Rewriting, Revising, and Polishing

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The first draft of my cozy has been waiting and waiting and . . . yawn . . . waiting for me to get back to it. But I haven’t felt compelled. Fortunately, I’m in a mystery writer’s group with several other accomplished writers. Or perhaps I should said several other writers who are all accomplished. They have completed and published mysteries.

Today I talked with one of them about my manuscript. It finally hit me. I’m not looking at a revision. I’m facing a rewrite. What’s the difference?


When you rewrite a manuscript, you make substantial changes to the story. In my case, two secondary character’s are changing professions. One of my subplots is being completely discarded. This is going to impact my entire story.

But that’s okay.

I didn’t like my character. She seemed weak and whiney. And there wasn’t any way to fix this as the story stood. I’m not saying that every character needs to be an MMA fighter but I had to question whether or not my character would even have the get-up-and-go to solve they mystery.

How to solve this? By changing her backstory, what brought her to town, and the circumstances of her arrival. From start to finish, I’ll be reworking characters, how they relate to each other, and the plot. This is definitely a rewrite.

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In a revision, the story works. Your characters are three dimensional. The plot works. You’ve got a good setting. Your working on how you tell the story but that is not going to change in a substantial way.

Sure, you might be adding some transitions. And there could be clues to lay out in earlier chapters. You might even be taking out some things that aren’t necessary. There are sentences that repeat information relayed earlier. There could be a chapter that just doesn’t move the story forward. And you might be able to combine two characters into one. But the story? That doesn’t change.

Me? My story is changing.


Last but not least, you polish your story. This is when you review individual work choice. You might go for a more imaginative verb or a more specific noun, but nothing massive is changing.

This is also when I read the story aloud. I want to hear the sounds of the words. I want to get a feel for how they interact.

Admittedly, I’m more comfortable revising than I am rewriting, but that’s okay. Fiction is still fairly new to me and I’m enjoying the learning process. Like I said, thank goodness I have a group of talented writers to help me along my way.