Rewrites Make It Better

Repeat after me: Rewrites are a good thing.

If you doubt this, you can also add and everybody has to do them.

Yeah, it's a pain to write more once you have a finished manuscript, but changes make things better.  Rewrites make weak links stronger, add depth, strengthen characters and bolster the plot.  Think of rewrites as reinforcing your foundations.

One of the best rewrites I can think of is the BBC's recent(ish) update of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

The first episode was rewritten and rerecorded and the second version is infinitely better.  There's an extra character, the plot is tweaked here and there, a few locations are altered and they added 30 minutes to the episode.  It all comes together to create a better paced, more enjoyable story. Having seen both versions, it's one of the best examples I can think of to show why rewrites are so important for changing a good story into something amazing.

How about you? Enjoying the rewrites? Cursing them? Got a good example to share?


  1. No! No, no, no, no, no!

    And here's why:

    But wow, would you mind if I quoted you a bit when I write a post about my own feelings on this subject?

  2. Cursing the rewrites, but it's fun to know that even other types of media have to do them too.

  3. Sarah: BRB, laughing at the cow.



    Okay! Well, as Mr Smith says, every writer is different and there is no right way. In defense of rewrites, it's not about what an agent may or may not want, it's making the written story as close to the vision in my head as possible. I understand what's being said about critical vs creative thinking, but that's not going to change my mind about rewriting certain sections of my manuscript to really bring out the creative idea I have.

    Also, I had amazing English teachers at school whereas Mr Smith seems to dislike his ;)

    Quote away! I just can't help but disagree with those articles. Maybe in the future I'll learn a hard lesson. I am, after all, very naive about the publishing world compared to a professional of 20+ years.

    I have to say, this is a really interesting debate about how writing advice does and doesn't work for people!

    Anna: It's also quite nice to know one of your favourite TV shows has to go through the process!

  4. Loving the rewrites right now, but I'm probably going to hate them once I hit the middle-section lull of the book. Plus I'm still coasting on a little residual inspiration.

    I know that some people can really pretty much nail a story the first time around, but I'm not one of those people. (Revision #7, anyone?) I agree with you--for me, revising always seems to add so much more depth to plot, characterization, everything.


  5. Francesca: I wouldn't let anyone read what first comes out. I can barely make sense of some of the stuff I write!

    (Also: Benedict Cumberbatch being ginger <3)

  6. Well, you did say "everybody has to do them". That's the myth.

    I think people miss the point. The point is that you cannot make a story better by trying to "fix" it with your critical brain. Of course, if you wrote the story in your critical brain to begin with then it's probably hopelessly bad and no amount of rewriting will make it any better.

  7. Rewriting is a gift from the muses! If we could only publish our first drafts, then I don't think there would be many published books out there.
    But it's still really painful at times. And the rest of the time really fun!

  8. Sarah: How about "Everybody who's new to writing and hasn't developed a canny sense of what does and doesn't work may need to engage in rewrites"?

    As for writing with your critical brain, completely discounting that doesn't seem right to me. Approaching something critically surely allows you to cut out unnecessary sections that may be creatively wonderful but damage the flow of the story.

  9. Kris: If I could've published my first draft, I would've had a deal aged 17!

    ...Thank goodness that never happened!

  10. I agree to an extent. I guess I'm kind of in the middle of you and Sarah. Not all novels need re-writes, but some do. My ms now definitely needed some changes. Will my others wips need changing? Probably not. But maybe.

    I do agree that you should look at your ms critically after you've finished it. Now matter how much I love my creativity, there are some things that it will inevitably miss.

  11. Cookie: I wish I didn't need rewrites, but I'm a pantser rather than a plotter, so they're unavoidable.

  12. Ooh, my friend and I were just talking about the new Sherlock Holmes series earlier this week!

    Personally, I love rewriting (you know, until I reach the umpteenth draft or so). It's a chance to make my writing really sing, and I always feel like I know my characters so much better on the second, third, etc... read-throughs. I love the feeling when everything starts to flow and come together so seamlessly!

  13. Nicole: I am angsting because the new series has been delayed until 2012 ;_;

    I feel exactly the same about rewrites! It's all about everything coming together and hitting the right stride.


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