1. Banananarchiste

    Banananarchiste Member

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    Is it mandatory to REWRITE entirely a novel?

    Discussion in 'Novels' started by Banananarchiste, Aug 24, 2017.

    Hello there,

    I'm coming upon lots of talks about rewriting a novel entirely after the end of the first draft. (I guess this is why we call it "first" draft) I know many writers who sometimes rewrite novels three or four times entirely before editing.

    So please explain to me what is so powerful about rewriting on a new document? Why not spend lots of time editing on the first draft directly?

    Thank you very much, have a nice day!
     
  2. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    It’s not mandatory, you can do whatever you want of course :) I wondered whether “rewrite” actually meant literally writing it again from scratch or just heavily editing. There are some interesting answers in this thread I posted:

    https://www.writingforums.org/threads/what-does-rewriting-mean-to-you.153277/
     
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  3. Dracon

    Dracon Contributor Contributor

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    It al depends how strong your first draft is, I suppose.

    If you have a strong plot, strong characters and poor prose, then the changes to be made will be more cosmetic. That's editing - to make it read better.

    If you have weak plot, weak characters but strong prose, it doesn't matter how pretty and well-written your sentences are: the story doesn't work. No amount of editing is going to repair it.

    That is what second and third drafts are for: making sure that the plot is watertight, and the characterisation powerful.

    Some people rewrite several times because they're not happy with how the story is going. And it is correct that you should definitely be critical of it, but it's by no means mandatory to rewrite the whole novel. Though parts of it will likely require rewriting/reworking in some form. For example, if a certain character isn't working, or there is a plot flaw that needs to be redressed.
     
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  4. Moon

    Moon Waking Contributor

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    Currently Reading::
    The Workings of Kamma: (Second Revised Edition)
    Its a masochist thing..... :p

    Serious note: I've never heard of any author rewriting an entire novel. Rewriting certain parts for the purpose of flow sure, but the whole novel!? Typing 90k words only to have to do so again four or five times then to add in editing sounds like a nightmare. :cry:
     
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  5. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I don't feel tardy.... Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Only if your first draft sucks. And it will.

    Half-kidding. Normally you don't open a new document and start from square one, but you will probably spend wayyyy more time editing than you do writing. The first draft is the easy part, a well trained chimp could write the first draft of a modern genre novel, but making it cogent, interesting, and marketable is something else. It ain't for the faint of heart. If rewriting things 3 or 4 times scares you, back away now :)

    [​IMG]
     

    Attached Files:

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  6. Banananarchiste

    Banananarchiste Member

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    Thank you so much !

    I think I miss understood the process behind rewriting but it seems way clearer right now. (and less threatening)
    I guess I should perceive my first draft as a thing that I can modify as I want but way more detailed than the simple structure.
    Of course if something doesn't work like a whole character I'm going to have to rewrite entire chapters or parts of the draft.
    I think I got it.

    Great thank you again!
     
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  7. Banananarchiste

    Banananarchiste Member

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    Hahaha yes I thought that I had to rewrite, back from square one on a blank document. But apparently not.
    You are right it seems a little crazy to rewrite three or four times a novel from nothing... but I guess I'm crazy because I'm ready to spend lots and lots of time on the editing and restructuring part.
     
  8. Dracon

    Dracon Contributor Contributor

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    *Tentatively puts hand up* Let me tell you a story... Though I am not an author. Yet. I hope.

    I first started writing my novel, went back to the drawing board after finishing Act 1 after realising how terribly written it was. That was the zeroth draft. Then got to writing a 190k novel in the end, the first draft. Completely rewrote Act 1 for one of my main characters, and revised the plot, necessitating major changes through the rest of the novel.That generated a 220k novel, the second draft. Then I realised about two/thirds though the third draft that I still wasn't working out, so I've pared it down to mono-POV, cutting out the MC POV that for some chapters I had rewritten three separate occasions. Still reworking the fourth draft now - part way through Act 2.

