When Rewriting is more Efficient than Revising

Although I haven’t officially updated you all on my writing progress for April (that’s next week), I can tell you that I have moved on to the second draft of “The Herb Witch”.

Since I wrote the first draft by hand in a journal, I’m now transcribing it to the old electronic typewriter (PC) and making edits along the way. Here’s why this type of rewrite is more efficient than revising a single draft.

There are pros and cons to any editing strategy, certainly, but I’m quite partial to rewriting a draft in its entirety.

By rewriting, I mean transcribing an existing draft into a new document with changes along the way, whereas revising refers to making edits to an existing draft.

When is Rewriting a Draft More Efficient than Revising It?

1- When it’s only the second draft

I wrote the first draft of “The Herb Witch” in a journal knowing full well that I was not sure how the story would play out. It was a discovery draft, meaning the primary goal was just to get ideas onto paper.

2- When you know what revisions you plan to make

As I wrote the discovery draft, I took notes in the front cover of the journal about certain pieces I felt were missing, or certain themes I wanted to expand upon. I even noted the sections or pages where I thought they might fit, meaning I was already planning to add more content even as I was writing.

3- When the original draft is disjointed

I tend to get new ideas for previous scenes as I go, so with this draft, I frequently inserted additional dialogue or action for scenes that occurred several pages previously. It’s honestly been a little difficult keeping track of these insertions as I transcribe my second draft, but that also proves my point: How could I possibly edit within the first draft without leaving something out?

4- When the original draft is hand-written

Alright, this one is a bit on-the-nose, but it would be way to confusing and even more disjointed if I tried to take a red pen to my discovery draft. The red pen of writerly death works just fine for proofreading, but not revising.

5- When you know you want to change a major plot point

This is the primary reason I decided to begin my second draft when I did. I was more than two-thirds of the way through my discovery draft, and I got stuck. One plot point I was building towards felt forced, so I decided that plot point needed to occur earlier in the story. So I decided to stop my discovery draft and just start with a fresh draft with that plot point in mind. Why continue writing to the end when I know the end should be fundamentally different?

6- When you want to start fresh

Sometimes, it’s just cleaner to start with a blank piece of paper. You have the mental head space and figurative computer screen space to take your previous ideas and improve on them.

That’s my case for when rewriting is more efficient than revising. What are your thoughts on this?

Steve D

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