Current revision/editing/rewrite is tough

I’m a big believer in the rewrite. Or, more specifically, I’m a firm believer that the first draft usually isn’t the best draft. It’s something I’ve mostly practiced throughout my career and I’ve certainly seen my fair share of first drafts submitted to me as editor—trust me, editors know.

When I taught English Composition, one of the things I tried to hammer in to my students was that writing is a process, and as such, most folks can learn how to do it. Like any process, though, it must be practiced. My experience with most non-seasoned writers is that they expect to produce a first draft and have it sing out to the NY Times Bestseller list immediately. And while that is the dream of almost every writer, it just doesn’t happen.

That said, the rewrite/revision I’m currently working on for The Gifted is one of the hardest I’ve ever worked on. I can’t say for sure exactly why, but I’ll at least talk out my difficulties here.

Without getting into the specifics, the editor outlined for me a few things she’d like to see done, none of which were unreasonable in the very least. One of the changes I thought would be a fast and easy change; I changed a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship to that of a brother/sister. It’s proving to be not nearly as fast or easy as I thought it would be. My first thinking was I’d just go change all the “sweethearts” to “siblings” and be done with it. However, brothers and sisters—especially those squabbling—do not speak to each other like sweethearts do. Neither, are the relationships surrounding them the same. Therefore, each and every chapter in which the now-siblings appear have to be scrutinized carefully to be sure they’re speaking and acting appropriately.

Another change was that I’ve added a “best friend” to one of my main characters. Not really a big deal when you think about it, right? Wrong—this character now has to have a part/input/opinion as a best friend throughout the remainder of the book. And the new best friend is now introduced in the third chapter, meaning that all the following chapters also have to be scrutinized to be sure best friend works.

On top of that, new best friend’s Dad has a job which put him at direct odds with main character and her father. While this is an added subplot, it has to be addressed as the story progresses because it directly (and indirectly) affects the main character.

Not sure why I’m finding this difficult except that maybe because the “current” draft is not a first draft, it’s a draft that is well-worked and has seen plenty of hours. It may be because I’ve visualized the various pieces of this story for some time now, and the way they’re connected seem to work. Not that the revisions won’t work, but they add something “new” to the story rather than simply rework some of it.

I dunno…I’m just thinking out loud here.



Filed under writing

3 responses to “Current revision/editing/rewrite is tough

  1. Roland –

    I am amazed that such changes were suggested – those ARE very big edits, taking characters and inserting them into a story that has already been written seems to be too dynamic-altering. Unless the initial relationships were shallow, I cannot see the immediate benefit of degrading a love affair/relationship to siblings.


    Perhaps I am too untrained and too naive, but this goes beyond editing. This is moving into co-creation/instructor.

    My view is editors ‘edit, correct, check grammar or insist on clarity, readability’ not “Direct”.

    Perhaps you need to tell your editor “No. I’ll shop somewhere else if the story is THAT far afield.”


  2. Chris

    I agree with Justice. I have had editors suggest changes in POV and in specifics about certain chapters – but to add/subtract characters, add to the story line, and change relationships seems a bit much. This is now a different story altogether than the one you originally wrote. If he wanted a different story, why didn’t he just tell you that?

  3. Roland,

    This sounds like a painful process.

    I just went through adding an internal motivation for my main character for the first eighty pages or so, and it wasn’t too bad, because everything else stayed the same.

    Your changes are much more extensive, but hey, if you’re working with an editor who might publish your work, you say “yes!” as long as it makes sense to strengthen the story.

    The hardest part is that any new material you add will now be “first draft” quality and it all has to be gone over again multiple times. Ouch! Hopefully the editor will help with that!


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