    That is the sad tale of my novel... or so it would appear. I wouldn't say it has been an entirely negative experience for me doing it this way. I was an inexperienced writer, and so I suppose I could expect nothing less. In fact, it's probably a miracle I even finished that first draft. And since, it's been a joy to see how much the novel has evolved over time and I can see the marked improvements that have been made. I've discovered so much about writing this way, I have far more self-confidence now than I ever did, and I feel that when I come to write a future novel, I will be much better armed with the tools I need to write a respectable first draft.
     
  9. Dracon

    Dracon Contributor Contributor

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    Think of the first draft as the skeleton. Though I've had to rewrite most of the novel and huge swathes of it thereafter, the overall story and characters actually haven't really changed.

    Using the analogy I highlighted earlier: I'm a slow writer. I like to think and ponder over the words and sentences I use. I can't just let words flow on the page and worry about it later. They have to be right. My writing is comparatively free of SPAG, or at least I think it is. But I now have the hindsight, experience to realise the sobering truth of how horrendous my plot was. Truly horrendous. The ideas were there, and they could be developed on, but the execution was poor. The middle of the novel was so convoluted that even I, the writer, struggled to understand my own plot. And I was stupid enough to continue writing and pretend everything was fine and I could solve it later.

    I should have seen how necessary it was to go from 2 POVs to 1. The second POV was just not working. He was the one I had so many problems with in the past, the one in which the plot just didn't quite work. Now, it seems so obvious.

    The characters too were like cardboard cutouts, in many cases. But the characters never changed from first draft to fourth, and so they had time to evolve. I could continue to rethink them and add to them as I continued writing new scenes, building up a stronger picture in my mind of who they are. When you get to the end of the first draft, you might realise that one character or another isn't quite right, or needs tweaking. There's no way you can conceivably know of this in the planning phase - it's just something that you have to be able to adapt to.

    The most important thing is to follow your gut. If something isn't right, it probably isn't. Stop and reconsider.
     
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  10. surrealscenes

    surrealscenes Senior Member

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    Like anything else, the more you prepare the less fixing you will have to do. Do you outline at all? The more detailed and worked out outline you have the easier it is to stay on track with the story- you always have that map to fall back on. The more you prepare each character for their role, the less need to go back and change.
    Most writers I come across that talk about having to rewrite a novel are talking about their first novel. They also usually have a list of things learned by the time they finished and those were the things rewritten. I am trying to learn the common mistakes before trying to write a full novel. I like to figure things out in short stories so if I ever tackle a novel it will be easier, hopefully.

    To an extent. I feel supporting characters need to be fleshed out almost as much as the MC prior to writing. Ultimately it depends how detailed a roadmap you have created for yourself to follow.
     
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  11. Banananarchiste

    Banananarchiste Member

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    Thank you very much for your well written answer.

    Not only your story is interesting and I can absolutely relate to it, but it explains perfectly the concept of rewriting (that i had wrong).

    Let me also explain my situation.
    Firstly I'm french so if my english was or will be wrong, don't judge me please I'm really trying my best without using "Google Translate".
    I never considered myself a writer neither, I'm 19 and had the idea of a story to tell from my on experience. I lived crazy stuff through my 17th year so I had to express myself in a way. I draw, paint and play music but I never tried writing. So last year I started a novel which is also sort of a biography. (written in first person).
    About a year ago I started building the skeleton of the skeleton, the real basic structure: three parts divided in 28 (for now) chapters divided in scenes etc.
    I used to be like you, writing and making sure each word was perfect, because at that time I didn't know you could rewrite a novel. That sort of thinking got me crazy and I gave up the book.
    About two months ago I came back upon what I had written, the first three chapters, and I was amazed at how .... terrible... everything was. And I just couldn't let myself live with that on my conscience. So by editing every sentence I felt in love with the "refining" part of writing. Cutting, erasing, editing, modifying, you call it, I was a sculptor and i loved it.
    After that I came back to the shape of the story which is also the best part of writing, structuring.

