It's very unlikely - if not impossible - that you'll produce the perfect manuscript the first go round. If you do, then the gods have decided to smile upon you. The world's greatest classics no doubt underwent multiple rewrites to get to the condition we know them in.
Here are some tips to bear in mind when embarking on a rewrite.
- Before going in and doing anything to your actual draft (or a copy of it - you want to keep copies of all your drafts in case you end up deciding the early version of a particular section was best), go through and write down a dramatic narrative of everything that happens in your book - every chapter and scene. (Some of you, like me, might not have chapters at this point.) You can create a story board on several sheets of paper, maybe including sketches of the action if you're the artistic type. If you're a plotter, you can compare this against any outline you might have already prepared, which might help you see where you need to insert or change things. Plotter or not, you're looking to see what each part does to drive the story forward, increase the tension, or develop the characters. If anything's not doing that, you should focus your attention there first, either looking to see how it can be changed to better serve the story or ultimately deciding to drop it.
- Make lists of action points as you go through this process; this way, you'll always know what you'll want to achieve when you start your rewriting journey. It will also help if you want to add elements such as foreshadowing, and generally making sure everything's on track in terms of consistency - so your MC doesn't mysteriously change hair or eye colour with no explanation.
- Don't get overwhelmed. Redrafting should always be broken down into manageable chunks. You could choose to focus on one scene at a time, or one character, going through and seeing how their actions impact on the rest of the story. That will have a knock-on effect on several other things, which you could concentrate on on your next pass, and so on.
- Rewriting takes many forms. Some decide to start completely from scratch and a blank page. Others will consider individual sentences and how they can be refined and perfected. Although, bear in mind that there is no such thing as "perfect"; remember that often our instinct is our best friend. That resolution that came to you in a flash of inspiration might have been just what the doctor ordered, and trying to second guess it might have the opposite effect to what you intended, cooling the tension rather than upping it. It's important to recognise when your rewriting is going too far and taking the oomph out of your writing, defusing that feeling of adrenaline that powered you through the original draft.
- When you feel you can't do any more, that's when it's time to give it a rest or - ideally - send it to some trusted critique partners for their opinion. The time it takes to get back to you will also allow the story to percolate in your mind, and combined with the fresh input of their ideas, this will help you tackle your opus afresh when they've finished their reading.
Do you have anything to add to this? How do you go about redrafting and rewriting?