Writing World

R is for Rewrite

I used to think doing an overhaul and rewriting were the same things. They are not. I can’t be the only one who doesn’t know these fancy things, so today I’m going to define the both of them and go into a few reasons why you might want to go with one over the other.

A rewrite is when you rewrite something. (Ha, ha!) Seriously, though, it’s a rewrite. It’s basically the same story, but you rewrite all or part of it from scratch to make it better.

Reasons to do a rewrite include:
-icky prose
-chunky dialogue
-to change a scene or seventeen that’s not working
-to add a minor character in (or take one away)
-to change the age or your protagonist (by a year or two)
-to change where in the plot an inciting incident occurs (before the character sees what’s in the warehouse or after)

An overhaul is when you rewrite something in order to make major changes to one or more characters or the plot. It may or may not be the same story, but your goal isn’t just to make it better, it’s to make a major change somewhere.

Reasons to do an overall include:
-replacing the MC with someone better
-giving the MC a personality transplant
-changing the antagonist
-changing a major event in the main plot
-dramatically changing the setting (like from modern to renaissance or from New York to Edinburg or from this world to a secondary world)
-to change when in a character’s life an inciting incident occurs (when they’re five in Houston versus when they’re sixteen in Belfast)

When you rewrite something, you’re focusing more on what could make the current story better. When you do an overhaul, you’re focusing on what went wrong in the last draft and what you need to do to make the next draft better.

And yes, you can do both at the same time, rewriting some aspects while giving a complete overhaul to others. Sometimes a rewrite alone isn’t strong enough, which is why combining the two is my favorite thing to do. Best of both worlds. ^_^ I know that rewrite and overhaul are basically the same thing, but I find it helps to have that stronger word: overhaul. It comes in handy when you’re not sure what you need to do and knowing you need to do a rewrite isn’t helping.

With Chains of Destiny, I’ve always known my main character Reagan was falling short somewhere. I rewrote the beginning several times. It wasn’t until the word overhaul came to me that I was able to figure out the problem was in the backstory. I could rewrite the same story until I passed out, but what I needed was to approach the beginning from a completely different angle. I’ve kept the basic plot line the same, rewriting bits here and there to make it stronger. At the same time, I’ve made huge changes to the inciting incident at the beginning, added a secondary character, and made some significant changes to the end. The goal of the story, however, has stayed the same. My MCs need to make some changes in their lives, and my antagonist needs a severe butt kicking.

Thus I end with some examples:

Rewrite – Changing the fight scene between Sarah and her best friend from Sarah’s boyfriend who the best friend had been trying to seduce to them fighting over the best friend going behind Sarah’s back to get the job Sarah had her heart set on. Either way, Sarah lost her best friend.

Overhaul – Changing Sarah from a shy and straight-laced high school senior to an outspoken and issue laden high school junior and socialite.

Rewrite – Changing the opening to Harry Potter so that it starts with Harry in the crib watching his parent’s getting avada kedavra’d. (Poor Harry.)

Overhaul – Harry Potter’s parents don’t die until he’s five, THEN he goes and lives with the Dursleys, thus subjecting Harry to significant changes in his personality and ruining the look he gets on his face when he realizes he’s a wizard and won’t have to live with the Dursleys until cracks a neck…or runs away.

Rewrite – Having your MC grow up on a farm in Philly with her grandmother and then changing it to a suburban house in Boston with her father.

Overhaul – Having your MC grow up an orphan.

And taking the orphan bit a bit further.

Rewrite – Your MC goes to live at the orphanage at 12, you change it to 3.

Overhaul – Your MC becomes an orphan at 12, but lives on the street instead. — See how that would result in a major personality change from the rewrite version of your MC?

Who says rewriting can’t be super fun? ^_^


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