To Write or Do the Rewrite…

I’ve whined enough about revising. I either need to finish the revisions WITHOUT complaint, or move on. I’m wrestling with this dilemma and here’s why:

It’s my first baby. It’s my first real manuscript. Complete. Finished. And it is not good. Hey…it’s my first…it’s not supposed to be. I should move on to the next, believing that this first story is a great stepping stone. A great learning tool. I know with each and every novel I write, my writing will only improve. At least I would hope that to be the case.

But…what if I can’t revise any book? What if I am just too lazy to do the hard work of writing–the hard work of revising? What if I don’t have what it takes? Aarrrggghhhh! The frustration of it all.

You writers out there–what is your experience? When you were first starting, what did you do? Revise and revise that first one or did you move on?

What do you think I should do? Buckle down and revise? Or move on?

26 responses to “To Write or Do the Rewrite…”

  1. Oh, this is a tough call, Sherrinda, and I SO feel for you!

    I think there is definitely something to be said about learning discipline through revision. HOWEVER, the chances of a first book getting published are very small.

    I'm definitely the “let's move on” type when I realize a manuscript is really broken and in need of major rehauls. I LOVE my first manuscript. I LOVE the characters and the storyline, but whew…it needs work. Work I just don't have the patience to do. I like to move forward. I don't want to dwell on that story.

    So….I would pray and ask yourself:

    1. How passionate are you about this story?
    2. How much revision would it need to be in top form?
    3. Do you have other ideas itching to be written?

    If your passion is lacking and the revisions are many and you just can't wait to start a new novel, then I'd say, “Move on”

    The good thing is, I don't think either one is right or wrong, good or bad. You just have to do what's right for you.

    And YES, you have what it takes. You wouldn't have come this far if you didn't. 🙂


  2. I find if I leave my work for a little bit, work on something else and then go back. I can see with fresh eyes what needs to be done.


  3. I leave it for a week or so then look at it with fresh eyes. But I am a pretty slow writer so my revisions really aren't that time consumming.


  4. If you move on, you can always come back and revise anytime later on, right? The story isn't going anywhere; it'll wait right where it's at for you to return to it.

    But if you started to read it through again, I bet you'd find yourself changing and revising, deleting some scenes or shifting them to different places and rewording stuff.

    I say it's all up to what you're in the mood to do. Either way, you're staying deciplined in writing by doing SOMETHING.


  5. Oh, you sweet doll!!! I certainly don't know, but the Holy Spirit does!

    Know that I will take your hand and sit with you as you decide just how to proceed!

    Blessings and prayers comin' your way.
    DO know that every word that you write with the intention of serving Him is NOT WASTED.


  6. I think Katie's advice is spot on. I would never go back and revise my first books. If I liked the idea and plot well enough, I might consider totally rewriting, replotting, and reworking them in a completely new novel. But they're riddled with too many “growing” mistakes for me to ever try to revise.


  7. This is a tough call. I definitely think you need to consider whether or not the story is calling you, like Katie mentioned. Do you love the story? Do you want to stay with these characters? You will learn a LOT during the revision process – and your second novel will need to be revised, too. Even authors who have had 15 novels published send things off the crit partners and have to spend time revising (at least the ones I talked to at my conference do). It would be good to spend time practicing now. Every moment you spend writing (and revising) helps you learn. On the other hand, if you aren't passionate about the book or the characters anymore, than maybe it's time to move on.

    I would definitely take a week off from writing AND revising and just think about it, then look at your MS again. You might see things you never saw before! Good luck!


  8. I think revising it would be a huge learning experience. You would really get to see what you do well and what you need to work on. It doesn't have to be perfect, but a few months of actually revising it would be better than reading ten books on the subject. Plus, you'll have some closure on the project.


  9. I was in this spot with my first manuscript too. In the end, I traded the chapters with critique partners, did some small-scale revisions, but when it came to big-picture revisions (like changing major plot elements, etc.), I decided to stop and move on to the next story.

    I do think doing some of those revisions and at least analyzing it for specifics of what works and what doesn't is valuable. (I still have a file of comments on my first manuscript that I'll probably never actually change.) But like others said, don't spend another two years doing that.

    Start fresh with a new story and keep learning! 🙂


  10. Well, I'm about as amateur as you get, so I'm not sure if I'm one to be giving advice XD But here goes anyway 🙂

    When I finished my first book, I skipped revision completely and went on to the next book in the series. Bad idea XD I ended up going back and revising the books at once.

    I didn't move on from the series though. I stuck with it for years. Of course, I did eventually drop it, realizing that there was a lot of work to do. I wasn't sure if it was were I wanted to direct my passion anyway.

    Since those books, I have no finished one! >.< I can't seem to stick with a story. I'm going to have to say that I like Katie's questions. Good things to consider :) ~Kendra


  11. Sherrinda, I belong to the move-on camp. I used to work in a small publishing house as an assistant editor, so I had some inside info when I began writing. I saw seasoned writers go through multiple rewrites before our publisher felt their work was ready, so I didn't expect my newbie efforts to be publishable.

    I wrote my first story and revised it, but I could tell it was still lacking in many ways. I then wrote four more stories in succession without stopping to revise or rewrite. Each one got a little better as I incorporated the elements of craft I'd learned since finishing the one before.

