Is rewriting like editing?

I have two questions.

I wrote a cliche scene in which the main character observes herself in the mirror and I used this moment to describe her in the first chapter of my novel. Some people told me it’s better to describe her with actions or make someone else describe her (my book is written in the first person by the way). That means I have to rewrite the entire paragraph or the entire chapters.


  1. Is that cliche scene so terrible to be cut off? (Would you stop reading a book because of that cliche start?)
  2. Is rewriting an entire scene or chapter a part of the editing process? (Could an editor do this? Is it bad to rewrite a big part of the story?)

Rewriting is usually a natural part of writing a story. But these aren’t the questions you should be asking. Do you want to rewrite it or do you feel it’s a part of your story and don’t want to take it out? Because it’s your story in the end.


Yes, the way that scene goes, is usually the most boring way to dish out the character description, not that someone can’t put a good spin on it. However, it’s unlikely that this is happening in your scene from what you described.

It is considered part of the editing process, and should be part of yours, not an editor’s. That’s an easy enough catch that you can go, oh this needs fixing, and fix it.


If multiple people are pointing it out, it is something you’ll want to take more seriously than you would if simply one person pointed it out. It means that readers are getting pulled out of the story enough to comment on it and while in the end it is absolutely your story, I assume you post your work because you want people to love it and become immersed by it.

So, first question is yes. I have absolutely dumped books when it opens up with the character getting ready and looking at themselves in the mirror in order for the character to be described. I feel bad for saying this, but it is the most common reason for me to leave a book before the first chapter is even finished being read.

I have seen this done well, however, but it’s pretty rare.

A mirror can be used to show a subtle hint, such as a scar or a strange hairline or what have you, but when it’s used to give the reader a lowdown of what the character looks like really quick, it is a big turn off for many. It’s one of those scene that doesn’t add to the story and rather pauses it to give the reader information. Description should blend it and be virtually unnoticeable, which can be a tough thing to accomplish.

Second question is also yes and no. Revising scenes is a part of the editing process. This is just a first draft and when that first draft is finished, there is still a lot of work to be done. I have rewritten scenes and chapters many times during editing. It’s what we need to do in order to turn our books into what we imagined in our minds rather than what we just perceived them to be.

But no, an editor cannot do this for you. An editor points out mistakes and improves sentence structure. They take out unneeded words and change repetitive words. They let you know when your punctuation is off or when you’re using too many dialogue tags. As soon as they rewrite a scene for you, they become a co-author. It’s your book and the best way to evolve in writing is to find out the weaknesses and work to improve them.

And no, it isn’t bad to rewrite a big part of a story. I once went to a writers conference and the guest author, who’s books are famous and one that was turned into a brilliant movie, talked about first drafts. She’ll send them to her critic and they’ll send it back saying the first 1/4th or 1/2 of the book is great, but the rest has to be rewritten.

No published book you love is a first draft. Most of them are a fifth or sixth or seventh. Most required extensive rewriting and were torn to shreds in order to become something great.

But this can all be saved until your first draft is done because I will tell you that most of us do not keep our original first chapter. That first draft is to help you get the story onto the page and get to know all your character’s on a deeper level so you can best figure out how you want to present them to the reader.


I think the above is the best advice on this.

And do think of it as a part of learning to craft a great story. Some things get chopped. It’s only natural. It gets easier with every book, trust me. :wink:

  1. In most books, it’s not a really good technique to use to describe your character unless there’s something interesting that the character needs to notice. Not many authors can pull this off well.

  2. re-writing is part of editing and no it’s not bad to rewrite a big part of the story unless that part has a big plot hole or it just needs to be cut out then sure.


Was going to say something, but I’m just going to boost @oliviarose85 instead :slight_smile:


i don’t think looking at yourself in the mirror is a good way to start a story, whether it is a cliche scene or not

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  1. For me, it would depend on the story. If the overall writing is strong enough to draw me in, I might be willing to overlook a cliche set up. That said, I would personally try to avoid that cliched scene–it can work, but most of the time it does not, so I’d try to find another way to show what a character looks like. The problem with that cliche is the story’s momentum usually grinds to a halt to describe the protag, and most people, when looking at themselves in the mirror, do not begin to think about what color their eyes are or how their nose is shaped, so it comes across as unrealistic.

  2. It is not bad at all to rewrite a big part of the story! It can actually be what makes the story the best it can be!
    So there are different kinds of editing. There’s copyediting and line editing, where you go through each sentence and catch errors/improve the overall flow, as well as large scale editing where you make sure the character’s arc makes sense, that there’s no unneeded scenes, etc. An editor can help you identify what part needs work, but the rewriting part what you do as the writer.
    I would argue that the big picture edits are one of the most important parts of writing. Catching the areas where the story’s pacing is off, figuring out if a scene is needed or not, etc, and fixing those areas is what makes a story great. A good writer is a good rewriter.

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If that mirror scene does absolutely nothing but describe the character then I’m of the opinion that it should be cut. It grinds the story to a halt when it doesn’t really need to. You can describe the character as the story is moving forward.

“She tucked a strand of golden hair behind her ear as she shared a glance with Jared.”

