Reader Friday: Rewrites

Rewriting, love it or hate it?

I love it. Maybe too much. During edits, I often rewrite paragraphs, sometimes entire pages. Drives my editors insane. Drives me insane, too, but I can’t stop. It’s part of my process now. 🙂

Rewriting is where magic happens. The story reaches new heights.

What’s your favorite part of the editing process?

Do you mercilessly kill your darlings?

Do you keep a file for clipped passages?

What’d you name said file?

Ever use those dead darlings?


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About Sue Coletta

Sue Coletta is an award-winning crime writer and an active member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Feedspot and named her Murder Blog as “Best 100 Crime Blogs on the Net.” She also blogs at the Kill Zone (Writer's Digest "101 Best Websites for Writers") and Writers Helping Writers. Sue lives with her husband in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. Her backlist includes psychological thrillers, the Mayhem Series (books 1-3) and Grafton County Series, and true crime/narrative nonfiction. Now, she exclusively writes eco-thrillers, Mayhem Series (books 4-7 and continuing). Sue's appeared on the Emmy award-winning true crime series, Storm of Suspicion, and three episodes of A Time to Kill on Investigation Discovery. Learn more about Sue and her books at

27 thoughts on “Reader Friday: Rewrites

  1. What’s your favorite part of the editing process?

    Do you mercilessly kill your darlings?
    Always. On and off the page.

    Do you keep a file for clipped passages?

    What’d you name said file?
    “Here, My Dear.”

    Ever use those dead darlings?
    Yes. Everything that has been created can be repurposed.

    Thanks for the great questions to jump-start the morning, Sue. Have a great weekend!

  2. For me, writing is rewriting, so I accept that what I put on the page the first time isn’t going to be camera-ready. I enjoy the process because it means I finished the book (although I do tweak chapters as I go.) The parts I dislike most: doing repeated word checks in SmartEdit and listening to Word read the entire ms back to me. But I know it’s going to declunk the book, and it’s part of my process.
    I fix what I need to fix. If my editor says, “there’s not enough tension in the first 10 chapters,” then I do much more revising than if it’s just a matter of typos, paragraphing, etc.
    I save my work with a new filename (date at the end) every day as I go. If I make a major plot change, then I rename the file itself–something clever like “Mapleton 6a.”

    • I like that idea of saving every day in a new file. At first glance it sounds tedious, but in the long run, I think that sounds like a better, more organized way to do it because you can track your changed files more easily.

  3. I’ve never quite understood the blood lust against those poor darlings. I say give them a fair trial!

    As for re-writing, my outline protects from macro rewrites. For me, the best stuff is produced from editing the previous day’s work. The prose gets tightened, the scene endings get cliff-hangier, character quirks emerge.

    • I also rewrite–tweak?–the writing from the day before, but time away gives me clarity. No matter how clean the manuscript, I can always find something I don’t like. 😉

  4. What’s your favorite part of the editing process? Coming across something that I don’t need to edit at all. Pretty rare.:-)

    Do you mercilessly kill your darlings? I kill off most of them, but I do enjoy a lyrical passage now and then.

    Do you keep a file for clipped passages? Yes.

    What’d you name said file? “Orphans.”

    Ever use those dead darlings? YES! My very first sale was a story developed from a dead darling.:-)

  5. Great questions, Sue!

    What’s your favorite part of the editing process?
    Implementing feedback from my beta readers. One of the hardest things as a fiction writer is to be able to see your story from a reader’s eyes. Their feedback can throw things into sharp relief.

    Do you mercilessly kill your darlings?
    If my favorite bits don’t serve the story, then they go.

    Do you keep a file for clipped passages?
    Yes, for select passages, but I usually don’t reference it later.

    What’d you name said file?
    Deleted material. Not terribly excited.

    Ever use those dead darlings?
    I have used deleted scenes, rewritten, for my newsletter

    • That’s an excellent way to use dead darlings, Dale. Agree about feedback and time away. Viewing the manuscript from a reader’s standpoint is crucial. Which is what usually leads to my incessant rewrites. Once I’m done, though, I’m confident I’ve given the story my all. It’s a closure of sorts for me.

