What is Rewriting? – Tim Harris

Hi WestWorders,

Has your teacher ever asked you to rewrite your work? I remember my primary school teachers occasionally asked me to rewrite stories. It felt pretty horrible, like I’d been stabbed in the guts with a pencil. Nobody wants to have their work criticised like that.

Note: I’ve never actually been stabbed in the guts with a pencil. Nor do I plan to be.

But is rewriting necessarily a bad thing? Was I right to feel criticised? Was I right to fear pencils?

(Okay, enough of the pencil stuff…)

Years later, as a published author with twelve books to my name, I realise that my teachers were correct to ask me to rewrite my stories. Now, my editors often ask me to rewrite sections, chapters, and even whole books! The truth is, to get the best results, we often need to reshape our ideas. We need to look at the big picture with fresh eyes. These days, I rewrite my work voluntarily because I see its value.

Rewriting involves taking the guts of your idea and changing some things around. It might be as simple as adding or deleting an adjective, or as ruthless as deleting whole paragraphs. Sometimes it might mean adding a new character, or starting the story at a different point. It could even be changing the order of words in a sentence. It can get messy and hurt your brain, but it’s totally worth it.

Rewriting does not mean you have to write an entire story from scratch, which is often what young students believe. That’s drafting. Rewriting comes after drafting. And while it still involves some tough decisions and a bit of hard work, it takes your original idea and irons out the creases.

The reason your teacher might ask you to rewrite your work is because they see potential in your idea, but know that there is room for improvement. That’s not a bad thing, is it?

The next time your teacher asks you to complete a rewrite, see it as a challenge. You could even ask your teacher if they have any ideas that could improve your work. As a teacher myself, I can tell you that asking questions is a great way to show that you mean business.

Are you up for the challenge? Let me know in the comments.




  1. Veeva

    Hi Tim,
    I have actually never been asked to rewrite my work before! But my teachers have asked my to edit my work before publishing. Honestly, I always thought rewriting was scraping the draft and starting again with the same ideas. I think people don’t like rewriting that much because it takes time.

    • Tim Harris

      Some excellent points here, Veeva. Rewriting is certainly a big tasks and many get put off by the time it takes.


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