TRANSFORM An Old Manuscript Into A BEAUTIFUL BOOK! (How I Rewrite Novels That Are Complete And Utter Trash)


A few months ago, I did a post called 5 Horrendous Books I Wrote As A Child – which consisted of me laughing at my early writings and also thanking them for giving me much-needed experience.* It's fun to look back at the stories you've written in the past and cringe at how bad they are...but sometimes there's gold hidden in those old stories, too. All you have to do is mine it out. 

I like to think of it like the bookish version of Fixer Upper (otherwise known as the only tv show I EVER WATCH HAHA.) What Joanna Gaines does to an ugly house, I do to a messy manuscript. No matter how rotten, condemned, and falling-apart any house/book is, it CAN be restored to glory! It just requires time, effort, and lots of imagination – but US WRITERS HAVE PLENTY OF THAT, RIGHT?  

Today I'm going to spill all my secrets about my Novel Rewriting Process™. We'll go through it start to finish – from the first and most scary encounter with your worst writing ever to putting the final touches on your novel so that others can enjoy it, too. (Yikes!) I've tried many different methods of rewriting and this method works like none other. SO GRAB YOUR SHIPLAP AND LET'S GO.** 

*btw that post was a tag!! So if you didn't participate already, please do!! It's super fun!!  
**there are going to be SO MANY FIXER UPPER REFERENCES in this post. You've been warned. 

still! can't! get! over! how! pretty! my! macbook! is!

DON'T BE SCARED. You're about to walk through the door of your Old Manuscript™ and WHO KNOWS WHAT HORRORS YOU'LL FIND?? It's a mess, you know that. But you also have to remember why you chose this book to rewrite: because YOU SEE POTENTIAL. There's something about this story that's worth saving. EVEN IF THE WHOLE THING LOOKS LIKE A DUMP.


It might not even be too old of a manuscript. Maybe it's simply a project you never finished; something you weren't feeling at the time. BUT NOW YOU WANT TO GIVE IT ANOTHER GO. Good for you! I'm here to tell you that you can do it! But you have to be prepared for the mess you're going to encounter. Some books are obviously messier than others – but that doesn’t make them less fixable. EVERY STORY IS FIXABLE...you just need to have a vision. Which brings us to the next step 

Create a vision for your new-and-improved book. What do you want to do with this story? Where do you want it to go? This is the part where imagination comes in. I'm not going to tell you how to write a story because YOU HAVE YOUR OWN AWESOME WAY OF DOING THAT. But if you feel totally lost at this step, try asking yourself these questions: 

  • Whose story is it?
  • What's happening here? 
  • What's at stake? 
  • Do you know what your protagonist wants? 
  • Do you know why they want it? 
  • What's going to get in the way of their goal? 

Once you know the answers to these questions, you should have a pretty solid basis for what can stay and can be hauled away in a dump truck. Don't overthink the blueprint step – there's no need to follow someone else's Novel Writing Advice™. All you need is a few necessary elements (listed in the above questions) and BRO YOU CAN TELL THAT STORY HOWEVER YOU WANT TO. But first we have to cut out the stuff that isn't working (which might end up being A LOT OF STUFF.) Here comes my favorite part....! 



There's nothing so satisfying as tossing all your rubbish writing into a trash folder and clicking DELETE FOREVER – is there??? Well, I guess it's probably more satisfying to actually write something that isn't rubbish but PFFT HOW OFTEN DOES THAT HAPPEN, RIGHT?? We can worry about making pretty words later. This step of the process is all about eliminating everything that is working against your blueprint – preferably with a large sledgehammer. 

Obviously, there are several ways to do this. But my favorite method is to simply start reading what you have. When you hit a rough spot, delete it, then write a note to yourself, explaining what you want to go here instead. It's kind of like ripping out a wall to make room for something else. When I sit down to rewrite a book, I like to have a clear understanding of everything that happens in the book start to finish – because sometimes things need rearranging, too. I write a detailed synopsis of every chapter as it originally is, then I start reading through the manuscript and editing it line-by-line. I save pieces of dialogue and narration that I like, and work around them so that I can later weave them into the story in a new way.* There will definitely be stuff that belongs in the garbage, but KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR THE GOLD.  

*LIKE RECLAIMED WOOD HAHAHA are you sick of my home renovation analogies yet? 



