Writing and Rewriting

Broken Pencil

“More than half, maybe as much as two-thirds of my life as a writer is rewriting. I wouldn’t say I have a talent that’s special. It strikes me that I have an unusual kind of stamina.”             

                                   ~John Irving


How much do you enjoy the revision process?

How much effort do you put into revising?

Percentage-wise, how much of your life as a writer is rewriting?

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. indian menu on October 31, 2011 at 11:47 AM

    My brother suggested I might such as this website. This individual ended up being completely proper. This specific post really made my own evening. You can not envision just how much time I had invested because of this details! Cheers!

  2. Only a smiling visitor here to share the love (:, btw outstanding style and design .

  3. Jillian on September 24, 2011 at 5:53 AM

    Thanks for sharing excellent informations. Your site is so cool. I am impressed by the details that you have on this website. It reveals how nicely you understand this subject. Bookmarked this web page, will come back for extra articles. You, my friend, ROCK! I found simply the info I already searched all over the place and just could not come across. What a great website.

  4. Dee Krull on August 29, 2011 at 6:36 PM

    I find writing and rewriting equally fun, challenging, and rewarding. The more I read my manuscript the more ideas I get.

    I have to admit the first rewrite was a bit daunting but the second time I realized I was being given the opportunity to make my story better.

    I love the whole process but then I am new to this so I may change with every book.

    I truly hope that is not the case though.

  5. Ellis Shuman on August 24, 2011 at 4:40 AM

    It seems the rewriting process never ends, but for me, that’s just fine. Writing is a splash of ideas on paper and rewriting is what makes it beautiful.

  6. Richard A. Koenigsberg on August 24, 2011 at 12:31 AM

    Well, it’s nice for me to read things written by real writers.

    I’ve become so addicting to blogging and writing pieces for my Newsletter that I haven’t stopped long enough to create a complete book.

    I do a 1200 page essay every week and have about 6000 readers. So it’s exciting to “get my ideas out into the world” (I’m writing on the psychology of war and genocide): to convey the ideas to other scholars.

    So now I’m beginning work on my next book. I feel satisfied reading these comments: the patience to NOT publish one’s ideas so quickly.

    However, if one is writing primarily to influence the world, there still is the idea that things have changed. One is no longer writing for “eternity” (a classic piece of writing). In the contemporary world, one wishes to make an impact.

    I’m no longer willing to write a tome (tomb). So there has to be a balance I guess between the instant gratification of getting one’s writing out quickly into the world, and having the patience to revise and re-write (to create an actual “book”).

  7. neo on August 23, 2011 at 4:26 PM

    1. You must write.
    2. You must finish what you write.
    3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
    4. You must put the work on the market.
    5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

    – Heinlein

    I know, I know, some joker will come along and argue either a) Heinlein sucked so forget his rules or b) he was a genius and the rest of us mortals cannot even begin to approach his mastery.

    Actually, if you go to a con or a writer’s conference sometime and have a few drinks at the bar, you’ll hear quite a few writers who do very well NEVER rewriting. (except when an editor asks for it of course).

    It’s like outlining. People swear up and down you have. Terry Brooks tells a story about how he was on a panel at a conference and spent a long time explaining the necessity and indispensability of the outline when Anne McCaffery turned to him and said that she never outlined a book in her whole life.

    Different strokes, folks.

    If you HAD to rewrite to make it good, Harlan Ellison, Heinlein, Dean Wesley Smith, Kris Rusch and a ton of other pros must all have sold their stuff by sheer dumb luck…

    • Steve Sorensen on August 23, 2011 at 7:13 PM

      The great majority of writers are neither geniuses nor lucky. If one of those in the majority doesn’t rewrite, and doesn’t sell, there’s likely a connection.

  8. Steve Sorensen on August 23, 2011 at 12:16 PM

    I find the ubiquitous 80/20 ratio applies to writing. I spend 80% of my time rewriting, and only 20% writing. Most writers don’t have the stomach for that.

    Speaking of stomach, writing is like eating. It takes four times as long for your stomach to process what you put into it than it does to put the food into it in the first place. Seems like no matter what we do, we can’t get away from that 80/20 formula.

  9. Amish Stories on August 21, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    Id like to invite you folks to come to Amish Stories for a recipe for “Famous Pennsylvania Dutch Sticky Cinnamon Buns” along with a book signing schedule for Amish fiction writer Wanda Brunstetter for Pennsylvania and Ohio as well as a contest to meet her. I hope everyone so far is having a great weekend. Thanks everyone. Richard from Amish Stories.

  10. Nancy S. Thompson on August 20, 2011 at 11:45 AM

    I loved the revision part just as much as the original writing portion. Actually, it’s where I learned the most about the craft, the rules & what have you.

    I enjoyed peeling away what didn’t work & adding layer upon layer of detail until the characters & settings were rich & alive. I spent about 3 months writing the story & a year revising it.

    Revisions are definitely more difficult & I have far less freedom, but the result is a fuller, more dynamic story, so it’s very fulfilling.

  11. Jeffo on August 20, 2011 at 8:35 AM

    I’m not sure how much, percentage-wise, is rewriting, but I know it sure *feels* longer and more time-consuming. The fun part of the initial writing is when I get in one of those grooves and it feels as if the words just flow right out of my fingers. The rewriting usually involves a lot more thought and poring over each and every word.

