At last! You have finished your manuscript, maybe even celebrated with a glass or two of a fine wine. Not so fast. Your work is far from done. It’s time for the dread rewrites.
As good as your manuscript is it is far from perfect. But you know that. You remember the mistakes you made here and there as the ideas came pouring out faster than you could write. It is now time to go back and fix those mistakes along with others you never realized you made.
Step one is to pick up your manuscript and start reading. With the backspace key and/or a red pencil, go over your baby and start correcting. You will be startled by the number of mistakes you find. But do not get discouraged. It just needs some work to polish it up.
If you persevere you will finish your first rewrite, the simple one with the most obvious corrections. Because of this rewrite you now know you have to go back and make some serious alterations. This part needs to be transposed with that part. Some sentence structures are just plain awkward and need rewording. A few sections may need to be deleted completely. As Stephen King says, “Carve up your baby.” Be blood-thirsty.
You will begin to recognize that you have a style all your own and, gulp, it needs improving. You use the same words over and over again. You have started some sentences with dangling participles. Forget about punctuation. We won’t even start discussing punctuation yet.
So you rewrite again. Now it’s getting boring. You know parts so well you can almost recite them. OK, put the work down, and take a break. Once you reach the stage where sentences no longer make logical sense anymore, once you become word-blinded, you need to stop.
Leave it be. Depending on your personality it may only take a few hours for recovery. For others it may take a day, a few days or even longer. If you feel drawn back to your manuscript, go pick it up and start reading. You will know if you are refreshed enough to begin again. If you are still word-blinded put it back down.
Don’t worry about losing your place or forgetting ideas as they come along. Your mind will not let the project go. You will be thinking about it while you’re thinking about it. Whole new ideas will come to mind and you’ll get excited all over again.
That’s when it’s time for the next rewrite. That’s right. I said the next rewrite and the next. There might even be subsequent rewrites in store. Boring! You bet. Boring but necessary. The beauty is you are making yourself a better writer all the while. You are honing your skills. You are working your way towards being the author you want to be. Congratulations.
Here is a link to one of the best, if not the best, descriptions of what it takes to be a writer that I have ever read. It is a piece from a writer named Chuck Wendig. Thank you, Chuck. You can skip what I write and read Chuck. You will not be sorry but be forewarned that it contains some purple prose.