Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Rewriting: It's Kind of a Love/Hate Situation

Well, I'm still very much in the clutches of rewrites.  

    Yeah, I have been for a while now.  And to be honest, I haven't been working on them as much as I should've for most of June. 

    But it's July now.

    So I'm pulling myself out of this whole "writer's drought" issue and getting the rewrites done.  I've actually got most of the drudge work done, and now it's actually entering it all into my computer and then bridging the scenes together.  Since I've done a ton of rewriting on this book (it's changed a lot throughout its almost-three-year-lifespan), I've pretty much got my method down.  It goes something like this:

    First, I printed the manuscript out.  Slasher -- my neon-pink editing pen, which miraculously hasn't run out of ink -- and I got to spend lots of bonding time, since I need to cut at least 27,000 words from the book.  Ideally, I'll cut more (which looks like it's going to be easy enough) so I can go back and bridge the scenes.  More on that below. 

    When I'm cutting words for an overhaul on this scale, I have to look at each individual word, the sentence it goes with, and the paragraph it's part of.  If it doesn't have to be there
-- if it doesn't bring something incredibly important to the story -- it bites the dust. 

    In some chapters, there's more to be scrapped than there is to save.  When that's the case, I go through and highlight anything worth keeping.  I'll type up all the rest of the edits directly into a document -- there's not enough of the original document left to bother with --, but I'll completely rewrite any chapter I used the highlighting method with.  Since I had to pick out threads of paragraphs that could stay, there won't be enough left to salvage anyway.

    After I arrange all the chapters in the right places, including the rewrites, I can go through and bridge everything together.  I'd cut out plenty of extra words in the first stage, so now I can go through and add some, making transitions smoother and reinserting some of my details.  I can't go crazy, of course, but the bridge work makes the writing seem natural again, taking away the stilted sound that the bare-bones version has. 

    The biggest thing in cutting out words, for me, is that "What does it add to the story?" question.  In this way, I find that lots of things, from words to paragraphs and even whole scenes, can be removed.  For example, towards the middle, my MC gets generally broken.  Another character heals her, but the main thing is that MC gets broken, then healed.  By establishing that, I can go back and cut out chunks of details about the healing process, probably even have my MC unconscious or something for most of it.  I actually had lots of little moments like this, where I'd written in unimportant pieces instead of just hitting the main idea. 

    After it's all "done," I can make a draft specifically targeting speaker tags.  Like I've mentioned before, I used to have a huge problem with tags other than "said," and I'm still working on that.  I'll go through and check all the tags and beats.  I'll read through it one more time to see if I can catch anything else, make sure it makes sense, and then I'll have people proof-read it for me. 

    For general editing, I listed some tips here.  Have you ever had to completely rewrite something?  If so, any method you'd like to share? 


Taylor said...

Thanks for commenting on my blog! I am now following your's and it is very cute!

Barbara Kloss said...

Wow, thanks for sharing all of that! Great to see not only THAT others spend so many painstakIng hours editing, but HOW you do it.

I've done about 5 rewrites of my story over 2 yrs and I feel like I did it all backwards. Edited plot, then worked on plot again, then characters, then the writing. That warranted 2 rewrites, reading through for commonly used words, flow, relationship to neighboring sentences, etc. Sort of similar to u there.

It's a process...but a fun one bc once we chisel and chisel away and eventually the story shines through!!

Jenna said...

Taylor -- you're welcome, I'm glad I found it. And thanks!

Barbara -- I've had the same issue with editing. With my first round, I went through and polished a lot of nitpicky things I only ended up chopping later. I like how you described it as a process -- the chiseling point was great!

Lynda R Young said...

Before I became a plotter I had to rewrite MANY scenes. Painful. Now that I outline the full rewrites aren't as common.

The Story Queen said...

Ugh, editing. I seriously have to restrain myself and just let the writing process go. Nothing ever gets done if you just sit there re-editing an incomplete story for little things. I hope the rewriting process goes well for you!

Jenna said...

Lynda -- I was hoping to plot my next book out, but this settled it. Now I definitely have to.

Story Queen -- once I read that Dean Koontz edits everything as he writes it. The book I read this in said he'd hit the backspace button until he had each word the way he wanted it, and then he'd only have to go through one draft. The thought of that completely stuns me, but since I don't have a brilliant brain like that, I have to edit the normal way. Thanks, and good luck with yours, too!

Elana Johnson said...

I love that you use paper and pen. That's what I do! It's so much easier to see! Good luck.

Jenna said...

Elana -- For some reason, I find a lot more mistakes when I print things out. And thanks!

K.D. said...

Great advice. I like your method, and I have to print it to edit it too, it seems. Good luck with everything :)

Jenna said...

K.D. -- Thanks, you too!

Abigail said...

It's funny, I usually add more words than I cut in the editing process. That is to say, I cut a great deal, but in fleshing out plot lines I end up putting in even more scenes. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so I try not to be wordy as I write the first draft.

I just recently rewrote the first sixty pages or so of my WIP. I wrote that part during NaNo and it was...faulty. I printed out the entire thing and went through it with a red pen, but on the parts that needed to be completely rewritten, I just marked it on the side ("Blah," "Argh," and "BAAAAAAAH!" being common notes).

Jenna Blake Morris said...

Abigail -- I should really try to focus on keeping the word count down for the first draft. Maybe next time. And I have to rewrite my beginning too -- just enough of it to give it more of a hook. I love your word choice for the sides!