    As tough as it is, I do enjoy it, however.

  12. marion on August 20, 2011 at 4:04 AM

    I quite enjoy the more technical types of editing, but REVISION STINKS!
    Re-visioning the whole novel! But at least, hopefully, you make some new discoveries. (Some people mentioned discovery.)

    For months I have done very little seat-of-the-pants work. Partly life getting in the way. But also my subconscious muse blocking me.
    Over the past couple of weeks, I spit out a brand new middle chapter (together with some rewrite-from-scratch chapters.) Then, out of nowhere, I had a new ending chapter that was just perfect. And, a couple of days ago, a brand new beginning chapter.
    These 3 chapters (beginning, middle, and end) articulate the theme of the novel. So now I have a strong twine on which to thread the beads of my chapters as I revise them, hopefully creating a unified work of art.
    We’ll see!

  13. karen on August 19, 2011 at 11:32 PM

    Well being my first novel (Not published yet) I am enjoying the whole process of writing and revising. The bad part for me was that the book was in my head for months before I started putting it down on paper, so many of the conversations were lost out in the cyber space of my brain. I believe that no matter how much we write, rewrite, and revise, it’s really going to come down to the reader and their tastes in the different styles of different authors.

  14. joylene on August 19, 2011 at 7:48 PM

    It’s nothing for me to spend 3 months writing the first draft and 3 years revising. The hard part is accepting that no way can I make this ms better. Lucky for me it’s my favourite part of the process.

  15. LL Derr on August 19, 2011 at 7:19 PM

    I have the attention span of a two year-old and when I hit ‘The End’ I really want to move on to the next thing.

    Revision is much like going to the gym for me. I will put it off forever but once I am in the process I find I enjoy it more than I thought I would.

    The trick I can’t seem to learn is when to leave well enough alone at a certain point.

  16. Irene on August 19, 2011 at 6:07 PM

    I absolutely love rewriting, turning all that mess into something that actually makes sense and has (well, sort of) merit. Rewriting for me is a reward I look forward to as I slave over the first draft.

    Michelangelo said that to make a statue, you just took a block of marble and removed all that’s not needed. But he had a block of marble to begin with! A writer has to create it out of nothing first, and for me, writing the first draft is like making myself a shapeless block of marble. Once I have it, I grab the red pen and the real work ( and real fun!) finally begins! 🙂

  17. Susan S on August 19, 2011 at 5:26 PM

    I adore revising. Nora Roberts’ famous statement that she can “fix anything but an empty page” resonates with me.

    Good thing, too. I’d say 90% of my writing time is revising time. It’s not easy, but it’s extremely rewarding to take a mediocre passage (and that’s being generous) and work it over until it shines.

    • marion on August 20, 2011 at 3:54 AM

      I misread your Nora Roberts quote the first time. I thought it said, “I can fix anything with an empty page.”
      Because sometimes you just have to rewrite a chapter or chapters from scratch.
      Not that it’s perfect then, of course.
      But Nora’s right. If you haven’t written the first draft, then there’s nothing to revise.

  18. Roger Floyd on August 19, 2011 at 4:44 PM

    I think revising is easier than writing the orginal story. It’s also more fun. I probably use 90 percent of my writing time in revising. I enjoy it because I know that every time I revise, the novel or story just gets better. Cutting out large blocks of text, for example, may be difficult, but it helps the story in the long run.

  19. Suzanne on August 19, 2011 at 4:16 PM

    I would say about 70-75% of my process is revision. Between press releases (for clients), blog copy, children’s book manuscripts, and now my novel manuscripts, I’ve spent a lot of time revamping content. I’m one of those weird writers in love with the process of writing and not just the end result. Thanks again for the thought provoking questions, Rachelle. I love your blog!

  20. Joanna Aislinn on August 19, 2011 at 4:04 PM

    I happen to love rewriting/revision, especially if I’m happy with the bones of the story. It’s like polishing and watching the shine come forth. It also means I’ve gotten a story written, lol.

    Enjoy your weekend, everyone 🙂

    Joanna Aislinn
    Dream. Believe. Strive. Achieve!
    The Wild Rose Press

  21. Crystal L Barnes on August 19, 2011 at 3:26 PM

    It seems so many have that love/hate relationship with rewriting. I know what they mean but I also find that I love seeing how the story strengthens and develops into something you (even as the writer) don’t want to put down.

  22. jesse on August 19, 2011 at 3:22 PM

    I’ve spent at least twice as much time rewriting my WIP. I hope to get that number down next time around.

  23. Beth MacKinney on August 19, 2011 at 2:54 PM

    I’ve heard it said that the first draft is when you tell the story to yourself, and the other drafts are when you tell it to the reader. I think that’s true, but I like rewriting better than the original writing, because then there’s something for me to work with, and that’s easier than coming up with the original story. I especially appreciate the insights from my critique group during this time, because they always catch my blind spots.

    I’m also thankful for Nanowrimo, which forces that first draft, no matter how bad it is. Even if it doesn’t result in a published book, it’s great practice at pushing past writing blocks.

