When I first considered writing this post*, I was hesitant. “Do you really like rewrites, or are you trying to make yourself feel better?” If it’s one thing that I’m good at, it’s deciding to scrap a draft and start over. No character (except for the main character) is safe, no plot twist immune from my writer’s scythe. The thing is, rewrites can be exhilarating. Or, if you’re on the other end of the spectrum, they can be downright depressing. After all, you just lost all the time spent in careful procrastination, brewing the perfect cup of coffee, and roaming the wilds of Pinterest. Oh, and writing.
Maybe I have it a bit easier because I’m in love with my characters, not my plot. I can decide to scrap a draft in ten minutes, and wear a path through my carpet when it comes to putting a character’s head on the chopping block. Maybe it’s just because I’m happy to spend more time in the first draft stage, where nothing has to be perfect. Mostly, first drafts are a result of aggressive plot bunnies. The kind that you do your best to ignore, but you make the mistake of feeding it lettuce. Just a little. Instead, it turns into a Frankenstein-style creature overnight and demands that you rewrite. I should get better at ignoring rabbits.
I’m horrible at listening. In general, yes, but especially when it comes to finding a story’s true core. It could be screaming ‘this is my true identity’, but I’m good at dressing a Hufflepuff-bunny plot in armor and demanding that it go out to war for me. That’s one reason that rewrites are exciting. It lets the MC shine in the plot that was intended for him/her in the beginning.
Secondly, it prevents hangover. There’s few things more depressing for a writer than finishing. It’s usually during this time that I go from annoying people by staying in my room for too long, to being an annoyance by hanging on them too much.
It always, always makes you a better writer. It may even induce outliner tendencies. -cue gasps of panic from pantsers everywhere- After more rewrites than I care to count, I definitely outline the heck out of each novel now. It helps. Rewrites also dispose of the awkwardness of the first few chapters with a new MC. It’s like wearing a new pair of shoes: you know they will break in, but they’re stiff and awkward to walk around in. In a rewrite, you can get rid of that anxiety. You’ve already spent 50k+ traipsing around with this character. You know what they like to complain about. You know their favorite band. And above all, you’ve got a good grasp on their narrative voice.
All this isn’t to say that you should obsessively rewrite. If your first draft is salvageable, then salvage, for the love of Mike! Anything else is going to lead to obsessive face-desking, too much caffeine consumption, and more frustration than it’s worth. But sometimes a partial or complete rewrite is just what you need.
Use all the tools to get excited about a rewrite that you used for draft one. Spotify and Pinterest are my two favorites.