What You Should Know When You Rewrite Your Writing

By Bhalachandra Sahaj

rewritingHave you ever been in a situation when you put all your soul and effort in doing a thing, and then your boss comes and says: “Nah, you’ve gotta redo it all?” If you have, then you know how bad it feels to check over your work. It’s like when you forget to exit a bus when it’s your stop, and have to wait until the next one, and then walk a couple of block backwards.

Currently, I’m in this kind of situation. I’ve got a new, bright idea for the novel I’m currently writing, but implementing it requires me to eliminate one of the main characters, and clean up everything connected to this person from other chapters. As a guy who hates redoing anything, but sees a way to improve his novel, at first I experienced a weird mix of enthusiasm and annoyance. Fortunately, I have developed some guidelines for myself that help me cope with frustration and get things done:

1. You can adapt older pieces of your writing to the new version of it. This may look like an idler’s loophole, but in fact it’s rational. Indeed, if you see a couple of paragraphs you wrote previously suits your new version perfectly, why not use it? It usually works for descriptions, because you can use them anywhere, but sometimes you can do it even with dialogues. If you are working on an academic paper, you can do the same to your arguments, experiments results, and other data—but make sure they match up with your thesis statement.

2. Redoing is difficult only when you think of it this way. Unless I’m like, “Oh God, why have thou punished me, making me go 10 chapters back and rewrite 20 pages of my novel?” I am not going to move from the dead end point. In fact, you don’t have to jam on the breaks and quit everything to rewrite. It’s crucial to record how you want to be changed in your novel, where, and how; after you do it, you can keep writing, but keeping these changes in mind. As for the actual rewriting, you can do it every now and then, in small portions.

3. You will need to read through your entire novel to make sure there are no references to the changed information left. Even those parts of your writing that don’t seem to be related to what you have erased/edited/changed/rewritten will still need to be proofread.

4. And remember, you are not doing it for somebody else. Being an author is cool particularly because there is no boss who comes and tells you to rewrite everything “two hours ago.” Well, at least unless you sign a contract, or something. You are (re)doing it for yourself, for your writing to become smoother, more decent, logical, and engaging. If you treat it like “I want” instead of “I have to,” you will be fine.

I hope these guidelines will help you as much as they help me.

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