Friday Speak Out: "After Nano: Rewrites Can be (Sorta) Fun," Guest Post by Cathy C. Hall

Friday, December 18, 2009

After Nano: Rewrites Can be (Sorta) Fun

by Cathy C. Hall

At my last writer's group meeting, one of my friends was shocked when I related my National Novel Writing Month experience. Not the part about me writing almost 40,000 words. Oh, no. He couldn’t believe I’d actually do a rewrite!

I guess I’m what you’d call the bust-it-out writer in the group. I’m always rushing essays or short stories or queries out into the world. But that doesn’t mean I’m a write-it-once, then send-it gal. I wish I had that kind of talent. But the truth is, whether I’m writing 40,000 words or 400 words, I revise, edit, and rewrite.

I’m not gonna lie. I am not one of those writers who love the rewrite
process. So, I have a few tricks I use to make this part of the writing process
fun. (Not fun as in barrel-of-monkey fun; more like that-wasn’t-so-bad fun.)

1. The first draft is my bust-it-out piece. It’s almost always too long and a bit on the rambling side. That’s okay. The idea is to get ‘er done.

2. The second draft is where I work on the rambling, and get the piece where
I want it to go. I accomplish this by asking a simple question: “What do I
want to say?” Any spot in the piece where I’ve veered off from what I
want to say has to go. No matter how prettily I’ve said it.

3. Next, I let the writing sit awhile. Even if it’s just 20 minutes for a
lunch break, I need time so that I can come back to the piece with fresh

4. I’m always surprised at the little things I’ve missed on the second draft.
Usually, I’ve left out a word or punctuation. It’s much easier to catch
these errors when I read the piece out loud. Then, the third draft is
corrected and ready to make its way out into the world.

My novel is hanging around now, the get ‘er done stage behind me. I’ll tackle the next step come January. Because that’s one heck of an edit, and honestly, I’m in shock, thinking about the rewrite!


Cathy C. Hall is a writer and humor columnist who lives in the metro Atlanta area. When she's not writing about the funny real stuff in her life, she's making up wild stories for adults as well as children. Find out where she's been published lately by visiting her website at Or drop in at her blog at


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GunDiva said...

I haven't even attempted to begin my re-write yet. I know I'm going to lose a lot of fun scenes that I indulged in for the word count. What I've done in the past is to make a folder that's labeled "cuts", where I can put my deleted favorite scenes. That way I don't mourn the loss because I know they'll always be there if I need them for something else. I've gone back to my "cuts" folder and gained inspiration at other times.

My donundrum now is: do I continue writing until I finish or do I start my re-write, cut the necessary scenes, and continue the story after the re-writes?

GunDiva said...

*that's conundrum...I can't type without my contacts. My typing instructor would be so disappointed that I use my eyes when I type.

Jayne Martin said...

Regarding, re-writing, I was once told by a very wise writer that the hardest thing to do is "kill your children."

Sometimes it certainly feels like that.

Margo Dill said...

I agree Jayne! :)

Cathy, great post. I am so glad that I let my YA novel sit and simmer and then I went back and re-wrote, and then I let it sit and simmer again, and went back and re-wrote. It has to be at least 5000 times better than when I first wrote it. Okay, I hope so anyway. I'll even settle for 4,999 times better. :)


Ruth J. Hartman said...

Loved it Cathy!

Jessica Marcantel said...

I like the idea of reading it out. Harrowing, for sure, for a 40k+ novel, but it would identify all the bad phrasing and such. Your tongue stumbles over them. I've only heard of people using it for dialogue, so this is a nice surprise - trying it soon!

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