Mar. 2021 | Productivity

6 Lessons Learned From Rewriting My Novel

If your novel isn’t getting the reception you hoped when you wrote ‘The End’, it may be time for a rewrite. Here are some of the lessons I learned taking on a rewrite.

At the beginning of this year, I took on the monumental task of rewriting my entire novel. It was something I never expected to have to do after writing my final draft last year, but after receiving a handful of rejections and some feedback from a very helpful agent, I decided it was time for a rewrite.

If your novel isn’t getting the reception you hoped when you wrote ‘The End’, it may be time for a rewrite. Here are 6 Lessons I Learned From Rewriting My Novel. Share on X

When it comes to writing, getting the words on paper the first time around is hard enough, nevermind the subsequent drafts that are part of the writing process. Taking on a rewrite of a novel that was complete is even more daunting of a task - especially if significant time has passed or you moved onto another project. But if your novel isn’t getting the reception you hoped when you wrote ‘The End’, it may be time for a rewrite.

As a graphic designer, I know that with the creative process, sometimes you need to go back to the drawing board - and writing is no exception. So, when rewriting my novel, I took the same approach as I would with a design project.

Six Steps to Rewriting Your Novel

Get Feedback

As a first-time writer, I was skeptical of sending my novel out for others to read, not for fear of rejection, but fear of theft. However, as the rejections began coming in, that fear disappeared and I began searching for some professional help (with my novel, that is). I searched for an editor using a popular writing marketplace website. The site allowed me to send details to five different editors and, after carefully selecting the one I thought was best (this doesn’t always come down to price), I hired him to do an assessment of my novel. After a few weeks, I received a detailed assessment of my entire novel and had a follow up video chat with my editor. Additionally, I was lucky enough to receive some feedback from an agent who read my novel.

Feedback is the beginning of the rewrite process. If you can’t afford to hire an editor, you can ask a family member or friend to read your novel, or find beta readers online. Inform your reader that you are looking for critiques, not praise.

Read and Learn

The feedback I received was very helpful to understanding what was wrong with my novel, however, it was also a little hard to read. I was prepared for criticism of my work (otherwise I wouldn’t have needed to hire the editor) but the assessment did a superb job of outlining the things that were going well and not-so well. It took several passes to fully take in the suggestions offered and process how I could use them.

Remember, feedback isn’t personal, it is helpful advice from someone who is unfamiliar with your novel. This isn’t a reason to get mad or upset, rather to get working. Read through the critique of your novel, read through it several times, take notes and take them seriously. This is the most important step on your rewriting journey.

Read Your Novel

I hadn’t read my novel in almost a year - which is a long time for someone who is supposed to be championing his work to people. So that’s what I did. I read through my entire novel and, even though it was difficult, I didn’t edit, take notes or do anything other than read.

Take the time to read your novel - and do only that. Don’t edit, don’t even hold a pen in your hand - you are reading with one purpose, to find what isn’t working. Is it the plot? What about your characters? This read through should provide the answers.

Take Notes

I needed something to keep my changes organized that didn’t clutter the project file or confuse me, so I used my re-usable notebook to jot down my ideas. This helped keep everything in order while working. I also created a copy of my original working file so as not to screw up the previous draft in the event I needed to go back and reference it.

Now that you’ve read your novel, and it is fresh in your mind, it is time to write down what you’ve learned. Write it all down - the things that worked, the things that didn’t work and the things that you may have been confused about. Whatever it is you learned that bothered you or made you question anything in your novel are the same things that your potential readers (and agents) will find. 

Get to Work

After all the prep work was complete, I got to work rewriting my novel. I started at the beginning and went chapter by chapter, making all the changes I outlined in the previous step. Not only did I make the necessary changes, I also wound up creating new subplots. It was a great exercise that provided me with a renewed interest in my novel, as well as gave me ideas for my next one.

Now you’re ready to start on your novel. Go back into your novel and begin making your changes. It is best to work from the beginning of your novel rather than in the middle. Even if you haven’t noticed changes in the beginning chapters, it is still a good idea to start from, well, the start.

Take Your Time

Due to a pending move, I had given myself an aggressive timeline of one month to complete my rewrite. I knew it would take time, so I worked on it every single day, and even took a hiatus from social media and any other distractions that would prevent me from achieving my goal.

A rewrite isn’t something to rush through. This is the time to go through every painstaking detail of your novel and think about not only how you can fix the problems but also how you can make your reader more excited about the entire book. This is your chance to make it right, so take your time and enjoy the process.


Lucas Horn

Lucas Horn is a creative designer who is attracted to men and True Crime, a trifecta which profoundly influenced his debut novel, The Midnight Blaze. When he isn't designing or writing, Lucas likes to travel and search for unique writing locations.

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