    • Not for me it isn’t, Ben. I never change the plot or characters. I’ll infuse more emotion into a scene, or rearrange my sentences. Rewriting for me is more micro level than macro.

  6. Being an editor, I love rewriting b/c I can see the improvements. With each succeeding pass, the bare-bones skeleton develops muscle, sinew, flesh, and starts moving the plot around. Based on critique input, I mold the face and body, and hone the plot action. For last passes, I style the hair, put on the makeup, and dress it up.

    Sue, like you, I keep fiddling–clean up smudged mascara, iron wrinkles in the clothes, change to a more appropriate pair of shoes.

    When I cut a scene, I stick it at the end of the working ms. rather than a separate file so it’s easy to find. Only occasionally do I recycle that material. Most of the time, it didn’t belong in the first place. That stuff eventually goes into a file called “outtakes.”

  7. Right after I read Sue’s post, I opened Randy Intermanson’s newsletter. This quote jumped out:

    “Most writers are perfectionists, and that’s good. It means we like to produce excellent quality writing.

    Most writers are perfectionists, and that’s bad. It means we’re never done.

    The art of being a writer is to balance that good perfectionism against the bad perfectionism.”

  8. I like the quote from Nick Lowe: “Bash it out now, tart it up later.”

    I find rewriting to be even more fun that writing the first draft. Once the story is written, the pressure to make sure the plot works is off, and I can enjoy making each scene special.

    The first time an editor told me to kill my darlin’s, I was horrified. Eventually, good sense prevailed and I wiped them out. Now I’m merciless with my literary scythe.

    • I love rewriting, too, Kay. It’s one of my favorite parts of the process because, as you say, the plotting pressure is off and I can just sink into the storyline.

  9. All through the first draft, I keep saying, you can’t edit what you haven’t written. The first draft is like pulling a horse’s jaw tooth.

    Since I’m a very lean writer, I rarely have anything to cut…rather I usually have to add about 10,000 words to the first draft and that is always beefing up the romance. Personally, it’s much easier to kill a character than to get one together with another character.
    Scenes I do cut are put in a file on Scrivener called “Cuts.” I know very imaginative.

  10. The longer I wrote in years, the slower I wrote each sentence, but I wrote cleaner and more confidentally. That meant much less rewriting on the sentence level. My rewrites tended toward filling in things I was prone not pay attention to like visuals, not taking things away, and that, too, improved over the years. Nothing like the confident belief that the sentences will always come out, the next scenes will be there, and the novel will be finished to stop the desperate word vomit of the early days. This also allowed me to back up a few chapters because there was some info or a character moment I really needed to add or change. That beat a fast paper note to myself to check it later. Moral of the story. Your method of writing and rewriting will change over the years, and that’s okay.

    • There’s a lot of wisdom in your comment, Marilynn. It seems the longer I’m in this biz, the longer it takes me to write a novel and the more particular I am about every word, sentence, paragraph, etc. I never rewrite plot or characters, but I do enhance scenes with more emotions during rewrites.

  11. Hi Sue! My favorite part about editing? When it’s done and I hit “Publish” so I can get on to the next job. However, I look forward to getting a mark-up back from my proofreader and learning from all the things she picked up from what I thought was a “perfectly clean” ms – and there’s lots of ’em.

    Kill the darlings? I invent beautiful little darlin’s just so I can sadistically shred them into blood-running pieces that are incapable of being resurrected or identified other than through digital DNA.

    What was your other question? *scrolls up* Oh, yeah. Clip file. I write each chapter (scene) on a separate Word.doc and keep it in a cloud-saved master file along with a thumb drive backup and a self emailed attachment. I once lost a 30K WIP and swore never to reoffend. But, you know, the rewrite (IMO) was far better than the first go, so there. Enjoy your day!

    • I’m obsessive about backups, too, Garry, for the same reason. Once I lost 50K words! Total devastation. Our buddy Joe Broadmeadow recovered most of the file, but it was a few weeks of hell that scarred me for life. LOL

      Happy weekend to you!

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