by: @wulfmoon
Posted by: @craydimensional

@wulfmoon I have to admit the wait time is tough, but I was glad to receive feedback from the forum. You can't learn without it. 

Then you will appreciate Scot Noel’s article on the relation of martial arts  to writing in DreamForge Anvil tomorrow.

Just read that article, excellent analogy. As someone who tried writing alone in my basement, I can attest that getting beat up at competitions (e.g. by a string of agent rejects) was a painful surprise.

Who knew that you have to home your skill against others? Well, apparently all of the people who have actually been successful.

I am really appreciating the content over at Dream Anvil. They have a way of explaining the writing process in relatable and understandable ways. Plus, they publish some pretty good stories too.

Thanks for sharing Wulf!

You’re welcome, David. Just like here, DreamForge Anvil is focused on helping and publishing hopeful writers like yourself. That’s because editor Scot Noel is a WotF winner and shares the same principles. They even share the editing process that helps a story reach a publishable level—very valuable. I encourage all to check it out, it’s an important tool to add to your arsenal! Link in my signature.

JOIN THE WULF PACK! http://the super secrets.com
"Super-Duper Moongirl and the Amazing Moon Dawdler" wins WRITERS OF THE FUTURE VOL. 35 & BEST SF&F STORY OF 2019. Order WotF Volume 35 HERE!
“Muzik Man" in Deep Magic Fall 2020 wins BEST SF&F STORY of 2020
NEW! Don't miss the Super Secret "Character Agency: I Need a Hero!" in DreamForge Anvil Magazine!
JUST RELEASED! BEST OF DEEP MAGIC ANTHOLOGY TWO! Three Super Secrets Workshop members made it into this best of the best anthology! KD Julicher, Brittany Rainsdon, and some guy named Wulf Moon. Click HERE to get yours!
NEXT MASTER CLASSES AT FYRECON ONLINE, NOV. 18-21ST. Click HERE before they are sold out once again!

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Posted : July 1, 2021 9:34 am
Scott_M_Sands
(@scott_m_sands)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 158

@wulfmoon

DreamForge is great. Sharing the editing process is such a cool idea.

"Many people will tell you that you can't write. Let no one say that you don't." -Ken Rand
V36-37: R x6
V38: R, HM, P

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Posted : July 1, 2021 6:47 pm
Morgan
(@morgan-broadhead)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 129

This is a really great discussion. I also think it depends on how you define a rewrite. In my own writing, often I don't even know what the story's about until I get the rough draft done (when I'm pantsing) or get the outline done (when I'm plotting). Because I'm one of those writers who uses both tools when I need them (a "plotser"...?). I use my rewrites to fill in plot gaps, take out irrelevant "fluff", add more tension, deepen my characters (now that I know them better), etc. I believe these types of rewrites are 100% vital towards whipping a story into shape and preparing it for submission.

On the other hand, if we're defining rewrites as taking an old story that's already finished and fiddling endlessly with it, trying to make it better, trying to get it to sell, etc., then I think those are 100% a waste of time and energy. Didn't I already do the best I could with it during the time we spent together? But I'm not the same writer that I was when I wrote it. I've grown since then. I've learned more. And hopefully I'm better now. Time to part ways and go after something new. It's like a break-up, really. "No, no, no...it's not you, I swear. It's me!" Cut the ties. No regrets. No remorse. No looking back. No tears. We learned from each other. We grew. Now it's time to just move on.

"If you can do it for joy, you can do it forever."
- Stephen King
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Posted : July 2, 2021 6:56 am
Scott_M_Sands
(@scott_m_sands)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 158

So I can't speak for re-writes of the entire story (while I sometimes do heavy edits, I don't tend to re-write the entire thing), but I did just completely re-write an ending for one of my stories. I actually like the first ending-the setting is nice, wraps up a lot of plot. It even has a semi-humorous aspect that personally strikes my fancy.

But it seemed a bit long and didn't really connect with the heart's desire of my main character.

Now the re-write took it from 1500 words to about 380 words and mostly covered the same stuff. It's much more concise and fulfills my main character's heart's desire much better. I already prefer the new ending-and I rarely argue with a lower word count.

do need to put aside my personal taste regarding the humorous part from the first version. It just doesn't work in the new one. But I'd rather have an ending where the story flows better and works for my readers than one that fails at both but makes me feel better.

smiley

"Many people will tell you that you can't write. Let no one say that you don't." -Ken Rand
V36-37: R x6
V38: R, HM, P

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Posted : July 8, 2021 7:58 am
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