  24. Douglas L.Thompson on August 19, 2011 at 2:02 PM

    This question (this post) is particularly applicable in my life right now. With the economy in the dumps, my 27 year career in Civil engineering is not going anywhere right now. Two years ago I began to focus on creative writing with the idea of transitioning to it as a full time career. Call it my Second Act, if you will.
    As a civil engineer I am quite familiar with the need for revisions and improvements to the construction plans I design. Those changes almost always enhance the plans to provide greater clarity for the user (contractor or builder).
    As an author attempting to complete my first novel for submittal I enjoy the rewrites almost as much as the original drafts, but have trouble when I forget that the revisions I am making in my writing serve a very similar purpose for the reader.
    The revision work is helping to clarify my vision for the reader. If I am successful in achieving that purpose than I am doing my project, my career and my reader a great service

  25. Shilpa on August 19, 2011 at 2:01 PM

    I used to hate it. But then the book I am writing now, I am loving it. Every time I revise, my story gets better. I think it depends on how convinced(or excited or attached!) I am about the story. That makes the difference for me.

  26. Leann on August 19, 2011 at 2:01 PM

    I always have a hard time getting to the revision stage, but I love drafting and creating larger than life characters!

  27. Robyn Bradley on August 19, 2011 at 1:50 PM

    I love the dream stage of drafting and the raucousness that is revision. I’m weird like that.

  28. Caleb Bartholomew on August 19, 2011 at 1:44 PM

    If I wasn’t disciplined, it would be 90% of the time. It took me 10 years to get past the first 4 chapters in my first novel because I would keep rewriting them. I would get bored and not look at those chapters for a long time. Then I would come back and re-read to get the flow back and then I would re-write again. I started saving my chapters as individual files, this way I wouldn’t be tempted to go back and keep revising. Since then (in the last year or so), I’ve put 130,000 words into novels. Oh but then there was the 10% cut of excessive words and then 35% add of suspense. So, yeah I guess about half… Actually, I just edited and rewrote this a couple times.

  29. Tek on August 19, 2011 at 1:40 PM

    I’m 26 and have been writing for the majority of this short time. Up until about 2 years ago I hated the revision process. I got my writing done in the first draft, editing along the way. The second draft was just a cleaned up version of the first. I didn’t understand what rewriting really was. Now I love editing-its where I get a lot of good writing done.

  30. Michelle DeRusha on August 19, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    I think I like the revision/rewriting process better than the actual writing (does that sound really bad?). Sometimes I get all worked up about simply putting words down on the page (screen) — there’s more head game involvement for me when it comes to writing a first draft or just simply starting a writing project. I feel a sense of relief when I am about to edit. I figure, no matter how bad the first draft is, there is probably something there to work with (turns out, this isn’t always true, but that’s what I tell myself anyway!).

  31. Brooke on August 19, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    As so many have said, I love, love the revising process. For me the first draft is almost painful. I end up with a lump of clay that needs molding. I feel most creative during the revising period when I can make that “lump” really say something.

  32. Sarah Joy on August 19, 2011 at 12:41 PM

    I am going to say 3/4 of my life is rewriting (and that’s just my writing!) That’s because for every rough draft I write, I usually read it over three (or more if it is a longer project) times before I feel 100% confident. The 3/4 rule applies to emails and small documents. It’s probably more like 80 or 90% with bigger projects.

  33. Carrie Schmeck on August 19, 2011 at 12:35 PM

    I used to hate editing and revising. Until I really did it.

    It was overwhelming. It was hard. It was confusing. But in the end, I had such a much better product.

    It also helped to read Stephen King’s memoir (I forget the name right name) about his writing processes. To know that best-selling authors don’t get it right the first time–in fact, their first drafts aren’t even close to publication quality either–really gave me confidence in the process. Revising is a critical part of what we do as writers.

  34. Kathryn Roberts on August 19, 2011 at 12:18 PM

    Wow, I’d say more than two thirds of writing, for me, is revising. I really put a lot of effort into it. Most of the time I like it, but I get to the point where I actually hate my book at times =). Luckily this feeling doesn’t last.

  35. Ilana DeBare on August 19, 2011 at 12:07 PM

    I completed a first draft of my current novel in about six months. Since then I’ve been revising (on and off) for about two years.

    I have a blog post on how I hate revising at

    There’s also a great clip from the famous Paris Review interview with Hemingway. I should re-read this every week or so.

    Interviewer: How much rewriting do you do?

    Hemingway: It depends. I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, 39 times before I was satisfied.

    Interviewer: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?

    Hemingway: Getting the words right.

  36. David Todd on August 19, 2011 at 12:06 PM

    I enjoy the revision process almost as much as I enjoy original writing. Perhaps I should be an editor, not a writer. As for a time split, I suspect it’s about 50:50, though I’m guessing at best.

  37. Nancy Lynn Jarvis on August 19, 2011 at 11:59 AM

    As I said, editing is essential, and you can see from my previous post, I’m not good at it!

  38. Nancy Lynn Jarvis on August 19, 2011 at 11:57 AM

    Unlike Cheryl, I do not write a clean first draft. It’s necessary to go back over it several times before I can even print out a copy to begin self-editing in earnest.

    After I have done my best, a real editor gets what I have written and stuns me with what he finds that needs editing. Our back and process is a long and angst-felt process. Next comes the copy editor for all the detail that was missed.

    I hate editing, but it is essential.