Establish character interaction with two characters + describe her hair. Two birds, one stone.

No. But I would give it a strike. And there’s only so many strikes I can take before I decide to put the book down.

I think so but I think it also depends on what stage of the writing process you’re in. Rewriting a scene that you’ve just finished writing is still writing in my eyes. Other than that I think it’s editing.

I think that might be a prose or developmental editor. But I’m not entirely sure how that stuff works so I’m probably wrong.

No. But conventional wisdom states that you should probably try not to do that while you’re still writing the first draft. Focus on finishing the draft first before editing and revising it.

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@Wocalich @MrPuncho @ARLockhart @GuyWhoExists @Eternalautumnfire @oliviarose85 @lesserknown1 @smallwinter @SmokeAndOranges @calistacyq @ARLockhart

In some of your comments I read that the scene would be to cut if it just describes the character.
When my MC describes herself, she doesn’t do it casually. She’s talking with a friend and she talks about her long, brown hair that is messed up and the bags under her light blue eyes. In the same chapter, she goes to the kitchen and marks the physical details in common between her and her sister: the heart-shaped face and a bit of a belly. She also briefly describe her sister.
So, she looks at herself in the mirror, but she doesn’t just say I have light blue eyes etc.
Is it a scene to cut anyway? 'Cause I would make her look at herself in the mirror anyway, I need to show the reader she’s tired and she needs a holiday.
What do you think?

I would agree it needs to be cut and done more naturally. Why not have her sister point out the bags under her eyes? Much fresher than the mirror trope.


idk. It’d be a lot easier and safer if you just amputate the limb.

But if you want to save it then

Then perhaps you should tie the descriptions to that conclusion. Like you mentioned, messy hair and baggy eyes. Feed the descriptors into the story progression. Maybe ease up on the adjectives, makes it sound less like you’re trying to describe her for the sake of describing her. If the adjective has nothing to do with how tired she looks then it’s irrelevant. I think blue eyes and brown hair is fine, just keep in mind the words associated with ‘tired’ and ‘needing a holiday’ have to take precedence and stand out more. ‘Heart shaped face’ sounds a little deviant from the ‘tired’ messaging. Perhaps find somewhere else to place that description.

However, with all of that said, as your, um…adjusts glasses :nerd_face: pseudo-literary doctor :man_health_worker: :syringe: I do feel the need to reiterate that amputating the limb would be safer and I can’t guarantee that the experimental reconstructive surgery will work.

But if you think you can do it then go for it. It’s your story, so it’s up to you. Maybe I’m overthinking things.


Is rewriting like editing?

It’s not like editing … it is editing.


That would be too much forced description for me, especially two different occasions in the first chapter.

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Yes. Rewriting a scene is a normal part of the editing process.
Unfortunately, if a reader sees a cliche scene in the first chapter, a lot of them will stop reading because they are afraid the whole book will be cliche since the writer is not experienced enough to know not to use them (mirror, alarm clock, etc …)


Some things to consider–
I think it’s fine if you do it in a creative way. Is it a basic/general description, or is it more. Figure out what to describe. Maybe she sees a certain aspect that is of another character. maybe she doesn’t like the way she looks. Maybe she describes herself which isn’t accurate. Since it’s first person and she’s looking at herself, we may or may not trust her accurate description. Often times we’re harsher on ourselves than we are when describing other people. Maybe she is even self aware that she isn’t how she looks. It can tell us more about her character than you think… ex)

if she’s looking at herself and says how shes fat and ugly and hates herself and wants to change/etc. and maybe write some about another character that she admires and wishes she could look like them, and maybe she even says how even though her mom or dad or friends say she isn’t ugly or fat, they’re just lying. Of course they would tell her that because they are her ‘friends’, or ‘family’. They have to. They’re just being nice. etc.

I think it’s a great way to start a story because it could be a way for us to look deeper into the character than even herself realizes. Look at yourself in the mirror. Stare at yourself for 5, 10, 15 minutes in the mirror. Get lost in your own eyes and see what your mind thinks about.

It depends I guess on who this character is and what the story is about. If it’s not a story that is characterization heavy, but more driven by plot, then maybe not the best way, unless you describe her in regard to other people that will play a part in the story (idk) but if it’s a story maybe that has some element of self-love/self-acceptence or whatever. IDK then it may work.

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Also, don’t think that you ONLY have to tell about the character with ‘show don’t tell’. Use a mixture of both. And since it is written in first person, it’s interesting to see how character views themself vs. how the world may view them.

Can also say how 'I look like shit. I need a vacation…" and then talk about how she hasn’t slept for days and she wears two plump purses under her eyes instead of around her shoulder, and talk about how she feels about looking at her own face. If it disgusts her. how she let herself get like this. Put personality behind it and I think it could work.

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That’s ultimately your call. The way you originally described the scene it alluded to the more cliche version. What you describe now suggests it’s not the carbon copy of that version.

If you have a lot of readers taking issue with it, then yes, I’d say rewrite it at the least to make it further differ from the cliche mirror description trope, but if it’s only 2 or 3 people who are saying something, you can ignore that.

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