After you finish giddily hacking through your manuscript with a sledgehammer, you might be discouraged by the pile of rubble you've left behind. BUT FEAR NOT – you still have your blueprint! I like to think of rewriting a book as more than just revising...because you're actually making something completely new. The revised versions of my Old Manuscripts™ are QUITE DIFFERENT than the original versions. And that's good. Because you're using the skeleton of the idea you once had and putting new-and-improved flesh on the bones. 

So be open to new ideas! You never know what untapped potential your story has until you roll up your sleeves and get messy. Having a solid blueprint is a good idea – but there's nothing wrong with making last-minute changes, either!  

Like I said before, there are many different methods of rewriting – it's a game of trial and error until you find what works best for you. Maybe you're like me and enjoy transforming your book sentence-by-sentence. Maybe you prefer to start from scratch. YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT WORKS UNTIL YOU TRY IT. So I urge you to be adventurous with this. Build the foundation – the first revised draft – however it feels good to you. Then, when your new-and-improved first draft is finished, you're ready for the final step! 

Something tells me staging a house is WAY MORE FUN than editing a novel, but SOMEONE'S GOTTA DO IT, RIGHT? You know how this step goes: look for plot holes, missing information, and anything that need fixing. It's super important to remember that when a book has been rewritten, it is more likely to have errors. But it's okay: everything is fixable! Be patient with yourself and your work – if you've come this far, you're serious. Don't sell yourself short. 

I usually put a book through four complete revisions before I give it to my alpha reader (aka mom) for feedback. The process of editing can be tedious, yes. But it can also be fun! Just think of it like this: you're making your book better and better. Even the tiny adjustments all add up to create a seamless work of art 


As writers, we all know how grueling the editing process can be. It's not going to be quick or easy – but it's going to be worth it. Fine-tuning is what makes the difference between a 4-star book and 5-star book. REMEMBER THAT, because one day when your awesome novel is published and people are reviewing it, that one little star is going to matter A LOT. Take the time to make your work truly splendid.  

Rewriting a book is an impressive feat, and YOU'LL BE GLAD YOU DID IT. I hope, after reading this post, you go forth with a little more courage and ambition to REWRITE THAT MESSY OLD MANUSCRIPT and make it something beautiful. Oh, and...I hope you live happily ever after. ;) 


Have you ever rewritten a novel? What's your favorite method? If you haven't rewritten a novel, have you ever thought about doing it? And has this post given you some inspiration?! If you DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT ANYMORE, let's just chat about your current WIP! What have you been writing lately, my friend?? 

rock on, 
abbiee 


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35 comments

  1. "SO GRAB YOUR SHIPLAP AND LET'S GO" had me ROLLING. That was seriously the best way to start a post, hands down. GAH

    You are so inspiring, Abbie! The energy and passion you put into your projects is so electric. I will admit that it is really tough for me to edit and rewrite my novels. It's a huge process! But I'm going to keep at it because the reward of one day finishing and having people *hopefully* read my work will be amazing. Thanks for the encouragement! :-)

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    1. AAAH I'M SO GLAD YOU LIKED THIS POST ERIN!! HAHAHA I COULDN'T RESIST there were so many Fixer Upper references in this post and I ain't even mad :') SKLJFLDKSJFDSFJLKJ LITERALLY YOUR COMMENT JUST BRIGHTENED MY DAY X1000000 SO THANK YOU VERY MUCH. *hugs* Rewriting a novel is SUCH a big project! But I'm so happy this post encouraged you, dude! I WILL BE THE FIRST ONE PRE-ORDERING YOUR BOOK SOOOOOO <3 <3 <3

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  2. Great post Abbie! :) I'm STILL in the process of editing a novel I wrote a few years ago (when I started editing, it was still a new little baby book, but now i think it should probably be classified as an old project ...) so I related to a lot of your advice. The words potential and vision stuck out to me... that's what keeps me going!

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    1. EEEEP I'M SO HAPPY YOU LIKED THIS POST OLIVIA. <3 it's a big project, to rewrite a whole novel. but that's so awesome that you're motivated to make it something awesome!! YOU GO GIRL! *high fives* thank you so much for reading!

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  3. FIXER UPPER!!!! LOVE THEM!!!
    And the gifs of Chip capture his personality so well!
    This post was amazing. I've been inspired. I've rewritten my current WIP so many times. I'm going to have my Alpha read it now. (My Alpha is my mom, too.)

    Amazing post!!!

