You’ve finally done the impossible. After weeks, months, years, of gruelling effort you finally have that finished manuscript. But wait! It’s only a first draft. Next comes the big tasks of rewriting and redrafting.
Though they’re essentially the same thing, (and most may count them as such) I like to think of them as two separate entities.
Rewriting is the smaller job. It’s your final job. Four or six or maybe even ten drafts down the line you may look at your story and realise it’s finished. You’re happy with your character development, where the story has headed and all the big important details. But now you have to go through your story again with a fine tooth comb, because those small little details are no less important than the bigger ones.
Rewriting is about the little things. It’s about every word choice you’ve made, your sentence structure and how it all fits together. In a rewrite you aren’t changing the story at all, only the words. This is the moment where you pull a thesaurus out and replace a few words. Check your prose isn’t too sparse or too purple. Have a little check on how frequently you use certain words and identify all those common writing mistakes that can be fixed with something as simple as changing the sentence structure or word order. The rewriting stage may seem boring and simpler but it’s a heck of a lot easier than redrafting.
On the other hand, redrafting is a complete overhaul of the story.
Now that you’ve finished you’re first draft, stop, take a step back and look at it all over again. It’s very likely your story has shifted a lot since its first incarnation. Maybe the ending is completely different than you expected (or you hadn’t planned it at all) or maybe your journey to the ending is where your story is lacking. After a first draft you’ll find plenty of things to pick at that might require a bit more attention. A small task, like rewriting, isn’t enough to tackle these.
Rewriting is for small jobs, like the odd paragraph or maybe a scene, but to redraft you have to look at the entire thing separately and start it all over again. Unlike rewriting, where you work from what you have; in a redraft you throw out everything you’ve already written. Though you might keep it for reference, every word you write may be new. You’re not just fixing the flaws, you’re telling the story again in order to iron out any of the problem causes.
This is where you fill your plot holes in with a big dollop of cement. Where you iron out those character deficiencies. You might have to completely cut characters from your story, kill your darlings or completely change the plot. There’ll be complete scenes that are thrown out of the story and the way you approach certain elements might be different.
It’s a big task and there is a lot to look our for, but redrafting is the best opportunity to make your story as great as it could be. It may take a couple of drafts (or even more) until you’re happy with your story. It may take you a few attempts rewriting until you feel you’ve reached perfection. But think of each stage as you’re polishing your story, and eventually the finished product will shine brighter than you could have ever hoped.
Other editing advice to check out: How long to Wait Until Redrafting.