  39. Brianna on August 19, 2011 at 11:55 AM

    I dislike rewriting. So much so that I avoid it. I know it needs to be done and I would never publish something that hadn’t been edited and rewritten, but finding the motivation to do so is tough.

  40. Cheryl on August 19, 2011 at 11:41 AM

    I write a fairly clean first draft (don’t hate me), the curse of an anal mind. The story is always unfolding in my head, but surprises happen, too. Probably 75% of my time is first draft and 25% revisions.
    Oddly enough, my NaNo books are the most fun.

  41. Wanda Fittro on August 19, 2011 at 11:14 AM

    I write something new for NaNo every November then spend the rest of the year in revision land. Trouble is, it takes about two years for revision of one novel. So I’m always behind. Good that I have several works in progress I guess.

  42. tara tyler on August 19, 2011 at 11:09 AM

    enjoy? =D
    that’s me cracking up !

    revising is tedious. second guessing what should stay what should go? what is the right way? how could i make it better?
    revision = border line insanification =)

    revision is what changes chocoholics into alcoholics.

    well, it’s not quite that bad, but it is a chore! i’m on my 2nd go thru and i’ve been working on it for as long as it took to write. but if you want to talk %, i’d say 25% of editing is rewriting 50% is reading and the rest is a mix of deleting, crying and recovery from chopping up your masterpiece.

    that was therapeutic, thanks!

  43. Susan Bourgeois on August 19, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    I like to hear things from the top. Robert McKee states that he took the quote from Hemingway when he states: The first draft of anything is s–t.

    Robert McKee says that 90% of what’s written in the first draft is not up to where it needs to be.

    I believe this to be true but we have to start somewhere.

    I like to edit like Jackie stated above. I like structure. Robert McKee emphasizes the importance of structure and story.

    I compare the writing process to the polishing of silver.

    Blanket the tarnished silver with a thick coating of cleaner. Allow it to set awhile. Return to polish it off section by section until the piece is shiny enough to be used in a formal setting.

    I feel the entire process of writing is both stimulating and creative. It presents an opportunity to let the juices flow. It’s your work of art.

    It doesn’t have to be pretty at first but it should have a solid structure and story.

    I like to keep my writing tight but I don’t aim to polish it off to a shine in the first draft.

    I like to buff as I go.

  44. DavidJFortier on August 19, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    Four revisions for the first novel, but hopefully that was because of the learning and relearning. Hoping to cut it down to at least three revisions, perhaps two this time around. Probably 75% of my time is re-writing.


  45. joan Cimyotte on August 19, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    Those are good questions. I do enjoy rewriting, especially if I like my story, which I do. I think it’s one-third writing, two-thirds rewriting revisions.

  46. James Scott Bell on August 19, 2011 at 11:01 AM

    The idea phase is falling in love. The first draft is marriage. Rewriting is marriage counseling. At the end of it all, you pray for a beautiful relationship.

  47. Maril Hazlett on August 19, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    Hmm. Thank you for making me think about this… and since I keep work logs, I SHOULD know the answer right off the top of my head. I’m a little appalled that I don’t.

    Best guess:

    1 – research, pre-planning (10%)

    2 – crazy zero draft stage, where anything goes (20%)

    3 – re-outline – (5%)

    4 – writing – (50%)

    5 – revising round one (20%)

    6 – revising round two (10%)

    Yeah. I couldn’t make the percentages add up! 🙂 I think anytime you are in a stage, it feels like that’s ALL you are ever doing.

    Along with sharpening my math skills, I evidently need to do a much better job of logging time spent.

    Also, those percentages are all PRE-editing. Professional edits mean you have to dive back in at the end. And then there’s proofs… but by then your brain is mush and a small child with a crayon could do a better job of proofing than you can.

  48. Ioana Savin on August 19, 2011 at 10:59 AM

    To write a novel it takes me about two years. I look over and over on it during the writing process and it takes me less than writing because I already know what to say there. The problem is when my muse lets me and I remain with empty heart. The thing is that you write and maybe tomorrow you do not like it anymore and delete and write the paragraph all over. I wanted a better introduction for my first novel and a paragraph turned in 5 chapters. So it is great to look over your novel and rewrite some parts. It is normal for a writer to do that, to fix things and try to make his or her novel the best.

  49. Paula on August 19, 2011 at 10:58 AM

    Love the re-writing phase. Writing the novel in the first place is the hardest part. Sometimes the only thing that keeps me going is looking forward to the point when I’ve actually written the thing. I can then go back, tidy up some loose ends, slip in extra information, concentrate on the characters’ feelings and reactions, and finally check for all those repeat words and phrases.

  50. Nessa Locke on August 19, 2011 at 10:55 AM

    I think I’m a fair writer, but I’m an excellent re-writer, and I enjoy that part of it more than the writing.
    In my mind, it’s like a game of Tetris. There’s a bunch of pieces lined up and they look okay, but it’s that one final oddball twist and turn that gets me the big score!

  51. Julie Jarnagin on August 19, 2011 at 10:53 AM

    Interesting topic. Every book I’ve written is different, but I’d say I spend 1/3 of my time outlining and planning, 1/3 on the first draft, and 1/3 editing. That doesn’t include the edits from the publisher.