    ~Ivie
    iviewrites.blogspot.com

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    1. HAHAHA ISN'T CHIP THE BEST WOW haha I couldn't resist using those gifs in the post xD *high fives* GOOD FOR YOU PUTTING SO MUCH WORK INTO YOUR WIP!! And moms make the absolute best alpha readers, don't they??? ah. so blessed. :') thank you for reading, Ivie!

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    2. Yes, moms are awesome alpha readers! Your posts are always spectacular!!

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  4. I NEED THIS! I printed out one of the train wrecks of a first draft I wrote last summer and I've been meaning to rewrite it, but I just... there are too many problems with it, but I love it, and I'm definitely going to fix it! I'm keeping in mind the blueprint suggestion, that's SO SMART. Thank you for this <3

    - andrea at a surge of thunder

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    1. I'M SO GLAD YOU LIKED THIS POST, ANDREA! And that is so awesome that you're going to rewrite your book! even the worst train wrecks can be rebuilt into something epic! ;) I'm so so so happy this post inspired you!! *hugs* thank you for reading, girl!!

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  5. I just recently rewrote a novel and I didn't have any plans and didn't know squat about rewriting, but it was a good learning experience! The novel came out better (still not great but eh) and I learned a few things, like number one, I really hate editing XDDD

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    1. EDITING IS TERRIBLE HAAAAAAHAHA *sobs into a mountain of pillows* but that is SO GREAT that you pushed through and rewrote your novel! *high fives* good for you, girl!! AND EEP THANK YOU FOR READING THIS POST <3

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  6. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS POST ABBIEE!! I've had a half written, poorly devised manuscript of mine I somehow have the audacity to see potential in hidden away for months...this post definitely gave me motivation and a lil game plan to push through all the gonk to reach the gold hahah. So today I'm gonna cringily but determinedly pull out that manuscript and make something beautiful out of it with effort. THANK YOU <3333

    ~Veronica Marie~
    www.blogilisciousxoxo.wordpress.com

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    1. VERONICA THIS COMMENT JUST MADE MY DAY *hugs and high fives and waffles because why not* I'm so so so happy this post inspired you!! I WISH YOU THE VERY BEST WITH REWRITING YOUR BOOK. that is so awesome that you see the gold in there and want to dig it out!! YOU GO GIRL. thank you so much for reading!!

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  7. This post was perfect timing because I'm almost done with the first book that I've written in two years and IT IS ATROCIOUS. I look forward to completely remodeling it and making it into something readable. XD

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    1. EEEEP I'M SO HAPPY YOU LIKE THIS POST EVANGELINE! <3 and I hope it all comes in handy one day when you rewrite that book!! *high fives* thanks so much for reading!

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  8. This post is so good! I need to remember to read this after I finish my first draft... thank you!!!

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    1. YAY I'M SO HAPPY YOU LIKE THIS POST GRAY MARIE <333 I hope it comes in handy!! ;) thank you for reading!

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  9. GREAT POST (like always)! I don't think I'm ever disappointed with your posts, Abbie!
    I'm kind of in writers block with my current WIP. I started on this book in August and I'm only on chapter six. But, I'm not giving up. Hopefully I'll get some new inspiration soon! :)

    - Maddy | littlebitofsunshineweb.blogspot.com

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    1. AAAAH MADDY YOU ARE SO KIND THANK YOU. :'''') I hope you get past that writer's block!! PSSSST I DID A GUEST POST ABOUT WRITER'S BLOCK LAST MONTH: click here if you're interested in checking it out! ;) *hugs* and THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR READING!

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  10. WHABAM you nailed it Abiee! #lamepunmaster
    No but seriously girl THAT ANALOGY IS SO POWERFUL! It sounds so simple when you put it that way, and YES YES YES to all the fixer upper references :D <333
    GREAT POST ABIEE, AS ALWAYS xoxoxox

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    1. HAHAHA I LOVE UR PUNS :') and I'm SOOO HAPPY you liked this post!! I know right?? when I thought of that analogy it was like a forehead smack moment - "of course!" but it makes SO MUCH SENSE, RIGHT??? Like...it's really helped me to see it this way too. AAAAH THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR READING ANNA <3333 your comments always put a smile on my face. :D

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  11. Great post, Abbiee! My dad and I sometimes watch Fixer Upper together, so I loved all of the little home renovation nods in the post. =)
    I have been considering rewriting my first (completed) writing project EVER, a Sleeping Beauty retelling that I wrote forever ago. I'm still considering it since I have so many other projects I want to work on and may not have time yet though.... I hope to do it soon though! =D
    Micaiah @ Notebooks and Novels

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    1. YAYYY IT'S SUCH A FUN SHOW! It's definitely my favorite home renovation show. :) I'm so happy you liked this post!!! and I hope it comes in handy if you decide to tackle that (AWESOME SOUNDING) retelling!! <3 thank you for reading, Micaiah!!

