Revision Versus Rewriting – What’s the Difference?



Annabel Smith

I’ve tasted the victory of typing the last line on my first full-length novel. The exhilaration of writing “The end” lasted for about a day because now, the real work begins. But, where do I begin?

To find out what my next steps involved, I started where I always do – with research and looking at what the experts had to say.

First, let’s look at a few definitions and terms – Here’s what I discovered:

Revision – means to you take a second look; read it through with fresh and critical perspective.

  • includes reviewing and amending the story.
  • is not a one-time run through.
  • often requires a back and forth between drafts. (I’m told many writers go through multiple drafts and revisions before moving to the next stage.
  • it requires a large-scale overview of the story.
  • You’re looking for the overall flow and structure of the story.
    • looking for holes or loose threads
    • organization of the story
    • character development
    • issues of credibility or believability in the plot, character, or settings.
    • logistics/timeline
    • conclusion

Rewriting – When you rewrite an entire scene, chapter, or add additional information to expand a scene, delete an unnecessary character, or make a character fuller.

Note:  Inline annotations are a good way to make note of areas that may require a rewrite.

Editing and ProofReading –  I tend to think these two things go hand in hand.

  • Editing involves getting the words right and making sure the sentence flows.
  • Proofreading means getting into the nitty-gritty of grammar, spelling, and punctuation; line by line. Things to look for during this process:
    • sentence structure and length
    • those pesky waste words
    • weak verbs
    • Remove unnecessary, vague words, clichés, or jargon
    • Remove awkward or mixed metaphors
    • redundancy
    • rhythm
    • smooth transitions
    • homonyms – words with the pronunciation but different meanings; or, two or more words with the same spelling but different meanings.

Finishing that first draft is exhilarating, but don’t let impatience to see it in print cause you to skimp on the revision process. We all want to see our book on the shelves, but we want a polished book one where our readers get lost in the story and not distracted by poor story organization or sloppy typos.

For More on the Revision Process, check out what this expert has to say.

  1. Are You Making These 3 Common Revision Mistakes? By Janice Hardy. 
  2. General Strategies Before Your Proofread
  3. Revising Drafts

Do you have pointers on revising a draft? Please, share with us. I’d love to hear your comments. Talk to me. Tell me your story. I’m all ears and look for me on Facebook at SheilaMGood,  PinterestBloglovinTwitter@sheilamgood, Contently, and Instagram. You can follow my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

9 thoughts on “Revision Versus Rewriting – What’s the Difference?

  1. In Stephen King’s book, “On Writing,” he recommends putting the manscript in a drawer for two or three months before beginning the editing/revision process. Most of us don’t have the patience to wait that long, but if you have another project to work, on waiting is the best option.
    When the manuscript is fresh, it’s still our newborn “baby” and cuts and edits are extremely painful. I often look back on stuff I wrote 2 or 3 years ago and see huge opportunites for improvement that weren’t apparent at the time because I was so in love with what I just written.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Copy editing is the drudgery in this process. Content editing is where the frustrations arise. It’s filled with moments like, “Dammit… if Marnie shows up at the hospital, then she’ll know about the pills, so she shouldn’t wait until later to say they are dangerous, but if Marnie DOESN’T show up at the hospital, then she won’t know Jessica’s condition, so she won’t even wonder about any pills…” These sometimes take weeks and strokes of genius to resolve (Marnie swiped the pills at the hospital, BTW).

    The worst part, though, is winnowing content: “Killing your darlings,” as Faulkner said. It usually takes me about five revisions to bring myself to do that… and I still don’t do enough… but when I do, it is incredibly satisfying.


  3. I look at “editing” in different ways. There’s “line editing” where you work on punctuation, typos, weak verbs, overusage of words, etc.; and there’s “content editing” where you check for loose ends, make sure no scenes contradict the plot, or holes in the plot, character’s voices and actions stay true throughout the story, etc. Maybe it’s a matter of semantics. Everything you covered is part of the process. I just try to simplify matters and largely go on my writer’s instinct. Very helpful post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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