Five Traps To Avoid When Re Writing A Manuscript

When re writing manuscripts, the process of reworking a piece can be very difficult for the writer. Here are five common traps when rewriting and how to avoid them.

Almost every writer, famous or struggling, can recall instantly the first time they were asked to rewrite a submitted manuscript. Seeing their prized story come back from the editor's office with red ink marks can be a humbling and disheartening experience for any writer, regardless of their status in the publishing world. Rewriting is a difficult process- one that asks the author to go back into a story and start tearing out the walls and floorboards. We would all like to believe that our own work is good enough to find acceptance without the spectre of rewriting, but that is rarely the case. Anyone involved in a creative process should understand that ideas may have to be reworked or rethought in order to insure future success. While the rewriting process may be painful at times, it is also a necessary evil in a competitive publishing world that demands the best work possible.

But there are several 'traps' that writers may discover during the rewriting stage. These traps may keep a writer from making the changes necessary, or fill a writer's mind with enough self-doubt to render him unable to continue with the project. Here are five such traps to avoid while rewriting your own manuscript, along with some advice on how to get out of them if needed.

1. Beware of Self-Doubt. This is a very common trap for the beginning writer who has not been faced with the demands of extensive rewriting. Suggestions for rewrites are not intended to create doubt in your own ability as a writer. If your work has merited such careful editorial guidance, then you should know that the basic structure is still good. You should keep in mind that you are not being asked to build a new house, just tweak the furniture that is already there. Self-doubt can cripple a writer's confidence at a point where he or she needs the most confidence yet. Work on the rewrite just as hard as you worked on the original manuscript- don't view it as punishment for not being perfect the first time. If you feel that you are indeed in the grips of self-doubt, take some time away from the project to re-affirm belief in your own writing ability. Talk over your concerns with a trusted friend or fellow writers. Rewrite from a position of strength and confidence.



2. "The Editor Doesn't Know What He's Doing." You may start looking at the editor's suggested changes and begin to wonder if he has lost his mind. How dare he insist that you expand that character or eliminate that chapter. He's not the genius around here- you are. Sound remotely familiar? Writing is a collaborative process, and the relationship between writer and editor should be a cordial and professional one. You may feel passionately about a suggested change, but you still have an obligation to explore an editor's point of view. If you have a strong argument against a suggested change, by all means present your case to your editor. But don't allow pride or stubborness to stand in the way of the entire rewriting process. Sometimes it's best to rewrite the manuscript per your editor's suggestions, then hash major disagreements out in a different forum.

3. Never forget the intended audience. Many rewriting suggestions are technical in nature- a paragraph needs tightening or a certain passage is confusing. These changes can be made relatively painlessly, and should not affect the main thrust of your story. But occasionally the suggested changes will take your story in a direction you may not have anticipated. Before continuing on the rewrite, make sure that your intended audience will also accept these changes in plotline or character. If you are writing a series of science fiction novels, for example, the audience may remember an important plot twist in an earlier book that you have forgotten in the midst of rewriting the present book. Although rewriting for improved readability and cohesion should be your primary goal, never sacrifice established characters or plotlines in the process. Keep your audience's expectations firmly in mind when rewriting for content.

4. Why bother rewriting? This trap may come up as your list of potential new projects grows and your interest in unfinished business shrinks. Going back into an older manuscript in order to fix mistakes can be half as exciting as it sounds. You may believe it would much easier to abandon this project in favor of some new and exciting idea for a novel. Rewriting and polishing a manuscript is hard work for a writer, both mentally and physically. You must fight the temptation to leave a promising work in limbo simply because the task of reshaping it seems daunting. Many famous literary masterpieces were rewritten dozens, even hundreds of times before publication. If a project shows enough promise to merit even one rewrite, then you should view it as a badge of honor to start the process. No one ever said the writing world was going to be easy.

5. Overcorrection. The final trap will continue to spring up throughout every rewriting session you do. You will be tempted to make more and more changes to your manuscript until it is barely recognizable. No one is asking you to rebuild the Pyramids or reinvent the wheel from scratch. There are parts of the original manuscript that work perfectly well as written, and should not be touched at all. But as the writer/tortured artist, you may be tempted to scrap the entire project and start over. This would be a complete waste of time and energy on your part, because the original work obviously doesn't deserve such extreme measures. For the first rewrite, concentrate strictly on the suggested changes made by your editor or trusted critic. Once those changes have been made, stop rewriting and start resubmitting. Don't second-guess the entire manuscript based on minor changes. Trust the collaborative process to point you in the right direction for future rewriting efforts. Gaining distance and perspective on a manuscript is the best gift a writer can give him or herself during the difficult rewriting phase.

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