How many rewrites is too many rewrites?

We’re talking novella-length here.
So I’ve already written the same story three different times. Actually it could be more than that, since I started with a whole different idea and ended up miles in the opposite direction. And now the obsession has kicked in again and I have the urge to cram in a rewrite before judging starts at the ONC.

So how many rewrites is too many rewrites and should I stop with this unhealthy practice?

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I think that it gets ridiculous when we start hitting numbers like 500.

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I can definitely say I didn’t hit 500 rewrites… yet, but I’d give it maybe around 5 or a 6.
My first draft was horrible. I wrote it again for the 2k milestone.
My second draft was also horrible. This is when I changed the entire story. I charged in to the 8k round.
And the third draft I’m sitting on has undergone so many changes. I’ve submitted it but I’m still speculating squeezing in a rewrite.

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I’m not sure there is a cap for rewrites, but… I think maybe you should let the story rest a bit before going at it again. Because it sounds like you’re about to enter an endless loop of rewrites where you perhaps isn’t even sure what you want the story to be. So set it aside, work on something else, and let the ideas percolate for a while.

Also, just so you know, I have barely even edited my ONC stories :joy: . I think most people just write, submit, and then leave the stories be, as there’s no guarantee editing will give a better chance to win.

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Lol it is just a weird wish fulfillment. I want to keep polishing and polishing until I’m completely satisfied with the output. It is an endless bootstrap cycle because I gain inspiration to say, expand the humour in the story or characterise certain points more, etc. etc. and it just evolves into mania.
I started with an urban sci-fi story. Honest. With genetic engineering and stuff.
Now it has evolved down to a guy saving his mother by marrying her and keeping her out of danger (by time travelling) and essentially being his own father.

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Stephen King suggests two drafts. Draft two = draft one - 10%

But I think you have to practice a lot to get to the point where you just write things twice and you’re good to start with line edits

I’m currently on my fifth complete rewrite with my novel and I expect to make many more, maybe five to seven. I’ve had to make drastic changes every time, rewriting every word and reworking everything. its been exhausting and I feel like I’m going nowhere, but after this one, I at least feel like I’m getting closer to a final draft, or to at least where I can buckle down and do line edits instead of having to make macro changes and overhauls all the time.

I would love to rewrite my ONC novel just as you said. It really needs to be redone and I hate having to submit a first draft, but it might be good to get some distance first, and I’m tired of neglecting my real project for ONC

But there is no end to rewriting. You really can go forever. Lawrence Block suggests cutting yourself off at some point and just start sending your stuff in

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I have this feeling of, “You can fix everything with a rewrite!” and immediately I just jump into it, no questions asked.
And yes, frankly I am tired of having to rewrite things because ‘simply editing’ it goes nowhere, because I always find discrepancies spanning out and I just can’t be patient with it. Rewriting is a quick-fix solution with serious burn-outs during the aftermath.

Mine is geometrically progressing lol. And not in a healthy way, rather a genre-switching way. In my first draft, it was an epic sci-fi journey with a Chosen One. Now it is just some dude trying to save his face cuz he’s caught in an endless loop and he can only participate and can’t make active choices at all. It’s pretty sad.

Distance is good. I literally turned in my novella a few days ago and I’m already thinking of another rewrite. Maybe I’ll step away, focus on something else and come back. But I’m so determined to make this novella work because I’m afraid it isn’t exactly reader-welcoming, if that makes sense. Too many complexities and too little space to cram everything in and I’m afraid people won’t catch onto things. Which sucks because what’s the point of a story if people can’t understand it?

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I feel the same way about wanting to rewrite immediately. I just turned in my ONC two days ago. I want to rewrite the ending so bad because we (my co author and I) had to rush it and it’s just not very well written because he has a baby and I started graduate school. It really gets on my nerves how poorly written it is, but I feel like if I start rewriting, I’m going to ‘geometrically reprocess it’ just as you said. I tend to completely change my plot and character work when I rewrite, as well as the prose and writing style. Not so much genre though, but I think I’m just unable to write anything other than sci fi

Like the five drafts I’ve done of King Eden? They are five completely different books

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I can totally understand that. I like talking about ideas and concepts over people and places and I’m more drawn to sci-fi than contemporary. But at the same time, I’m open and welcome to making a genre cocktail to accomodate people’s interests.

