rewriting made easy

The 6 Best Ways to Rewrite Your Book

6 best ways to tackle rewrites pinterestEverybody who loves to rewrite your book, raise your hand! No takers? Yeah, that’s pretty much what I thought.

In my experience of ten novels and hundreds of short stories, rewriting ranks way at the bottom of the writing process–somewhere down there with paper cuts and insomnia. By the time you finish your beautiful story, all you want is to be done, finished, finis. The realization that you may need to go back and redo it is exhausting to say the least.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. As I discovered during rewrites of my portal fantasy Dreamlander, there are ways to rewrite your book that can be both fun and easy.

Following are some of the tricks I’ve learned along the way.

1. Let the Manuscript Rest

Dreamlander NIEA FinalistEven if you’re already aware of your story’s problems as you type “The End,” don’t be in too big a hurry to start ripping it apart. Letting your manuscript cool for a while does two things:

1. It gives you the mental and emotional distance to view the story objectively.

2. It allows you to rebuild your creative muscles, so you’ll have the stamina to tackle a major rewrite.

2. List Your Story’s Problems

While you’re waiting, don’t ponder your story, but do let it simmer in the back of your brain. Whenever you’re struck with an idea for an addition or the realization of a scene or character that doesn’t quite work, write yourself a quick note, so you’ll remember to consider it later, when you’re ready to get serious about how to rewrite your book.

3. Create a Scene Map

To gain a better sense of your overall story—including which scenes work and which don’t—make a map of your book.

Write a numbered list of your chapters and scenes. As you go, consider each scene’s importance and effectiveness. Use highlighters to indicate scenes that can be deleted, scenes that can be combined, scenes that are weak, and scenes that are perfect.

4. Make List of Necessary Changes

Using your map, create a list of directions for your rewrite.

For each scene that needs work, type the number of the chapter and scene (I included a brief description as well, to help me immediately recognize what section I was working on). Beside each scene’s designation, include a brief description of the work to be done: delete; combine with previous scene; delete minor character; change references to main character’s siblings, etc.

I also included some general instructions, at the top of my list, regarding changes I wanted to make throughout to my MC’s character arc, among other things.

5. Create Draft 2.0

Hacking up your precious work of art is always a bit traumatic, so put your mind at ease by saving your manuscript as a new file. That way, you will lose none of your initial brilliance, and if you decide you like things better the way they were before, you can always return to the first draft.

6. Rejoice in the Perfection You’re Creating

Rewriting is hard work. But it’s also freeing and satisfying. Raising your story to its full potential, cutting its weaknesses, and beefing up its strengths is exciting! Don’t lament the work; revel in it. As E.B. White pointed out,

The best writing is rewriting.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! What steps do you use when figuring how to rewrite your book? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Rewrites, in my experience, are almost always tough. My current rewrite, however, has gone ridiculously smoothly. Having lots of fun with it!

  2. I only hope I realize when enough editing/rewriting is enough and finally call it completed. 🙂
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  3. I’m going to do a post on that very thing one of these days!

  4. Anonymous says

    I know I didn’t raise my hand when you asked us to about rewriting. Rewriting is important though, thanks for the reminder.

  5. Rewriting is one of those necessary evils. But every once in while, the chore can be surprisingly fun!

  6. I must be very weird, even for a writer, as I prefer rewriting to initially writing, which I find sometimes cumbersome. I often find myself rewriting parts when I should be concentrating on moving the story forward to the end.

  7. No, you’re not weird. Lots of respected writers prefer the rewriting stage. I do think you’re in the minority though. But that’s the marvelous thing about the writing community – we all unite in our joy of writing (not to mention our general weirdness), but we all approach it so differently.

  8. Bookmarked for later use 😉

  9. I’m rewriting right now, and I feel that, while writing the first draft is killing a dragon, rewriting is killing a hydra with many heads. 🙂 I’m still trying to concentrate on one head at a time, but the others distract me a lot.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      That’s actually an awesome metaphor! I think we need some wallpaper to that effect…

  10. Betsey Riedl says

    I wrote a description of each scene on a mini-notecard, then literally threw them up in the air. I opened my dining room table to its fullest extent, and picked up two or three cards at a time, then arranged them on the table. Some scenes stayed in the same order, some changed. I was also able to see holes in the plot.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      That’s actually kind of awesome! I’ve done that with sticky notes, only I wasn’t brave enough to toss them in the air. 😉

  11. I tried to write my novel into a screen play and found that not only kept me motivated and enthusiastic but it really made me brutally honest with my baby. Taking 280 pages and squishing it into 120 page screen play really kills the fluff.

    Dialogue that you thought was really smart is shown for the line fillers they were. Character development or lack there of, stands painfully obvious. Telling the story though dialogue becomes more critical when you imagine actors saying it.

    The turning the novel into a screen play had such a profound effect on me that I am re-writing the whole novel and making it into trilogy plus screen plays. Another benefit of turning a novel into a screen play is that you might actually try to submit it and see what happens. If someone buys the screen play you can add that to your books marketing .

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’ve been toying with the idea of trying this myself. I totally agree about it being a spotlight on poor dialogue.

  12. Any tips on how to rewrite if I wrote a story using an outline?


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