With most of my novels, I call it revising, but it’s really rewriting. Revision vs. Rewrite. What’s the difference and why do I care?


For me, revising is when I’m reworking scenes and maybe even adding and deleting some scenes, but the general storyline remains basically unchanged. I may add a little more emotional heft to a scene or rework for more tension, but the basic underlying structure of the scene and story as a whole are intact.


When I’m rewriting, big plot elements have changed so I may delete entire scenes and characters. I may move scenes and completely rework them. And I’m writing a lot of brand new scenes and chapters because the theme and storyline have change significantly or completely.

The journey of Fade Away to its current form was a series of both, though mostly rewriting. It took awhile for the story to find me. Or for me to be ready to tell it. I’m not sure which. I just know that each time I did a “major revision,” I was actually rewriting extensively, creating a new storyline, a new theme, and juggling characters.

  • Ghost element? Gone
  • Ex-best friend’s older brother? Bye-bye
  • New guy? Character bolstered significantly, requiring brand new scenes and his own story arc
  • Theme? Changed, necessitating the change in focus of many, many scenes as well as deleting scenes completely and adding new ones
  • And more…

The image below shows a snapshot of some of my pages after a “rewrite overhaul.” I’m still trying to come up with a more elegant name for this part of my process so if you have ideas once you hear what it is, please post them below!

So here’s what I do once I have the new vision,: I go through the story page by page doing one of three things:

  • Deleting scenes/chapters
  • Highlighting scenes for possible deletion in yellow/in green for things that may work elsewhere
  • Writing notes for changes to a particular scene, then highlighting the notes so I can see them easily when I go back through


You’re seeing 28 pages of 320+ pages. Very few pages do not have some kind of highlighting and/or notes on them  🙂 .

My next round is setting aside a large chunk of time (6+ hours if possible) to go through it from the beginning to the end, implementing the noted changes without worrying about style (this is tough for perfectionist writer me). I like to go through it in one sitting to ensure things are happening in the order that they are supposed to. If I can’t, I make notes to myself about what’s happened up to the point where I need to stop.

Next, I begin to write and revise, meaning I’m focused on how I’m saying things, how much I’m saying, and the overall purpose of a scene. Then I continue with my usual revision process—continuing to hone the purpose of each scene, adding tension, making sure I didn’t leave a plot thread dangling somewhere and so on.

Why Differentiate?

Some people probably don’t care what they call this part of their process; they just do it. Or maybe they never do rewrites so this is irrelevant for them. I say, kudos!

But for me, what I call a thing matters. If I say I’m doing “revisions”—to myself or anyone else—and I’m really doing rewrites, I’m not really owning the full experience and I want to own it.

Do you differentiate between two? Does anyone care besides me? I don’t mind being the only crazy semantic girl around…I’m just curious.

P.S. The manuscript is now with my group. It’s a little rougher in spots than I’d hoped, but I’m looking forward to getting some guidance from the Collective Genius that is the Wild Writers.