Yesss. Thiss. The pain!
My Mc’s voice changed at least five times throughout the rewrites. It is such a pain and a half to get it consistent and mix all of my ideas into one mould. But I’ve sort of gunned down the voice and improved some characterisation in my recent rewrite and I’m happy with it but it could be better and I could be happier.

Oh crap that sucks, but hey real life > Wattpad priorities always right? I wasn’t happy with my ending myself so I ended up giving an ambiguous ending - setting up for a sequel but also concluding it then and there, so the whole novella just becomes a part of a different, much larger story.
I hope everyone’s entries gets through or at least gets acknowledged! It’s the least ONC can do to honour the blood, sweat and tears.

I’ve rewritten three books now.

The one I did the biggest rewrite on was a 90k(approx) book that I was never happy with when I wrote it. The ending was awful, the character’s didnt feel real enough. I still let the book settle in my head for a good 6 months before I touched it. But I spent 2/3 months last summer rewriting the whole book. It’s now like 120k and I feel so much better about it. It needs a little more work, just fine tuning and a few extensions and deletions of some stuff, but not enough to be a rewrite if you see what I mean. That will be it’s 3rd draft.

The other book I rewrote is being trad published this year. It started as a first draft, then got rewrote once to change the POVs (it’s a dual pov romance book), and a lot of the plot got changed so it wasn’t a major rewrite but things changed, moved, character got fleshed out.
Then a year later, I rewrote it again. Not as big, but chapters added, povs fine tuned, flashbacks added, chapters added and just an overall overhaul. No plot changed though. That was it’s 3rd draft, but 5th edit overall when you incorporate little grammatical changes.
The publisher has just received the manuscript back from the editor, and I dont know what they’ve changed yet, so I can’t tell you if they’ve rewrote it or just fine tuned it, but it’ll be its 6th edit - 1 of them being professionally done.

My most recent one was a book I only wrote in October - January (with a month break in between for NaNo) and I needed to rework some of the plot, change some of the characterisation so it involved a lot of rewriting scenes and reactions. It wasn’t a major thing, but it lengthened the book quite a lot, and changed the plot enough for me to consider it a rewrite. I’d say one rewrite for that is enough as I feel really satisfied with the book/plot now. It needs another fine tune at some point, but not a rewrite.

Overall, I’d say generally, I tend to consider a rewrite as changing some plot lines or adding chapters and POVs etc. I wouldn’t tell you how many is too many, but I think I would say it would be when the book doesn’t feel like it should to the author.
I personally will always rewrite until I am satisfied with the book as a whole. That is ignoring little things like grammar or the odd thing like add description here kind of editing. When the plot as a whole to me, feels complete, I’d say that is enough rewrites. If that mean I have to rewrite the book 5 or 10 times (I’ve never done that much yet but you know example lol) then thats what it takes.

Luckily, I’ve never felt compelled to really rewrite something too many times. And those 3 books that I have done have only needed a few at best. I’d say just keep going until it feels right to you.

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“The only time you actually reach the point of “too many” rewrites is when it prevents you from actually finishing the story” – Advice from one of my Creative Writing professors

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I’ve read about giants of literature (such as Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc.) doing around twenty rewrites before being pleased with some their works, and those often being huge books (800-1000 pages).

The point is, I don’t think there is “too many” as long as the quality of your story is improving and you are not a perfectionist who will never actually finish the thing. The story will take as many as it needs.

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This is something that I wanted to know too.
Yet everyone has a different answer to this question.

I just don’t wanna do too much when at some point it is fine.

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Quick update: I ended up rewriting my first chapter and I’d say it is a step up from the old draft.
Ugh, I do not want to crawl back into this rabbit hole again.

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this is how it starts! let me know if you want to do an exchange. I’m a masters student in professional writing and publishing, so maybe I can give some insight on whether or not things need to be rewritten. I could use the same perspective in return.

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I rewrote my mystery story about 5 times before finally being happy.

Currently on my 4th rewrite of my romance book.

I’d say it gets ridiculous after a long point. Like 20 rewrites.

That’s helpful! Currently I’m knee deep with school and work and stuff, so I don’t know if I’ll be consistently committed to the exchange.
I’m very much up for it! But maybe after May or something.

Yes same I’m in a similar situation. If you think of it this summer and still want to let me know!

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