    All of this to say, when I saw that you had to rewrite entirely from scratch a novel multiple times I was kind of scared that I wouldn't make it because I don't really like to write. I like creating and refining, writing is the hard work for me.
    And I can really refer to you because I'm not a writer and I'm learning right on the field so seeing that you made it and are proud of your creation really really motivates me to continue.

    So thank you again, really much!
     
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  12. Banananarchiste

    Banananarchiste Member

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    Thank you for your answer I think you are absolutely right.
    I thought I had given way to much time for my structure before starting writing. When I started to write the actual story it felt like I was swimming in "what should happen next??". But I feel like there is no limit to how detailed your plan can be.

    So yes, you have a good point, Outline as much as possible!
     
  13. Banananarchiste

    Banananarchiste Member

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    Thank you very much I'll go check it out!
     
  14. surrealscenes

    surrealscenes Senior Member

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    Your English is much better than most in English speaking countries.
    A tiny English lesson-
    Either & neither are tricky words in English. In this sentence, 'either' would be the commonly used word. In this case 'either' would be a stand-in for a word like 'also'. But really 'I never considered myself to be a writer.' says it all, no need for an extra word.
     
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  15. Banananarchiste

    Banananarchiste Member

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    Hahaha well thank you very much I'm trying my best!

    I thought I had to say "neither" because the sentence was negative. "Me neither I don't consider myself a writer".
    But thank you again I'm learning everyday!
     
  16. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    The negative is communicated in the word “never”. I think double negatives are allowed in French (e.g. “je n’ais pas rien” literally translates to “I don’t have nothing”, but actually means “I don’t have anything”). In English, double negatives are considered a grammatical error. So you use “either” if there is already a negative in the sentence, or “neither” if there isn’t.
     
  17. Trish

    Trish Damned if I do and damned if I don't Contributor

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    If I was rewriting my entire novel (what I would consider to be rewriting and not editing) I think I'd call it 'throwing away the first novel'. If it went that wrong that I have to completely start over it's not at all the same thing anymore.
     
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  18. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Apropos of nothing... Yes, negative concord (negating the whole clause) is typical of Romance Languages, though, oddly, Mamma Latin is like English where one negative cancels out the next in the same sentence. Slavic Languages also have negative concord. The correct way to say I don't want anything, thank you in Russian is Я ничего не хочу, спасибо. (I don't want nothing, thank you). Spanish goes a step further in that it has the same positive/negative pairing as English with either/or and neither/nor both being present, but there's also a positive/negative for the word also. También vs. tampoco.

    Yo también voy = I am also going
    Yo tampoco voy = I am also not going.
    ___________________________________________________

    As to the original question. I could not imagine completely rewriting my novel. No. That would be horrid. At around the 12k mark, I decided to go back and completely change one of the MC's, which had the expected ripple effect throughout the rest of the work and that was bad enough.
     
  19. Banananarchiste

    Banananarchiste Member

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    Well actually your example isn't perfect because "je n'ai pas rien" cannot be used in the "I dont have nothing" way. I guess two negatives dont work (n)either in french.
    "Je n'ai pas rien" for example can be used if someone says:
    'You have nothing in your bank account' , and for the other to respond:
    'No I don't have nothing, I have a hundred dollars'.

    I'm not perfect in french grammar and its many many rules but if I think about it, the negative concord does occur. For example if I want to say "I never wanted her to do this" in french I will say: "Je n'ai jamais voulu qu'elle fasse cela. Which literally translates to: "I dont have never wanted her to do this."
    As for Russian and Spanish you can forget me. I'm totally lost when it comes to those even though Russian seems pretty interesting. Congrats for learning both and English!

    Thank you both for your answers I can see more clearly the rewriting process that I miss understood.
     
