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A Writing Journey


Part 4:
Rewrite, Revise, Repeat

As we discussed last month, feedback is an essential part of the writing process, however, it is only beneficial when it is paired with revision. Once a writer has identified problems in their story thanks to input from their readers (and from their own observations of course!), they must then make changes to the story to address these issues.

There is a vast range of problems a story may have, such as unconvincing or unsatisfying character arcs, pacing that is too slow or too fast, plots that don't make sense or feel contrived, lack of stakes, lack of compelling motivation for the characters, and so on.

When I think about the changes I make to my books, I usually divide it into four categories: rewrites, revisions, edits, and proofreads. Although there is some overlap between these categories, each performs a different function. For today, we will focus on the rewriting/revision part of the process.

A rewrite is where I start the book over from scratch and, as the name implies, rewrite the entire book. I start a fresh file on my computer and save it as a new draft of the book, for example, WSF D2 (second draft of When Shadows Fall). I keep the old draft open for reference as I write, and though I may keep many sections the same and even copy and paste some lines, for the most part, I make myself retype the entire story. This allows the book to change and grow in ways I might not have considered, even though the content often ends up being quite similar. It also allows me to work in foreshadowing and cut out redundant or unnecessary information as I go.

A revision, on the other hand, is where I duplicate my last draft and make changes directly to the text. I may go through the whole story, making small tweaks as needed, or I might jump straight to whatever problems I know need addressing. For example, if readers found a particular character too bland, I might focus exclusively on that scenes, rewriting them to make the character more interesting. Or perhaps I've made changes to the magic system or world-building, so I'll go in and revise those elements specifically.

It is important for rewrites and revisions to come before serious editing, as you don't want to waste your time polishing something that may end up being rewritten or deleted. Just as you wouldn't want to paint a sculpture before you'd finished carving it, it is important to get the ideas and story structure sorted out first. The drafting process is a time to address the fundamental issues in the story, starting with the biggest issues and working your way down to smaller problems and plot holes as you go.


I wrote three full drafts for When Shadows Fall, and did at least that many revisions. (To be honest, it gets quite hard to separate what is a revision and what is an edit, so I don't have an accurate count on this!)

In the second draft, in addition to adding scenes and fleshing out the world-building, I changed the story from third-person (she went to her house) to first-person (I went to my house). Upon rereading my first draft, I found third person didn't lend itself well to Ara's story, as it put too much distance between Ara and the reader. Her fears and struggles felt less relatable when described as happening to someone else, while first person puts the reader right in Ara's head, allowing them to experience what she experiences.

In the third draft, I focused on adding depth to an important character who didn't have a compelling enough arc in the story. I also gave Ara more agency and more successes, as some beta readers had expressed disappointment that she hadn't grown as much as they'd hoped. I made heavy changes to the ending, increasing the tension (which one reader felt was lacking) and rearranging events in a way that each big moment could be effective without taking away from something else. I also added an epilogue to lay some groundwork for the sequel.

Once I got to revisions, I focused a lot of attention on the ending, as I finetuned the order of events, focused more on characters who had been forgotten by the plot, improved upon the climax as the solution I'd used in previous drafts felt too contrived, and added new concepts to the world building.

Of course, the ending wasn't the only thing that required revision. There were several other sections that saw a lot of work as I continued to make changes to the story. One of the biggest changes was to emotionry, the machinery used in the story which is powered by human emotion. I always loved the concept, but it took a LOT of reworking to get it to a point I felt satisfied with. In fact, we will be taking a closer look at that process next month...

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