  52. Sophie Perinot on August 19, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    I am one of those “write slow, revise as you go” types. It takes me much longer than many of my writer friends to get a first draft done but then the amount of revision is minimal by most people’s standards.

  53. Michelle on August 19, 2011 at 10:48 AM

    Ah, rewriting. I’d say I spend about 65% of my writing time rewriting and I hate it. For me, once I’ve written the first draft, I know the story and to rewrite it kills me because I already know what’s going to happen.

    By the same token, it is something that has to be done and occasionally I find some nugget of goodness that wasn’t there the first time around.

    Rewriting is something that I have to do to make my writing the best it can be. Doesn’t mean I have to like it! 🙂

  54. Keli Gwyn on August 19, 2011 at 10:42 AM

    I thoroughly enjoy editing, revising, and rewriting, which is a good thing since I do a great deal of all three. I think calling myself a writer is a misnomer. I’m really a re-writer.

    I’d say I spend 1/4 of my time drafting a story and the rest working to improve it. I rewrote my debut novel three times before it sold. The last time, after receiving feedback from my savvy agent, I had to delete the final 3/4ths of the story and start from scratch, but it was well worth the effort.

  55. Alexis Grant on August 19, 2011 at 10:40 AM

    Love re-writing! More than writing itself.

  56. Mary Jo on August 19, 2011 at 10:40 AM

    I spend about 80% of my time rewriting. I start with outlines etc but have to write dozens of drafts. Not the most efficient way to write a novel….I find writing very difficult, but I enjoy rewriting.

  57. Daniel F. Case on August 19, 2011 at 10:29 AM

    Writing, whether fiction or non-fiction, is art.

    First drafts are like a painter’s sketches, those first outlines on the canvas that define his or her creative vision.

    Rewriting is the artist returning to the canvas over and over, filling in details and adding nuance and hidden surprises for those who are willing to find them.

    I absolutely love the creative heat of first-draft discovery, watching a story unfold and discovering new things about characters that shape and motivate them. Sometimes it’s just a word or two, or a snide aside, or an unexpected moment of silence that will bring me to tears as I experience their hurt and struggle alongside them for the first time. It’s creative exhilaration in it’s best form.

    How sad it would be if I left those people in first draft–the stage Hemingway likened to bodily waste. The creative rush is in first draft, but the real craft is in rewriting. Sometimes just a single word is the difference between “good” and “I can’t believe I wrote that!”


  58. Donna K. Weaver on August 19, 2011 at 10:22 AM

    Like physical therapy, editing is painful but that’s where the real creation takes place, changing the rough sketch into the fully developed masterpiece (or so one hopes).

  59. Buzz Malone on August 19, 2011 at 10:08 AM

    When I come up with what I consider to be a great idea for a story, I sit on it. I let it turn in my mind and bake for as long as possible (sometimes years even). I only sit down to write the thing when it won’t be ignored any longer and I am overwhelmed with the feeling that if I do not write it that my head will likely explode. Then, in a fever, I write the thing and do almost nothing else for 30 to 45 days until the first draft is complete.

    After that I don’t even want to look at the thing, but it nags at me relentlessly until I begin the re-write. On average, the re-write takes about as long as the first draft did, but I have to do it in shorter segments to keep from going snow blind from staring at the screen.

    Once it is completed, I then have the final read back to me by someone else. The reading is huge in that I can ‘feel’ the flow of the words and know when something is wrong that I could never see with my eyes.

    Then, I spend almost as much time constructing a query letter for literary agents as I did with the manuscript first draft. Finally, it is all ready to submit to dozens of agents who will never even so much as look at the thing, and add to my collection of cute little rejection post cards!

    “Please forgive the impersonal note regarding your query, which we have considered but must decline”

    When I was a kid I used to have a collection of those types of letters (they used to actually send letters instead of postcards) hung on my bedroom wall. I was very proud of them really.

    Then, after all of that, I format the thing and POD publish it and go back on tour throughout the rural towns and small cities in Iowa and sell just enough copies of my novel to be able to afford to lock myself back inside of my room for another 60 days or so. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

  60. Shannon Taylor Vannatter on August 19, 2011 at 9:52 AM

    I just throw my first draft on the page as quickly as I can. Then go back and add all the stuff that makes it readable: emotion, movement, dabs of setting and character thoughts. My crit partner diagnosed me as writing in layers. The book comes together as something publishable in my rewriting stage.

    • Giora on August 19, 2011 at 12:41 PM

      Shannon, we write in the sam way. I write each chapter quickly and then go back and insert passages, and make changes, to make it better.

  61. colleen laquay urbaniuk on August 19, 2011 at 9:23 AM

    rewriting comes natural. the desire to “hear” words flow in my mind. i tweak until it sounds just right. and sometimes the tweaking seems to last forever. there are moments the process seems more like a puzzle than a piece, but when all those pieces fit together…total satisfaction!!!

  62. Krista Phillips on August 19, 2011 at 9:13 AM

    On a scale of 1 to 10, about a 3. I hear writers say all the time they like the revising phase better than actually writing the book, and that is totally NOT me. I LOVE LOVE the writing phase. I love letting my imagination go and getting into the story world and causing havoc to my characters and eventually bringing things back around at the end.

    So writing is fun, revising is a VERY necessary evil.

