Rewrites in 4 Easy Phases: Phase 1: Assessment

Hey! Welcome back to my rewrite method. This week we examine Phase 1: Assessment.

At its most basic, this phase means you need to go through your completed draft and make an honest assessment of what’s working, and inevitably, what’s not. I’ll pause with the caveat that different people recommend different amounts of time to let the piece “rest” before you dive into rewrites since it allows you a certain amount of distance. For myself, I’m often too impatient, so only sometimes do this. Most of the time, I find it was at least a month since I’ve written or re-read the opening chapters, so it already provides some distance.

Here’s the phase broken down into 5 easy steps:

1. Read through the draft and make notes. You’ll be making notes on scenes, general impressions, suggested changes / ideas. NO ACTUAL CHANGES YET. Consider this similar to a critique you’d do for others. Recently, I’ve found that reading through a .pdf file on my tablet was fabulous because I couldn’t make changes, only notes. Whatever works for you. Remember to write down what you really enjoyed as you read too – you don’t want to end up deleting that chapter accidentally (unless you have to.)

2. Create your chapter by chapter summary. As you read, write down just enough information to understand what the chapter is about, usually the major action and significance. Or, if you prefer, after the re-through, go back and do the chapter by chapter, but make sure you do it. This will be an important tool later on.

3. Consider your general impressions and major concerns. Especially when you reached the end of the book, were there plot threads and details that hadn’t been woven into earlier sections? Were there overall issues / problems? At least make note of these, though you don’t have to solve them just yet.

4. Consolidate onto chapter by chapter summary. Go through and make the major notes and impressions from step 1 and from step 3 into your chapter by chapter summary. This will give you a pretty good idea of what’s going on. I format this using the chapter summary followed by the notes / impressions for that chapter. Usually, the more notes, the more problems, which can act like a red flag in later phases.

5. Finally, perhaps most importantly, remember that not all (any?) books started out super-awesome-perfect in their early drafts. Yours is no different. It will get better. You don’t suck. I promise.

So, that was hopefully fairly painless. Yes, it will probably be disappointing that some things aren’t as polished / ready as you’d hoped. But, at least now you have some idea of the issues at hand.

Next week: Phase 2: Macro Assessment and Changes, where we make use of that chapter by chapter outline, and the notes from Phase 1.

But first, what do you think? Is this similar to you rewrite process in early phases? I’m also experimenting and trying to get more efficient, like most of us are. Any ideas you’d like to share? Come on,  you know you want to. 🙂

Thanks for reading, and happy writing. Oh, and make sure you sign up for the blog. You don’t want to miss the next post. 🙂