Revise, Rewrite, Recycle

Novels go through so many processes. The initial idea. Some outline, or pre-plot, or scribble scene concepts on cards and shift them around, structuring the piece. Some just plunge in. But once the thing is done, there’s going to be some reworking.

Here’s my own definition of these terms—they may not agree with others’.

Revising is a pass over the fiction, leaving it primarily as it is. Word changes, typo eradication (we hope), adverb check, tightening, cutting what doesn’t belong, changing the things that were going to go somewhere but didn’t, looking for pernicious dialogue tags, checking for continuity, reviewing my naming conventions, looking for historical accuracy problems. Every novel I write goes through at least this process.

Rewriting is when large chunks of the fiction didn’t work, or a whole character needed to be changed or taken out, or I wrote a note to myself that there was a scene needed here but didn’t put it in at the time. I am lazy about doing this. About half my work needs this, but if it’s extensive, sometimes I won’t do it and just shelve the novel—usually for good. However, if I’m partway through and get stuck, usually what happens is that I need to rewind to the part where I was happy with it, and go a different direction.

Recycling… well, I have a strange urge to do this now and then. Every writer has novels or stories that were written before the writer got good. Old stories that you were in love with, but your tools were just not up to the task. Why not do them again? I have done this only once, with an erotica novella, and I don’t really know yet whether it worked (it seems to have disappeared into the publisher’s maw and not been accepted or rejected yet). I felt better about the new story than the old, but who knows?

Anyway, these are the processes after the story—but before the editing. I don’t know yet what painful, over and over editing is. The two stories I’ve sold didn’t seem to need a whole lot of work, as far as the editors went. Mostly punctuation and those ‘said’ problems. If a novel gets accepted somewhere, I will doubtless find out. 🙂


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