This week: Working Smarter When Rewriting Edited by: Northernwrites
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Greetings from Northernwrites , your guest editor for today's For Authors newsletter.
Thomas Mann: A writer is one to whom writing comes harder than to anybody else.
Stephen King: "Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work."
Working Smarter When Rewriting
Getting a story written down from start to finish is an accomplishment, but that doesn't mean you have a finished product ready for readers.
What you have is a vomit draft, a rough draft, or, at best, a first draft.
After you've prepared your draft for the eyes of other people as described in "Is Your Story Ready to Be Reviewed?" , perhaps received some reviews, and let it cool off for several weeks (or longer), it's time to dive back in and write the second draft.
Whether you call it revision, rewriting, or editing, you need to go over that first draft to make sure it has all its required parts and is doing all the jobs it is required to do so it can be what you intended it to become.
Following a logical process makes this part of writing easier, and so does focusing on only one kind of issue at a time and making multiple passes through the draft.
To avoid wasting time on polishing something that will get changed or deleted, revision/rewriting/editing occurs in this three-step order at each stage or level:
1. Remove what's wrong or too much or redundant or unnecessary.
2. Add what's missing or underdeveloped or not enough.
3. Improve things wherever you can—depth, specific details, impact.
The working order of what to consider when starts with the big things and works down to the small things.
A. Start working on the developmental big-picture things that make it a story—
1. Primary required story structures:
internal flaw the MC must overcome to solve their
MC acts to solve their own problems
something about the MC that readers can relate to
enough character building to make characters feel real
values and choices are more important than physical description
adequate description to avoid talking-heads syndrome
coherent world building, if present
plot and character arc
2. Secondary required story structures:
point of view
one best suited for the type of story
consistent usage with no POV errors
proper usage of showing (scenes)
scenes that contain action and conflict
"yes, but" (success but new complication) or
"no, and" (failure and progress on something else)
sequels where the MC
processes what happens,
decides what to do next, and
makes plans for how to accomplish that
proper usage of telling (transitions)
summarize or skip parts that are
repetitive, redundant, unnecessary, or boring
eliminating blocks of backstory/infodumps via integration
at least one purpose for each scene, preferably two or three
B. In the middle, check and fix—
1. internal contradictions and inconsistencies
2. eliminate ambiguities or vagueness
3. anything that needs research and/or a set-up for credibility
4. sufficient concrete+specific detail to avoid sentimental writing
5. adequate use of foreshadowing
6. start the story at the correct spot in the story timeline
7. use the most engaging opening (hook) available
C. Finish with the detailed microscopic view that creates flow/immersion—
1. sentences and paragraphs in time-line/cause-effect order
2. active verbs in clear, concise sentences
3. correct grammar
4. correct spelling
double check homonyms and frequently confused words
5. correct punctuation
6. correct formatting
If you notice something for a step you haven't gotten to yet, highlight it and make notes about it for later use, but don't stop to figure out the changes.
If you get stuck writing your first draft, this checklist can be used to analyze your manuscript to help show you what is missing or needs fixing.
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These comments were submitted in response to my previous editorial in "Cure Annoying Word Repetition" . I appreciate all those who took the time to write in:
Comment: I enjoyed this. It gave me a lot of valuable information. Thank you so much for posting.
NW: You're welcome.
Elfin Dragon-finally published
Comment: So all this talk of looking over your writing reminded me of what I learned from an author at the Tucson Book Festival this past month. Matt Bell wrote a book called..."Refuse to Be Done: How to Write and Rewrite a Novel in Three Drafts". During the panel, he explained it in full and I was really intrigued with the process he developed.
NW: Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for this inspiring newsletter. It was a joy to read.
NW: You're welcome.
Additional comments were made to: "Note: View this Note" by Writing.Com Support , including this one:
A Penguin Simulacrum of Steven
Comment: When I was a gymnast, the phrase our coach used was "perfect practice makes perfect". Later on, I saw the wisdom of this when I was involved in the circus. The amount of people who "taught" themselves wrong before coming to us with, for example, a flic flac off their toes and using their head, was insane. And the issue is, as they have taught and practised this incorrect technique so often, breaking the habit proved, in many cases, impossible.
I have a feeling it is the same with writing. There is one writer here at WdC who I first pointed out their direct speech punctuation was all over the place in around 2012. I sent them to a website to help, and they thanked me, yadda, yadda, yadda. Well, I reviewed something else of theirs in 2018... and nothing had changed. I read something else of theirs last year, and still nothing had changed. So I won't review them agan because they clearly don't care or listen.
So... what makes perfect practice? If you have even the hint of a doubt, then ask some-one! Mentors, teachers, advisors, get advice. Perfect practice might make perfect, but if you don't know what perfect is, how can you aim there?
NW: It's definitely the same with writing for an audience. The popular saying "There are no rules" only applies to personal writing and vomit drafts—not to anything that you put in front of someone else to read.
Until our paths cross again, keep writing!
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