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The Rewrite vs. The Edit...

So which is it? Do you rewrite or do you edit? Or do you revise? Does it matter? Oh, it does matter? Okay. Are they interchangeable? Are they completely separate and distinct phases? Will I be cast out of writing circles for using the wrong term for the wrong phase? Grr! We writers and our stupid confusing lingo!

Writer, I feel you. I really do. But it's okay. First things first. Relax. Take a deep breath. If you're thinking about revision or rewriting or editing or whatever the heck you wanna call it - point is, if you're at this point, it means you've already mastered what so many writers fail to do. You wrote a book. You finished it. Congratulations! Give yourself a high five and a whole box of chocolate just for you...Then take a nap because you probably haven't slept in, like, a year.

Now, don't you feel better?

Okay, on to the issue of the day. Do you "rewrite" or do you "edit"? OR, if you want to get really fancy schmancy, do you revise?

The answer is actually quite simple...

Whatever works for you.

Don't like that response? Yeah, I didn't really care for the vagueness of it, either. Not that I was worried about what was right or wrong. I just needed something to differentiate the stages of post-writing/pre-publication. Otherwise, it just felt like a never-ending stream of edits that were about to crush my soul.

If you, like me, prefer to see the stages of post-writing as steps toward a goal, then feel free to use this little system that I use. (And be ready to sound really smart when you talk to you writer friends...until they start arguing with you about how they would do it instead.)

1) Step One is the REWRITE.

This is when you look over the story and figure out what needs to be fixed in the areas of PLOT, CHARACTERS, and SETTING.

After the manuscript is complete, you have a first draft. Take this, chop it apart, move the pieces around, and reassemble with many a narrative overhaul into the second draft. Depending on how messy it was to begin with, it may literally be completely rewritten. (Hence the title:) Now take your second draft and do it again. And potentially again. And again. (Sometimes we write really messy stories.)

2) Step Two is the EDIT.

This is when you look over the narrative and dialogue. You'll be getting into grammar and punctuation. You'll be deleting overused words, filter words, cliches and metaphors that don't fit. This is the nitty-gritty of the post-writing phase. It's partly creative, but mostly technical. Again, hence the title. I always wait until I feel like the manuscript is in its best shape and there won't be any more giant changes to plot before diving into this phase. And, for myself, I like to add a pre-publishing phase (because it eases my mind, not sure why)...

3) Step Three is the Polishing Up Phase

This is when you go over and over and over your manuscript with a magnifying glass looking for every single possible typo or missing comma or sentence ending in a preposition (which I honestly think are okay to occasionally end a sentence with...;) This can also be called the PROOFREAD. But since I'm complicated, I like to add that as a totally different step - and officially delegate that to someone other than me!

So there you have it. Next time some smart alleck writer walks up to you and asks you, "So are you editing or rewriting?" and gives you a smug smirk, you can hold your head high and confuse the heck out of them!

Happy writing!

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