  20. Dracon

    Dracon Contributor Contributor

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    You are right of course, this is my first novel. I didn't have too much of an outline before I started, although I had the main events and characters set out. I could definitely have been better prepared. Here is the real brain teaser: if I had planned my novel better, would I have the same novel? And if so, would it have been better, or worse? I will plan on writing the next novel with much better preparation and outlining. But even despite all the frustration and time consumption, I think there is nothing like experience, and this has truly been a valuable one.

    Short stories will give you the chance to gain that vital experience and give you some leeway for experimentation without the commitment to a full-length novel like I have, which I think is probably a much smarter approach. It sounds like it is working out quite well for you so far, anyway. If you get around to writing that novel, you will be much better armed.

    On the subject of characters: some characters just have instant rapport. Others might need some rethinking of how to adapt and make them integrate with the other characters better.


    You're doing just great on here! Truly, any attempt from a non-native speaker earns my admiration. I go abroad on holiday and can't help but feel embarrassed not to be able to speak another language.

    That's great to hear that you are coming back to it. That it's extra personal to you must make it all the more challenging to write. The temptation is there to strive for perfection.

    Because I am dealing with such a long novel, every session of editing feels like one drop in the ocean, which is not always enjoyable, but I've certainly enjoyed seeing how the novel has evolved and shaped over time.


    This should surely be shortlisted for most insightful quote of the year. I should put it as my signature.
     
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  21. DueNorth

    DueNorth Senior Member

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    @Dracon has done a beautiful job of answering the original question. I will only add two points. My own style is to get the basic outline of the first draft down fairly quickly, so I spend considerable time in revision and believe that process of revision, for me, to be the art of writing. The second point I will make is borrowed from Ernest Hemingway who famously said (reportedly), "All first drafts are shit."
     
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  22. surrealscenes

    surrealscenes Senior Member

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    Would it have been the same novel? It would probably have come out differently overall, but ultimately similar. I think you will find the answer during your next one. You will probably think of your first & how you would have done things differently.

    Would it be better or worse? My guess is it would have been a better experience since you would have a 'safety net' of sorts to fall back on when you ran into a roadblock, plot hole, or any of the other things commonly rearing their ugly heads. And once again I think you will find the answer during your next one.

    I think when you look back you may find it could have been a more of a complete story.
    What I have found is when you look into the writers that are constantly working and making the big $$ (the people working/in demand you rarely hear about), they can spend months developing a story before ever writing anything in the story. Right now I am reading John Truby's Anatomy of a Story:22 tips.... and I think he said he spends up to 3 months on the characters & outline. With all that groundwork done, when you do sit down to write it tends to go much faster since you have worked most everything out already.
    The book is amazing to me & is really opening my eyes to what makes a great story vs a good story. I especially like that he talks about 'here is this story and it is good, but here is the same story and it is great because these things were thought through. Now when I read about someone being stuck in a story, I can see what the failing(?) was in the prep work. As I make my way though it, I am developing my characters & outlining in my head. I will go through the book a second time when I really start to work on it.
     
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  23. Sclavus

    Sclavus Active Member

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    My first draft of my novel was a NaNoWriMo swamp ooze creature. I ended up shelving it, and I'm going back to the very beginning with it.

    So, my first draft (technically the second) is much better. I can edit it directly to "rewrite" my draft. Most writers I know refer to "rewriting" in a non-literal sense, meaning they won't necessarily start from scratch for a second draft. For me, it was necessary, but most I know won't literally rewrite every word.
     
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  24. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I don't feel tardy.... Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This got me thinking. I probably end up keeping a third of my first drafts intact, rewriting one third, and completely deleting the other third. New shit gets written and goes back in for that. That's what I would call a "rewrite," that third that's a total tear-down and rebuild... a third if you're lucky.
     
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  25. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    "I'm not a very good writer. But I am an excellent re-writer." - James A. Michener.

    He was, of course, referring to edits and not rewriting from scratch. Even the ms he resurrected 30 years after he abandoned it - Mexico - he didn't start over completely.
     
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