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Sometimes your first draft can actually be better. We have a tendency to want to rewrite things to make them better.  But are they really?

I am not talking about correcting errors or fixing bad sentences, but about changing things to make them better.

I think all of us if we read one of our own novels would want to change it to make it better.  But then realize that maybe the change wasn't as good as the original writing.

That is why I hesitate making any major changes.  Since that is the way I originally wrote it, maybe I should leave it alone?  After all the first time I wrote it, it came from the heart.

That is what is wrong with the Bible.  Every time it got copied, the monk decided it needed to be improved or clarified or emphasized.  As a result the meaning got changed.

So it is easy to do what the monks did and change the meaning and the flavor of the story.

Is your rewrite better than your original?
 

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In my case - Yes.  When I read my "final" manuscript after letting it sit for a few days I found numerous loose ends and holes. In one case I went from A to B in one sentence. It took almost a whole chapter to get between those points in the rewrite.
 

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I have two big fears with drafts. One is that my draft sucks and should be re-written. The other is that my re-write sucks and was better off before.
 

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Franklin Eddy said:
That is what is wrong with the Bible. Every time it got copied, the monk decided it needed to be improved or clarified or emphasized. As a result the meaning got changed.

So it is easy to do what the monks did and change the meaning and the flavor of the story.

Is your rewrite better than your original?
The Christian Bible was written by 40 different people over 1600 years. Then a committee presided over what made the grade and what didn't, rewrites made, etc, etc, then it was transcribed. If anything it was a shambles of changes long before it was handed over to monks to copy and pass around.

Rewrites are there for a reason, but so is archiving. I always keep the older versions, normally in case of nostalgia or accidental over-enthusiastic editing.
 

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I do things differently. I work out my plot and characters meticulously before starting to write, so that I can detect holes and logical lapses and missing links beforehand.

Then I draft scenes, but edit as I go, on the fly. By the time a chapter is done, it's in very good shape.

The result is that the final book is in very good shape as a "first draft" -- even though there were endless changes and tweaks along the way. The completed book then goes to my super-tough beta readers, who pick it apart and notice all the little things that necessarily eluded me. I incorporated their corrections (and suggestions for changes, when I like them), and the book is pretty much good to go.

If this sounds as if it crushes creativity, it doesn't for me. My characters always surprise me within scenes, and I am constantly dreaming up new inspirations along the way that reshape coming chapters, and sometimes even require some rewriting in previous ones.

One psychological advantage of this edit-as-you-go approach is that when I finish a chapter, it really feels "finished," and encourages me that I'm making progress. Dashing off a seat-of-the-pants draft would be hard for me, because at the end, I'd have a pile of paper and know that I now still have to turn it all into a book.

There's no "one right way" to write a novel, but my way works for me.
 

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My first draft is always a race - me getting the ideas in my head down on paper before I forget them.  It always gets better in the subsequent rewrites as I'm able to trim away the weeds and wild growth.

Incidentally, the first 1/3 of my manuscript is always where the most editing takes place.  It's like it takes that long to hit the book's voice.  So I have to go back and make the early sections sound like the rest of the novel.

Once I finish the first draft, I let it sit for a month before looking at it with an eye to rewrite.  That distance is always a necessary thing because there's always the danger of Finished Novel Romance.
 

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I just read Dean Wesley Smith's blog post on this topic (http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=4398) and was hoping someone on here was discussing it. For those of you who have not read it yet I think it's a very interesting commentary on rewriting. He believes that there is way too much rewriting going on and that writers should trust their first drafts more. Dean says that most his friends who have been writing fiction for over twenty years agree with him.

The thing is my first drafts make very little sense to anyone including myself. I have characters show up who never get mentioned again. Characters eye color, height, and accents change throughout the story. Entire scenes that make no sense are stuck at random places. This is because I have a first draft rule that it does not have to be good it just has to be done. It is the knowledge that no one but me will see the first draft that lets me write it in the first place.

Dean does say that everyone is different but that he would like to open our minds to the idea that our first drafts are much better than we think. I would love to believe this. What do you all think?
 

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Yes. I know when something flows like I want it to flow, pauses when I want it to pause, provides the most appropriate description to what I see in my head, and my original version doesn't do that it many cases. Now, in some cases, it does. Those I don't revise. But the ones that don't sound right when I go back and read a month after having written them, I change. Of course, I'm sure there are far more advanced writers than me who probably get a much larger proportion of their first draft the way they want it. 
 

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(changed, as it should have been YES -- lol)

What comes out of my head is rough, often partially-incomplete and needs massaging to make it sing. After the work sits for awhile, I gain vital reader perspective and writer distance. There's always something that can be improved. The key is not to over-rewrite a story, which I think is your underlying question.

I found with my next book that it was necessary to add some more background on the primary antagonist. This turned into almost 10% new material for the book when I weaved in with a new story branch. This branch was so significant that I had the cover artist add something to his illustration to depict this new addition. Since I'd already cut 40% from the original first draft, this was a net cut of 30% words from the first draft. I'm excited about the edited work and beta readers will be digging in later this week to let me know what they think.
 

