The Rewrite.

You hear it from me often.

1.) My stories are better when I do rewrites.
2.) I hate rewrites.

I hate rewrites (rather than simply dislike them as a necessary step) because I overdid the rewriting in my earlier career. I'd dive down the rabbit hole constantly changing plots and words and then changing them again, and again, and again until the whole thing turned into a jumbled mess. I would no longer feel the story or empathize with the characters. It would all just be words.

When I came back to writing 25 years later, my #1 rule was that I would do NO REWRITING! until I was done with the first draft.

Turns out, this was what I needed. (It also helped that the process is SO much easier. Word processing is 10 times easier than the old typing and correcting. Young writers have no idea. If there is a proliferation of books, I believe this is the biggest factor. It used to take real grit. Walking five miles in the snow to school, uphill both ways, typing your books...)

What I've found when I finish the first draft is that some books need lots of rewriting. Some books don't need as much. Some books are relatively hopeless and require more rewriting than makes sense when I could go write a new book in the same timeframe.

All books need a timeout between finishing the first draft and doing the rewrite--at least a month.

All books benefit from an outside editor.

I've refined the process to what works for me.  So what I do nowadays is finish the first draft, send it off to Lara who can point out inconsistencies and fix plot holes and clean the book up. She'll usually take between 4 to 6 weeks. I also read the book at writer's group and get their critique. (I usually read about the first half, and then maybe the last chapter or two. I write faster than the group meets.)

Meanwhile, I go off and write something else.

When it comes back, I usually accept about 90% of Lara's suggestions, which also require some rewriting. If the book needs some research, I tend to do it then. (Weirdly, I find researching is beneficial to me after I finish the first draft. I know what I need.)

Finally, I sit down to do a rewrite. Depending on the book, I can do anywhere from about 10 pages a day to 30 pages a day. (Every book is different, it seems, in how finished they are.)

So it takes anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks to do the rewrite.

What does the rewrite entail?

For me it's two seemingly contradictory things.

1.) Refine the language.
2.) Flesh out the story.

Refining the language, making it more active, cutting unnecessary words, getting to the point quicker, will cut the book a little.

This cutting is more than outweighed by my fleshing out the story. I tend to be focused on getting the story down on the first draft. Not a lot of frills. You might think that's all good, but the pace needs to be varied occasionally, things need to be explained, descriptions can add to the flavor, a little inner dialogue can add depth, themes can be further developed, telling details can be added, and so on.

This fleshing out will usually add about 10 to 20% to the length of the book, depending again on how much work the book needs.

Then I send it off to Lara again for a clean copy-edit.

I've been forced to do this rewriting process for most of the books I've put out. (Oh, how I'd love to just dish out the first draft. So much more fun!) At first, it wasn't really a conscious thing. Just what needed to be done. Now I've sort of wrapped it into my overall process. I know in advance that it is going to happen.

And, there is no denying the books are better for it.