Rewrite. The word can put fear into a writer, evoking images of taking an axe to one’s story—or maybe even a chainsaw.
In December 2009, I got an amazing Christmas present: an offer of representation from Rachelle Gardner. She’d seen my story when serving as a final-round contest judge and requested the full. I was soaring in the ionosphere, which my science teacher hubby tells me is even higher than the stratosphere.
When Rachelle called to make her offer, she mentioned that the story needed work but didn’t tell me what I would have to fix. At my critique partner’s suggestion, I made a worst-case scenario list, noting everything I thought she might say.
I didn’t think big enough. When I got the feedback six weeks later, I learned that I’d released the tension one-quarter of the way into the story and needed to rewrite the final three-quarters. Yup. I had to delete 75,000 words and start over.
Two weeks later, after I’d come to grips with the news—and shed a few tears—I tore into my story chainsaw-style. I literally cut the hard copy to pieces, saving any scenes or snippets I thought I might be able to use in the new version. Then I set to work writing an ending to match the beginning, one that had earned me a number of contest wins.
I was no stranger to rewriting. I’d already rewritten this story two times. I could do this. I would do this.
I did, completing the revised version of the story six months later. I sent it to my critique partners, who told me it had a sagging middle. Oops!
Two months later I sent the finished product to Rachelle, who said it was ready to submit. She did, and six weeks later we had two offers. I got a contract for Christmas that year.
These days I don’t call myself a writer. I prefer to say I’m a re-writer. It’s not easy to rip a story to shreds and rewrite it, but the rewards can be great.
What would you think if you were told you had to rewrite a major portion of your story?
If you have performed a rewrite, what did you learn from going through the process?
Award-winning novelist Keli Gwyn writes inspirational historical romance. She’s a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America® and is represented by Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary. Keli earned her bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication/Print Journalism from California State University East Bay and worked as a copyeditor for a small textbook publisher. Her debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released by Barbour Publishing in July 2012.
An ever-resourceful widow, Elenora Watkins arrives in El Dorado ready to go into partnership with Miles Rutledge. When he refuses, Elenora becomes the competition across the street. Is this town big enough for the two of them?