    How much effort? Quite a bit. While I don’t LOVE the step, my books always need it.

    How much time % wise. Um, this is a hard one. I usually stop part way through and go back and edit/revise the first half to make sure I like were everything is headed and that if any big changes are needed, I can adjust the writing of the second half appropriately. In all, I’d say maybe 60 – 75%. When I’m on a roll, I usually write the book pretty fast.

  63. Eileen Astels on August 19, 2011 at 8:57 AM

    It feels like 95% rewrite to me. When a story hits me I just can’t NOT write it right away, but because I don’t take the time to plot it out and plan rewrites are extensive.

    One of these days I’m going to deny myself the panster attitude and plan it out well to see if that helps reduce the rewriting effort.

  64. Wendy on August 19, 2011 at 8:50 AM

    I have sort of a take one for the team mentality for revisions (the team being my characters). I absolutely love writing first drafts. Revisions are harder for me as I need to invite my left brain to come back and play and while writing the first draft my right brain has spent so much time kicking out my lb, I have to work hard to get them to play fair.
    Might biff up the math, but I’d say it’s likely I spend about four months writing a novel and the rest of the year in different stages of revision.
    ~ Wendy

  65. Joseph J Pote on August 19, 2011 at 8:49 AM

    The revision/rewriting stage is quite addictive to me.

    I love thinking of better ways to express my thoughts, new approaches on delivery, etc. It becomes even more addictive as I solicit input from others to point out areas that may be potentially confusing or lacking.

    Writing is all about communication, and the fun part of the challenge is in finding better ways to more clearly communciate with the intended audience. Along the way, my vision of both the intended audience and the intended message tends to become clearer to me, and hopfeully to the readers, as well.

    The harder part, really, is deciding when to stop rewriting and call it finished. I want to keep going back to tweak and perfect, but at some point it has to be called “close enough” and turned loose.

  66. Katie Ganshert on August 19, 2011 at 8:31 AM

    Thankfully, I enjoy revisions b/c I think 75% of my writing life might be spend on them.

  67. Sue Harrison on August 19, 2011 at 8:19 AM

    Rough draft 1/3, rewrite 2/3, but that doesn’t include the changes I make after my agent and editors read the ms. The rewrite is my favorite part!

  68. Sherri on August 19, 2011 at 8:14 AM

    I love that quote. Think I’ll post it!

    You know what amazes me and scares me a little? I can write what I think is a really good chapter, put it down, walk away from it for a while, come back to it and right away see a dozen changes that need to be made. I can repeat that whole process a few times before I get it right. But then, have I actually gotten it right or does it need some more work?

    Do you get to a point when you think/know “this is as good as it can get?” or will you always be able to go back and want to fix things?

    I’m not published yet, but I wonder if and when that happens, will I read my book as others have it and still be wanting to fix things? Scary!

    • Sue Harrison on August 19, 2011 at 8:21 AM

      Yep, Sherri, I always want to change things, even in my published books, but don’t let that be scary for you. It’s just a sign that you’re still growing as a writer!

  69. Lisa Jordan on August 19, 2011 at 8:06 AM

    Authors do not receive contracts for rough drafts, so editing is essential for a salable product. I probably spend 1/3 of my time writing the rough draft, then the other 2/3 revising. Rough drafts are fairly easy–write whatever comes into your head. It’s during the revision process that you show your strengths as a writer.

  70. Anna Banks on August 19, 2011 at 7:53 AM

    With my first editorial letter, I took out 18k words and replaced them with 17k new ones. It sucked very much bad. But the finished product was amazing.

    I used to be the kind of writer who labored over every word in the first draft. Now I’m okay with the coal-quality, because I know it’ll be a diamond later. After I re-write it several times, but still. 🙂

    Have a happy Friday everyone!

    • Sarah Thomas on August 19, 2011 at 9:45 AM

      Now that’s an honest assessment!

      I have to fight the polishing as I go tendency as well. Another writer once told me I really needed to turn off the automatic correction marker thingy in Word. If I see that green or red line under a word I can’t help but stop and make it go away!

      Coal to diamonds. Coal to diamonds.

  71. carol brill on August 19, 2011 at 7:50 AM

    I spend at least 10x’s more time rewriting than writing.
    Rewriting goes beyond making the work stronger. It makes me stronger as a writer, and I think as a person. If we want our work to be the best it can be we learn to hear feedback we don’t want to hear, to really critically assess our work and maybe hardest of all, to let go. Sometimes cutting the very line that gave birth to the piece is excrutiating…and oh, so necessary.

  72. Vicki on August 19, 2011 at 7:48 AM

    I enjoy revising and rewriting, but the problem I have is the more I revise the closer and the more wrapped up I become in the story and the characters. I have trouble stepping back and looking at my work objectively.

    Any suggestions?

  73. kiolia on August 19, 2011 at 7:44 AM

    I really enjoy revising. For me, there’s more “instant gratification” in it — in a first draft, I don’t even know if whatever I’m writing at a given moment is going to survive to the final. In revisions on the structural levels, there are lots of great moments where I finally figure out how to make something work that wasn’t, and on the finer levels, I take great pleasure in seeing how much stronger I can render scenes and sentences. I love it when I figure out how to ditch three scenes and replace them with one that does all their work and does it better.

