I had an enormous epiphany about my main character today, while I was running errands (I love it when stuff like that happens), and I find myself on the horns of a dilemma: do I start out fresh, with a clean slate, or try to hammer what I've already got into shape?

I'm not really asking you guys to answer the question for me, I'm just curious what other people do. My manuscript is about 80K words right now -- in other words, it's pretty fleshed out, except for a couple of spots -- so starting a clean re-write is a big decision, but with this new understanding of my protag and the thrust of her experience through the story, I'm probably going to have to 'tweak' a lot of what's already there anyway. If I do re-write, this will be the fourth time I've started from scratch; however, the other three times I had nowhere near this much time/material invested.

So -- is starting a fresh re-write at this point a completely daft idea? Or is it something people do?

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I'm too lazy to rewrite, but I do edit. I always think you can pick and pick at something until it falls apart. My inclination is that, if one book isn't quite right, even after editing, I'd much rather write another rather than rewrite the current one. Stephen King never censored or edited as he wrote, though I am sure he edited later. I wonder if rewriting isn't just another delaying tactic (fear of rejection, maybe, perfectionism, I don't know). When you consider Ray Bradbury, or someone said, "You have a million words of crap in you before you become a real writer" I believe him and keep moving forward. Good luck, though. Would be interesting to hear how it goes.
In his book On Writing, King mentions that he usually writes two drafts, then a polish.

I myself tend to do a bit of both. Editting the words I used and re-writing the parts I don't like, sometimes adding whole scenes when I get one of those pesky epiphanies. Normally I get them at midnight, and I know if I don't get up, I'll lose it... dammit!
Good topic. With my novel "Bleeder," the acquisitions editor suggested a number of changes that I knew strengthened the book, and I went with them. But none of them involved some major revelation about a character. The editor wanted the motive for the murder deepened, she wanted the beginning tightened and made spookier, and the ending more explosive, and some other stuff.

With the sequel in progress, I've had to start over three times because of new revelations about the supporting cast, not my protagonist (though I learn more about her all the time - but nothing that will fundamentally change the story). Some re-writing is caused by new information I learn about police procedure. I don't mind starting over; I'm able to salvage chunks and do a copy/paste re-write. I'm confident that my next go at it will be a straight-through draft, without this recursive re-writing. Each start has been more-or-less right, and so I don't feel like I'm starting from scratch.
Every time I see that a male author chooses a female protagonist, I wonder why. Nothing wrong with it, of course, but I always suspect it has something to do with a market where more women buy mysteries.
John, Just out of curiousity, did your editor request those changes that generally? Or did she give you specific directions about how to make the beginning spookier, etc.? Having never worked with an editor, I'm kind of wondering how much leeway the writer gets in those situations...


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