So this week, I'm working on a part of the writing process that's somewhat unusual for me: I am rewriting a story. To clarify, I'm not editing or simply retyping and making changes as I go (which is a strategy I've used in the past) - I've started writing the same plot and characters from scratch, beginning at a different scene, saving only a few choice phrases and the essence of the tale.
The concept and plot is a lot of fun, and the characters are enjoyable - but the writing itself is awful. Seriously, who wrote this drivel? (Me. Sigh.) Also, a few elements of the plot need to be extracted and altered.
To be honest, I don't rework short stories this thoroughly often for two reasons. First, if a story is deeply flawed, I would rather put my energies to a new work. The pool of ideas is simply too rich to obsess over a single story. Second, there is a point at which alterations to the story changes its inherent nature: it's no longer the story I set out to tell. If I wanted to tell a different story, that's where I would have started.
When I have rewritten, it's most commonly because it's one of my favorite ideas, but the prose needs to have a hammer taken to it. It's too flawed to be handled easily by typical editing - take a few links out of the narrative chain, and it falls apart. For me, however, an idea is the whole package, and there will usually only be one or two significant points I want to change.
Now, all of this applies mainly to short stories - a novel has so many more working parts and so much more that can (and needs) to be changed. But for me, with fiction, my time budgeting usually calls for new works rather than taking a wrecking ball to existing works.