    Only after I'd reached a point where I felt I had a handle on the basics of craft did I attempt more rewrites. I've done three so far, two of them on the story that led to an offer of representation. However, even after the rewrites, I didn't end up with a publishable story. I'm currently rewriting that story a third time under the guidance of my agent. It's taken me four years, six books, and four major rewrites to get to where I am now–and I'm still learning.

    You have to make your own decision, but my experience taught me the value of moving on. You've proven you can write a novel-length story. You've also proven your willingness to edit and your desire to learn. Your next story will be even better as a result of the work you've already done.


  12. Take a editing vacation! Then come back fresh and ready. That's what I do.


  13. I really relate to what you said. I am in the exact same spot right now. I know my MS needs a lot of work, but Im going to finish the revisions and pray for the best. But after I pitch it to an editor this month, Im going to move on to the next story. I have to. I need to move forward and not dwell on whether or not the first one, my baby, will ever reach the masses. I can always pull it out someday and rework it.


  14. I'm sure you know this is something only you can decide. That said, my first three novels (and a novella after that) sit languishing in “the trunk”, and unless I eventually decide to rewrite one (I am actually considering that with the last novel), they'll stay that way.

    The truth is, any novel can be fixed if you're willing to put the time and effort in. But whether or not it's worth it is something we all have to decide. For me, just finishing the draft was enough – I knew the book sucked, and I didn't actually have the drive or stamina then to go through a grueling round of revisions. So I wrote another one – it was better, but I left that behind too and wrote yet another one. For me, I had to work up the courage to actually put that much time and effort into revising – and the drive to *want* to fix what was wrong.

    In short, I waited until I felt I had a book worth editing.

    One other thing – even if you walk away now, you're going to hit these same feelings again when you do decide to revise something. I spent about a month and a half earlier this year trying to figure out how to even start, and whether or not I had what it takes to be a writer. For me, a revision course helped snap me out of it by showing me *how* to get started…perhaps a book on revision or a course would help you too.

    Good luck…


  15. I'd leave the first one, write a second one, then go back and take a look at the first one again. You'll be able to be more objective about that first book, you'll see with more accuracy and experience just what needs to be fixed, and you'll be better able to decide if it is worth fixing or if you need to move on. 🙂

    JMNSHO. 🙂


  16. This is my first book too Sherrinda, and I love the story and the character as though they spring from my own womb.

    I'm muddling through writing and rewriting and there is something to be said about the journey. It is freeing in a way to say it all again, but better.

    I'm praying that you will gain direction on which way to go.


  17. Hi Sherrinda –

    I've been working on Book 1 for almost five years. Yes, I said, “five years.” I'm determined to make it good because it's the first of a three-book series.

    Manuscript two is written, but needs editing, while I've only written a few chapters of manuscript three.

    I found it helpful to work on the other two books and then go back to the first.

    Susan 🙂


  18. I revise until I think I can't make it any better. And then I go away for a while and come back and revise some more. :0)


  19. Oh my goodness, everyone! Your comments are sooooo wonderful, thought provoking, and encouraging! I'm praying about this and hoping to get some answers soon, but as of right now, my heart says to move on. 🙂 There is alot of confirmation in your comments and I needed that!

    I love you gals!


  20. Sherrinda,
    You can move on and then go back and relook at your first story when there's some distance. I know you love that first story, but you know what? I bet you'll love your next one too! It's important to be able to do revisions too, but I think you'll be fine. 🙂 I hope you feel some peace with whatever you decide to do!


  21. Hmmm, looks like most consensus is to move on.

    For me, I didn't move on, and I think it was a good thing. I rewrote that thing until I almost hate it.

    But I got a lot of kinks out on that book. Everytime I learned something, I'd go back and edit it, incorporating what I learned. I cut my teeth on it, not just on writing it, but on editing it too.

    I'm sure it's not perfect, but it is respectable and I'm proud of it. And I did eventually write another book, and I like it too! Editing it was much less painful (although I still have editing to do on it!)

    So, I guess I'm in a camp of, “Do what God impresses upon your heart.” I should also note, I'm a stubborn cuss. Everyone told me to move on too, but I also have two other sequels to that story, and I need book 1 to be good enough to sell before I can sell those too.

    When someone tells me, “You can't…” I grit my teeth and go off to prove them wrong. See? Stubborn!

    Oh, I should also note that I did start another book before that first one… that I never finished. So I guess that is my *first* book!


  22. Krista!!! Are you trying to throw me off track? Playing devil's advocate? lol

    I hear what you are saying though. I love my story, but I think if I write more and read more craft books…take more classes…I will learn enough to, at some point, go back and revise my firstborn. 🙂


  23. Sherrinda, you asking this question has helped me alot too. What wonderful experiences everyone has shared. And you are creating your own. Bravo! God Bless and know that you will do well with what God plants in your heart.


  24. I am of both opinions. What help, right? I would revise. You do learn so much. Mostly that writing is more about revision than it is about creating. Creating is the ease. It's the cream. But the revising is the craft. As for revising your first. I did and it became a wonderful novel. But the call is yours. Do you want to spend the next few months with it? Is it worth the work or do you need to move on and away?
    Best of luck!


  25. Looks like you're getting opinions both ways. I guess you should do what your heart tells you to do. I've only written 2 long manuscripts and I revised both of them after I wrote them. I like revising, but your heart has to be in it.


  26. I must say, I love Katie's recommendations.

    I was too naive to think my first novel needed much rewriting. Oh, that's so funny now that I think about it.


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