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  12. The Chip gif's. I can't. He's my fave (typed face originally oops?).

    Hailey
    www.haileyhudson.wordpress.com

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    1. HAHAHA RIGHT?? he's the best wow. SO MUCH PERSONALITY xD (HE IS YOUR FACE AHAHHAA I CAN'T OMG)

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  13. I AM SOOOO INSPIRED TO GO AND REWRITE BOTH OF MY NOVELS RIGHT NOW! Sadly homework, so those will have to wait, but anyway, this post was so helpful! I feel like the process of rewriting a first draft is so daunting that I hardly know where to start. I've kind of started with one, but not in a very effective manner. I feel like rewriting is like sorting and reorganizing a very messy room. First, you get rid of all the stuff you don't need, then you organize what you have and can use, and then you go out and get the stuff you still need and fine tune from there. I feel like that's the most accurate analogy I've written in forever. XD *is muchly inspired by your post to go out and do great things*

    Thank you so much for yet another golden post, Abbiee! I love your blog and everything you write is so quirky and fun and inspiring <3

    xoxo,
    Lizzy

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    1. DKJSALDJSLAJK I AM SO HAPPY THIS POST INSPIRED YOU LIZ!!!! *high fives* I LOVE YOUR ANALOGY ABOUT CLEANING A ROOM YES!!! it's so much like that too. and I can definitely relate to that feeling of wanting to go tackle a project right!! now!! but ugh other projects demand attention like whining children. :'''') ANYWAY WOW THANK YOU SO MUCH YOUR COMMENTS ALWAYS BRIGHTEN MY DAY X1000000!!! *hugs*

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  14. THIS IS SUCH A GREAT POST WOW. Your advice is literally always spot on I don't understand. I'm planning on rewriting my most recent novel, SO THIS IS EXTREMELY HELPFUL BLESS YOU. <3

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  15. SO THE FIRST THING YOU SHOULD KNOW IS THAT I WATCHED THAT GIF OF THE DUDE FALLING THROUGH THE DRYWALL FOR LIKE THREE HOURS. Thanksalot, Abbiee. ;)))

    Secondly, I have rewritten THE SAME STORY like five times now so GOOD GRIEF, I have a tooooonnnn of experience with this and your advice is SOLID. Personally, I think fixing up something line-by-line is a great idea... I've tried the from-scratch method and it is exhausting. DO NOT RECOMMEND. Ugh.

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  16. I will definitely have to come back and visit this post should I ever decide to rewrite my first and unfinished novel that still has an awesome theme, but DESPERATELY needs to be rewritten.
    And dude, Chip is the best. I love Joanna too though

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  17. I am always so impressed by you girl! I wouldn't dare dig through my messy old manuscripts, it's too intimidating for me, but after reading your post maybe there's something salvageable... ? I mean no use in throwing away a perfectly good idea.

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  18. HELLO THIS IS A WONDERFUL AND HELPFUL POST.

    I haven't rewritten a novel yet but I'M WORKING ON IT. I don't really have a specific method of reworking it??
    AND YES THIS POST HAS BEEN VV INSPIRATIONAL IMMA USE THIS WHENEVER I REWRITE THANKS MAN

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  19. This is my life right now, just rewriting my latest piece "Faithless" out of the hell-hole I wrote it into. Le sigh. I just word vomited for the whole first draft process and now I have to really really work on the polishing and shining and it's miserable and it's trash but ugh, IT WILL BE GOOD SOMEDAY I SWEAR.

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  20. Thanks so much for this! I really needed the inspiration!

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  21. ok can I just say I love you ten times more now because of all those Fixer Upper references??? BLESS YOU. (also nvm me i'm crying because the show's over but anyway)

    THIS IS A WONDERFUL POST. And I'm quite sure I'll need it after I finish my novel, because, haha, yeahhh. This post will be quite helpful, I'm sure xD Great post, Abbie!

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kind words are like raindrops on the desert. they make me bloom with happiness, as absolutely cliche and cheesy as that sounds. even if it's just a simple alt+3 i will heart you for it. so, go ahead! MAKE MY DAY. literally.