  74. Sharon A Lavy on August 19, 2011 at 7:11 AM

    Writing is re-writing. I believe this. So editing is a given. And I enjoy it.

  75. otin on August 19, 2011 at 7:02 AM

    I’m constantly tweaking things. It has gotten to the point where people yell at me and say, “Leave it alone, you’re going to mess it up!” lol

  76. Peter DeHaan on August 19, 2011 at 6:56 AM

    I tend to do a lot of editing/revising as I write, so my first draft is generally 90 to 95% of the finished product. But that doesn’t mean that I’m almost done.

    I typically enjoy the first few revision passes, as I know I am tightening things up and the result is better. But when I get to about the fourth iteration, drudgery sets in and it is hard to persist.

    I know that for articles, less than half of my time is spent on revising. For books it is hard to judge, but I suspect that revising is a much higher percentage, in the neighborhood of 65 to 75 percent.

  77. Jackie Ley on August 19, 2011 at 5:44 AM

    I always do a first edit, section by section as I write. If I don’t polish as I go, I can lose confidence in what I’ve written when I go back through the first draft. It also means I can hand the first draft to my critique partner fairly early on and benefit from her feedback without obvious glitches getting in the way. I then do a straight read-through edit, a ‘read every word out loud edit’ and a hard copy edit. That’s the point when I long to get it out there to agents, but I’m learning there’s no point blowing my chances too soon, so with my current wip, I’m planning to let it lie for a month and go back for at least one more edit before I start submitting.
    And the short answer is – I too love the editing process!

  78. Rosemary Gemmell on August 19, 2011 at 5:01 AM

    I like the revision – it’s getting the whole novel down in the first place that’s difficult! But then I love going back through it and making it stronger/better.

  79. Madison Johns on August 19, 2011 at 4:35 AM

    I would caution anyone while “killing all their darlings” they don’t take what’s good out and replace it with crap. I tore my “The Bone Extractor” manuscript apart, but ultimately kept it the way it is. (Kinda). I’m a newbie so of course I put all my ducks in a row, and got my POVs where they needed to be because mine were all over the place. I learned so much once I found an editor to help me. You don’t need to pay high dollar for someone’s opinion if you make the right kind of connections on social networks.

  80. Michael Collins on August 19, 2011 at 4:02 AM

    I must be weird. OK, I know I’m weird. I love the imaginative process of writing – all those pinging thoughts transcribed to into text. But then, finding a hole in the story is incredibly exciting. How will I fix it? If I kill off this person, maybe that one succeed. Helicopter crash? Nah, maybe a bit over the top and definitely rather noisy.

    If I didn’t enjoy the revision/rewriting process, I’m not sure I could write at all.

  81. Beth K. Vogt on August 19, 2011 at 3:41 AM

    Writing is rewriting. That’s my belief. (Now I need to go find out if I’m actually quoting someone else.)Ah, yes, I am!
    “The best writing is rewriting.” ~E.B. White, American writer (longtime contributor to the New Yorker)
    OK. Back to the question: I love writing. I love rewriting. It’s that crazy hybrid mind of mine–part editor, part writer. Write some, revise some.
    I can be a bit picky when it comes to revising because I like to get things right, including punctuation, spelling, as well as the overall storyline and character development.

  82. Elise Adams on August 19, 2011 at 3:39 AM

    Re-writing and editing is like uncovering the true gold from among all the fools gold…yes, it can be tedious–the rewards are priceless, however. The first draft is magical. But the editing and rewriting process is where I begin to finally feel that I might be a writer. When I can bend and mold and re-fashion the words to say more I know that I was called to this journey with the written word. Without a doubt in my mind, the re-writing process is where God comes the closest and whispers right onto the page.

  83. Nancy Kelley on August 19, 2011 at 2:55 AM

    Like anything else, I enjoy revising when it’s going well and I hate it when it’s not. My favorite part of writing is the moment when I finally understand how to fix a scene. My least favorite part is the days it took to get there.

    I am very detailed and precise in my revising. I go through my drafts at least five times before I even allow my crit partners to see them. I color code my revisions. I dictate the novel back to my computer with voice recognition software, partly so I can hear how it sounds.

    I write my rough draft during NaNoWriMo. I then spend 6 months to a year revising the manuscript that took 30 days to write. We’ll be kind and say 75% of my writing life is spent revising.

    So yes, writing takes an unusual kind of stamina. It’s the ability to constantly beat myself up but not stay down. It’s a drive to constantly improve, and a confidence that I can improve. And when it’s all over, the satisfaction in seeing the final draft makes it all worth while.

  84. Najela on August 19, 2011 at 2:55 AM

    I like rewriting way more than I like the actual writing process. I always freak out when I think my writing is not good enough in the first draft, but when I go to clean things up, I love finding wonderful phrases and realizing that not all of what I write is complete crap. By the time I finish something (I have yet to finish something longer than a short story), it’s fun to go back and read the story see it getting better each time. However, I think I need to learn when to stop editing. I used to be guilty of editing out the voice of my writing.

  85. BK Jackson on August 19, 2011 at 2:31 AM

    Definitely closer to 2/3rd’s of life is re-writing. Tweak, tweak, tweak. That’s the noise I’m usually always making. 😎

  86. Emerald Barnes on August 19, 2011 at 2:24 AM

    Oh, editing. I believe that we have a love/hate relationship. It’s definitely worth it, but by the time I get towards the end of the third draft, I want to pull my hair out. However, the end result is SO worth it.