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Emily Kimelman said:
I just read Dean Wesley Smith's blog post on this topic (http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=4398) and was hoping someone on here was discussing it.
It is interesting. My problem with it, is that even though he keeps repeating that all writers are different, he seems to be adamant that his way is the correct way to do it.
 

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Emily Kimelman said:
He believes that there is way too much rewriting going on and that writers should trust their first drafts more. Dean says that most his friends who have been writing fiction for over twenty years agree with him.

Dean does say that everyone is different but that he would like to open our minds to the idea that our first drafts are much better than we think. I would love to believe this. What do you all think?
I agree and disagree. I think the trust on the first draft should be more a belief in its quality, but there's always room for improvement. I can't read my novels once they're in print because I see stuff on every page I'd like to rewrite - simply because by the time book A is published, I've finished book B and am working on C - and my writing has improved by a novel and a half.

I disagree with the idea that the first draft is the be-all end-all. But maybe that's because I've spent too much time guest teaching in classrooms showing students how to rewrite.

There are authors who labor over a book page by page - Lawrence Block and Lois McMaster Bujold come to mind - and turn out very clean manuscripts that way. But then I see authors like Stephen King, Tom Clancy and Jean Auel, all of whom have reached the point where editors have become afraid to actually edit them. As a result, their published products are all bloated, in varying degrees of sloppiness.

Shorter is always better, because that means each word carries more meaning. Which makes a novel infinitely easier to write than a haiku (Internet parody haikus notwithstanding).
 

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I write the first draft and then put it away for a couple months. I have to get to the point where I nearly forget what it is about. Then I print it out and re-read, marking places where it doesn't flow, where the music stops. The I rewrite. I have to repeat this process a few times (though the wait interval gets shorter) before I am ready to let anyone else even look at it.

I can't imagine writing a well-crafted book in under a year...
 

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Rewrites are a part of writing, no question.  For me it's usually in the beginning... that was when the story was still "fresh" in my mind, etc. and I usually do some touchups.  BUt the first draft is to just get the story on paper.  Just write it out.  My first drafts are filled with errors and I don't care... the story is finally out of my mind.  Then I usually go back and read it with a notebook, taking notes for ideas, etc. to see what's good and bad. 

And then of course when my editor is done with it... yikes... I've come to fear the color red! :)

-jb 8)
 

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Seems like Dean Wesley Smith's blog is down for the moment. I'm getting connection errors. Would be interested in reading what he has to say.
 

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tim290280 said:
The Christian Bible was written by 40 different people over 1600 years. Then a committee presided over what made the grade and what didn't, rewrites made, etc, etc, then it was transcribed. If anything it was a shambles of changes long before it was handed over to monks to copy and pass around.

Rewrites are there for a reason, but so is archiving. I always keep the older versions, normally in case of nostalgia or accidental over-enthusiastic editing.
But the big difference is that nobody is being tortured or burnt for disagreeing with your revisions. Well, not that I know of anyway.
 

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One problem I do have with rewrites is that my plots are so convoluted, if I change one thing, the whole book threatens to unravel. I have to be really, really careful. I made a few changes to Taboo, the second book in my series, and discovered that it meant much more structural revisions to Book 3, Taboo, than I had intended. Otherwise, things wouldn't make sense. Argh!
 

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tim290280 said:
The Christian Bible was written by 40 different people over 1600 years. Then a committee presided over what made the grade and what didn't, rewrites made, etc, etc, then it was transcribed. If anything it was a shambles of changes long before it was handed over to monks to copy and pass around.

Rewrites are there for a reason, but so is archiving. I always keep the older versions, normally in case of nostalgia or accidental over-enthusiastic editing.
The Dead Sea Scrolls: The original archival backup?
 

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It's an interesting thought that Dean Wesley Smith wrote on his blog, and some of it rings true for me.  His Creative Side/Logical Side argument makes a certain amount of sense on the surface, but I can't imagine not applying the Logical Side to find inconsistencies in voice, plot holes, narrative speed and flow - those aren't things the "Creative Side" cares too much about as the words are flying.  Maybe some people's creative voice manages to keep all those details together, but mine certainly doesn't.  Yesterday I found myself writing in an excellent groove and put out about 10,000 words.  At the end I stepped back, satisfied, then realized I'd forgotten a minor character for a good 5000 of those words.  It took a bit to go back and fix, and will get a much more critical eye when it's editing time to make sure that minor character's parts doesn't feel hacked in.
 

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Franklin Eddy said:
Is your rewrite better than your original?
Yes. A thousand times yes.

I'm not with Dean on this one. The authors I consider great rewrite their stories until they shine.

You can make good money, quite possibly even more money, just being prolific and putting out more stuff, but you're a lot less likely to write anything that's great IMO. But different strokes.
 

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I've become a big Dean Wesley Smith fan too, but this is one area he hasn't convinced me yet. Maybe no rewriting works for people who have been at it as long as he has, but I know I don't want anyone else to see my first drafts. I do think you can overdo the rewriting thing. It can be an excuse for not going on, and you can revise the life out of something.
 
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