Rewriting: Sometimes It Means Starting Anew

starting anewIf you’ve been writing for any length of time at all, you’ve probably realized that 95% of any writing project is rewriting.  When I say rewriting, I don’t mean copy-editing, such as fixing commas and checking spelling.  I mean rewriting — shifting paragraphs, deleting pages, coming up with concrete verbs and more.

Most often I can see forward progress as I rewrite, but every once in a while the project just gets clunkier.  Instead of flowing more smoothly, the words seem to bog down and stagnate.  When that happens, the best solution is to start again.


You heard me.  Start again.

You mean go back to an older draft, right?

No, I mean start again.  Fresh.  In a blank document.  The thing is that by now I know what I need to do.  I know where the piece begins.  I know where it ends. I have a good feeling for the stops in between.  Rather than try to manipulate an awkward document into this shape, it is simply easier to start anew.

And the funny thing is, when I do this, things come together quickly.  Really.  It’s leaner, it’s meaner and it lacks those blasted sidetrips that made the original manuscript so cumbersome.

This is the same technique that I use when I have to drastically cut a manuscript.  Drastically means when I have to cut a manuscript in half.  When I have to cut a piece drastically but I try to cut a word or phrase or sentence at a time, the whole often feels disjointed. When I start anew and rewrite it focused on the end goal, smooth, sleek text results.

The next time you find yourself hung up on a rewrite, give this technique a try.  Open a new document.  Start on a clean sheet of paper.  Then write.  You may be surprised at how quickly it all comes together.