    I believe that revision is the difference between a good story and a great one. It’s very important.

    I spend more time thinking about revising and revising than the plot and outline of a first draft. So, I’d say a HUGE amount of my time goes into editing.

  87. Loree Huebner on August 19, 2011 at 1:48 AM

    I just finished up with revisions and I’m in the final read through.

    I like revisions. The writing always seems to be better after.

    I would say probably half of my writer’s life is rewrites.

  88. Aimee L. Salter on August 19, 2011 at 1:26 AM

    I love editing – far prefer it to drafting. Which is good, because I took three months to draft my first novel and 18 months to get it to a submissible level.

    That said, I’ve only revised one book to that stage. The latter two were written to a much higher level to start, so won’t take quite as much revision… I hope.

  89. Janette Dolores on August 19, 2011 at 1:21 AM

    Ha. Love that quote!

    I wouldn’t say I enjoy the revision process, but it does beat the process of transforming the ideas in my mind to words on the page, for sure.

    Once the end is in sight and I’m happy with the rewrite, then the enjoyment kicks in.

    Have a beautiful weekend.

  90. Jan Cline on August 19, 2011 at 1:18 AM

    I struggle to put as much into revisions as I do the original draft. Im working on changing my attitude to be patient with the process and not dwell on the time factor. I think most writers get frustrated with the rewrites at some point. Someday I will be matured in this area and that’s when I’ll be a better writer.

  91. Renee Ronika Klug (@reneeronika) on August 19, 2011 at 1:03 AM

    The revision process for me is the real work: I have to separate from my emotions to analyze whether or not my writing is cogent and clear. I enjoy it ultimately because it allows me to get to the heart of the matter.

    However, this is what I teach my students: “The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.” – Samuel Johnson

    I discovered the work of reading while getting my MFA and learned that Samuel Johnson is right: reading good literature informs us on how to write better. But Irving is also correct.

    In percentages, I think I spend 25% reading, 25% writing and 50% editing. So, I suppose, once analyzed, Irving wins.

  92. Addison Moore on August 19, 2011 at 12:58 AM

    Sometimes it feels like writing is the hard part–the work. Edits can be artful, playful, a time to meditate on the words and mold them into what you need them to be. I’m knee deep in revisions right now and I’m really enjoying the process.

  93. Chantal on August 19, 2011 at 12:55 AM

    I hate revising. I’ve been revising this novel of mine for way too long and it’s frustrating! I don’t know when it’s right, I don’t know exactly what I need to fix half the time, even though I’ve had people help me. I much prefer the writing process. It’s easier to fall into the world I’m creating than trying to edit it!

    Then again, I never ever revised things as a kid/teen/college student. I would write a paper and then turn it in without a second glance. Still got awesome grades!

  94. Shannon Hart Hudnell on August 19, 2011 at 12:55 AM

    When I had to revise a book, it must have taken me at least ten times. The first few times weren’t bad, because I knew that there were so many things I had to cut. But towards the end, I was pretty “done” with the whole process.

  95. Marla Taviano on August 19, 2011 at 12:46 AM

    Can I just copy Jo’s comment (above)? It’s a good thing I love revising so much, because I’ve been doing a buttload of it lately.

  96. Jo Eberhardt on August 19, 2011 at 12:41 AM

    I LOVE rewriting, editing and revising. Love it. In fact, I love it so much I wish I could skip the writing part in the first place, and just revise, revise, revise.

    I struggle with a first draft. Always have. Getting the ideas from my head to the page feels like I’m trying to bleed ink through my fingers. But once the words are there… well, that’s just a matter of hard work and know-how. Refine, distill, cut, polish, repeat until it shines.

    • Ruth Madison on August 19, 2011 at 4:33 PM

      Same here. I love the revising part, hate the initial writing. I want to polish my words, and it’s frustrating to have to write the words first before I can polish them.

    • Latrina on August 20, 2011 at 11:20 AM

      I completely agree with Jo! I love the rewriting because to me the hard work is already done. The hardest part is getting the initial thoughts down on paper. The journalist in me loves to rewrite and edit. I’m working on my first novel and I didn’t have a realistic timeline about how long this would take. Didn’t factor in all the writing, rewriting, writing, rewriting….Still, i’m trying to enjoy it.

    • Ike Obidike on August 23, 2011 at 9:00 AM

      I love to write and rewrite equally. I’ve always known that writing is more about rewriting and blessed with the gift of editing, I thrive well on the second part.

  97. Mona AlvaradoFrazier on August 19, 2011 at 12:38 AM

    It’s a love hate relationship, and it’s a thin line between both. It took 1 year to write my first MS, then a year and a half to revise where I’m brave enough to send it out.

    My second MS, completed to first draft, took four months and five months later I’m still revising. It’ll probably be another couple of months before I send that one out.

    I find I spend more time in the revision stage and concentrate more effort in rewriting.

    • Margaret Piton on August 19, 2011 at 12:52 PM

      Because of a background as a reporter and columnist, I think of re-writing as someone else’s job. With my novel, though, I’m finding I need to do quite a lot of it, and it’s no fun.