Michelle Wittle On When Your Rewrites Are Done

Michelle Wittle On, Writing Tips

Yeah, so about knowing when your rewrites are done. Don’t hate me, but the thing is I don’t know the answer to that question. It isn’t because I don’t want to know the answer, but I think the answer is different for everyone and for everyone’s story. Writing isn’t like a mathematical equation. Two plus two will always equal four, but two characters walking down the street can have many different outcomes. So then, how does a writer know when their story is “done”? First, I never like the idea that anything is ever done. With writing, as with human nature, things are never really done. You will always see something you can change or that ex boy (girl) friend will always find a way to pop into your life again to say hi. Now that I think about it, all my ex’s that I had a significant amount of love for have all come back into my life (well all but Steve…but that is a whole other story filled with tears…ugh) and to be honest, I love having them all back in my life. I think it goes back to yesterday’s blog about knowing your past to see your growth. Wait…did I just turn into Carrie Bradshaw for a moment? No…no…although I do love shoes…but no…back to writing.


Things are never really done. There is always something we will find we can add or subtract. A character’s hair maybe should be brown instead of black or maybe another scene should be added. But there has to be a time in which we look at our work and say, “this is pretty darn good and I think others will think so, too”.  You can rewrite too much and it is a fine line between the two. So, how do you know if you have crossed the line?


You start out wanting to tell a story. I’ll use my novel this time as an example. My novel is about a punk girl who keeps everyone at bay until she falls for the bad boy in school. Now, we have all either lived this story or knew someone who has and it isn’t that original of an idea. My job was to tell the story and then add some twists to it. When I “finished” the novel, I put it away for about a year. I didn’t send it out much because in my heart, I know it wasn’t ready yet. I knew this because there were things that still bother me about the story.


As strange and as practical as it is, I think the way you know a story is done is when the story doesn’t bother you anymore. When you can actually read your story without wanting to throw the computer, I think it is done. But, do not fall into the you have worked on it for two weeks and you are riding the “completion high”. You need to give your story some time to just breathe and sit for a while. Move on to other projects or read a book (I read books when I have completed something). Then reopen your story. Is it still as amazing as you first thought? If the answer is yes, then start moving to publish it. If not, what is bothering you about the story? Fix those things and then put it away again. When you can honestly look at your piece and not be embarrassed by it, then put it out there. I can’t think of anything worse then finally being published and then not being able to look at your work because you see things you hate in it.


So, the truth is, only you can decide when your story is done and ready to move out into the writing world. I wish I could tell you that after five rewrites your story is done or a magical fairy pops out and punches you in the face to tell you the story is finished. But those things aren’t real. The only thing that is real is you, your voice, and your story. Only you will know when it is done. Be patient with it and let it have some space.   


One thought on “Michelle Wittle On When Your Rewrites Are Done

  1. I completely agree…a story is truly never finished. Stories are like people. As we evolve and change so does the words that have emerged from our brains onto papaer. A character will call back to you and seem to say “Hey, change me!” Before you know, a quick add on, has become a complete rewrite. Writing is such a part of yourself that characters you create often evolve and change as you yourself evolve and change. One day, a scene in your story may seem to be correct, but a week later, it appears to be all wrong. I even find myself going back to poems or stories written years ago and feeling that compulsion to rewrite, rework, make it more me. A story can never be complete, as we are never truly a finished piece of work.

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