Ernest Hemingway suggested rewriting a book 30 times before it is ready for publication. His reasoning was that each time the writer goes over the book for rewriting, they have a better understanding into the minds of the characters. The more you get to know your characters, the more you will be able to write convincing dialogue and narrative that will suit them. One important thing to remember when you are rewriting is to not be afraid of making major changes in your book. If something is not working and does not feel right, change it. While you have a natural passion for the book, you should also be open minded enough to realize if something is not working in your plot, you have to fix it.
Reading it Through
The best way to start rewriting is to read through your first draft. You can then note inconsistencies and other plot problems that may occur. You should begin your rewriting from the beginning of the book to the end, especially if you are writing a fiction book that will have character development. Even if you are writing non-fiction, you still want to rewrite your book to tighten it up. Try not to use a passive voice when you are writing. This is when you put in words like “would have” and “was.” Try to use more action words in your book, otherwise it may tend to get sluggish. Also, go over the dialog and make sure that it seems natural. You will need to look at dialog as well as consistency when you are rewriting.
Do not be surprised if your book has a different ending than what you imagined. Many times, writers grow to like some characters and dislike others. The creative process takes on a mind of its own when an author is writing a book and this often means inconsistencies in the book and with the characters.
Characters and Personality Traits
Each time you continue to rewrite your book, you are making it a better story. You have a better feel for the characters with each rewrite and they become more lifelike to you, so much so that you can figure out what they like for breakfast or what is their favorite color. By including personality traits in the book that are distinguishable to each character, you also make them more lifelike for the reader. The more you get to know the characters in your book, the more lifelike they will seem to the reader. You want to get away from flat characters and breathe some life into them. The only way that you can do this when writing a fiction book is to get to know them. This is naturally more difficult to do with fiction than non-fiction because the characters are a figment of your imagination, so you need to make your imagination come to life on paper when you write.
Tie Up Loose Ends
Make sure that there are no loose ends in the book and that every sentence drives your plot forward. Get rid of unnecessary dialogue that will slow down the process of the story as well as unnecessary descriptions. The best books are those that continue to move the plot forward and have meaning in every sentence. Do not mistake rewriting as checking for grammar or spelling. This will be done when you are proofreading, although you should naturally make any corrections when you see them. Proofreading is very different than rewriting and will be discussed shortly.
One thing that you may want to do to make your rewriting easier is to give yourself a rest between the rewrites. This allows you to look at the book with fresh eyes and get a fresh outlook on it. If you have a friend or trusted person to whom you can give the book, you can give it to them for a critique. They may be able to see glaring errors in the plot that you may overlook. While you are close to your book, you may also be too close. It is helpful to have a second pair of eyes to read your book after you have rewritten it. You cannot rewrite a book too much. There does however have to be a point where you say that you are satisfied with the story and what it conveys. After you have completed your book and feel that it is publication worthy, you are ready for a grammar check.
Go through your book and look for grammatical errors. There are some instances when grammatical rules are broken, especially when it comes to dialogue. If you have a grammar check on your word processing program, use it together with the spellchecker. When you have finished your book, it is time for proofreading.