You call it rewrites, I call it writing.

When I finished my amazing manuscript in November of 2013, I was elated. I’d finished my second book and It Was Perfect. All I’d need were a few tweaks in spelling, grammar, and stuff, and boom, this thing was ready to hit bookshelves and an option for a Lifetime miniseries.

I’d already written one book, already gone through the hell of discovering flaws in my writing, like point of view, tenses, descriptions, locations, blah blah blah. And upon finishing that second book, I knew I’d nailed that shit. Perfect.

I sent off a few copies to close friends (let’s call them “alpha readers” now. At the time I called them Beta Readers, but looking back, those people read the entire book, start to finish, before I did.) One came back with concerns over character descriptions, one came back with concerns over character motivations, and the third came back with praise and suggestions for the sequel.

Without a doubt, that third reader was the genius of the bunch. She got it, got the story, and loved the genre. Besides, those other two were writers. She’s a reader – her expectations are more important because …

I hope you get where I’m going with this. Her praise gave me the encouragement I needed to go on with it. The other two folks gave me the insight I’d need to take what I’d written and make it better on the next draft.

Wait. What’s this “next draft” bullshit? My book was done. Nailed it. No need for a rewrite, right?

So, all that stuff, that was before the end of 2013. I tried to leave the book alone for 30 days, (you’re supposed to leave it alone for up to 6 months so you come back to it with a fresh perspective but who does that shit? I’m a genius and I write good!)

After leaving it alone for 30 days, (and by “leaving it alone” I mean I began work on the Graphic Novelization of my book because oh hell yes), I bothered to read my book.

That’s right.

I wrote the story, hit save, did a spell check, and sent it off to friends. Did not read it. Didn’t scan it for double words like, she she said, or they ran they walked to the store. Here’s a tip. Don’t be me. Don’t do that. Write your book, leave it alone for 2 weeks, and then read it, front to back. Read a printed out version of your book, with a pencil in your hand. Do NOT read a digital version where you can jump in and “just fix this little thing here” all over the place. You’ll never finish.

Enough about mistakes of the past. Here’s my point, 444 words into my story.

That first version is you, in a bar, drunk, blabbing to five people. Don’t even bother editing or fixing typos. Use that first MS as your blueprint. Read it, stew on the story itself. Make notes, a TON of notes, about what should be important and what isn’t that great. Push characters into bigger characters, make them more of whatever they are. Read other books like yours. Watch movies. Get inside your character’s heads.

And then map out your story. Go look at a wiki article of a book. Map it out like that. Spoil the surprises and give away the shocking moments, so you, the overlord of your story, know every little detail, and know the shit to hint at and the shit to give away.

And then write. Chapter by chapter. It’s not even a rewrite to me. It’s an adaptation of a poorly-written story. Gather every note you’ve got about themes, characters, speech patterns, bad habits and scenery, and write a chapter that’s 50 times better than your first version. Compress chapters. Turn a chapter into three sentences if you can; push your story from a bubbling stream into a raging river. Take every sentence and make that shit float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.

I should point out, however, when you’re doing this line-by-line steroid improvement, it helps to read the previous paragraph that leads into your sentence. I’ve made the mistake of writing a sentence, obsessing over it, then moving on to the next one, and pretty soon, you’ve got a collection of great statements that do not make up a good read.

I love rewriting. No. I hate it, but I love it. It’s another chance to make it better. And better.

And just like my book, I’m going to go ahead and hit save and publish this article without reading it. You’re welcome. That’s how I role.