How to Rewrite Your Novel (A Step-by-Step Guide)

Typewriter_Writing_Writer_238822_lI’m taking a break from my usual Five on Friday feature, because, honestly, all I’ve been focusing on this week is the rewrite of my novel. Instead, I’m writing about rewriting.  Hahaha.  Clever, huh? All right, I will stop now and get right to it.

So, you’ve gotten notes from your editor, or your beta readers, or your critique group. In my case, I’d gotten notes from an editor who is interested in the novel but wanted some changes before she would commit to buying it. So there you/I are/am, staring at someone’s ideas about how to change your novel.  What do you do now? (Besides bury your face in a tub of ice cream in despair. Or in my case, open a bag of potato chips.  And crack the spinach dip.)

Finding a way back in to your manuscript after you’ve written what you thought was a tight draft can be difficult.  But it is also rewarding, because you’ll realize you are making your novel the best it can absolutely be. (That is, if you trust the person or people giving you notes.)  What follows is my process, with a couple of big tips.

Big Tip #1: Know what your novel is about.  Yeah, I know, you’ve already written one or a million drafts so of course you know what its about.  But take a minute and think about this question, and then answer honestly: do you really know what its about? My potential editor asked me this question.  Is the book a romance, she wondered further? Or is it something slightly different? I thought long and hard about this and once I decided on the answer, it made everything else follow.

Big Tip #2: Create a hold file.  I don’t know about you, but I cringe every time I delete something–even if its a sentence that’s not that good. I can’t help but think that I’m going to regret it.  And even though I know I have a copy of the manuscript without the current changes, I still have a hard time.  My solution is to create a hold file.  I copy and paste my precious darling words to the file, and then I don’t feel like I’m losing them forever.  I’ve been doing this for years–and I don’t think I’ve ever once gone back to use those precious darlings. But it makes me feel better as I’m working and that’s what matters!

novel writing, writing, rewriting, revision, novel rewrite, rewriting process

novel writing, writing, rewriting, revision, novel rewrite, rewriting process

Okay, that being said, here’s my process.  (And remember, this is for when you’ve already rewritten it one or more times yourself and are responding to the critiques of others.)

  1.  Go through the notes and write any new bits that might be necessary.  For instance, I had some things with characters that needed clarifying and straightening out and to do this I had figure out more about them myself. For me, this works best if I have at it with paper and pen, letting all kinds of ideas onto the page, and then transferring the good bits of this to the computer so I can read it later.  One could argue that step #2 should come first, and I admit you might have a good point.  But I like the idea of trusting that I know the story and writing fresh.
  2. Reread. Many people insist on printing the manuscript out for this step, and in previous drafts I’ve done that, too.  But this time I read it on the computer. Part of the reason is that I read so many manuscripts I’m almost more comfortable reading on the screen than hard copy.  And another reason is that I find the process of making notes on hard copy, then transferring them to the computer onerous. Do what works for you.
  3. Go through the manuscript and  make notes about where you need to insert, change or tweak things. Don’t make the actual changes yet.  This way it becomes almost like a second reading and by now, you’ll have the book thoroughly in your head. The method I use for this is to use all caps and start each insertion with TK.  Why? Because those two letters are the only two in the alphabet that will never be used together in a word, and so it makes doing a search for them very easy.
  4. Go through again and make the actual corrections/insertions.
  5. Give it a rest. This is the point I am at as I read this. I finished the corrections yesterday, did other things today, and am taking tomorrow off (though I am doing a Valentine’s Day themed reading for those of you in Portland). I plan to go back to it on Sunday.
  6. Read it again to make sure all your corrections, throughlines and character development hang together.  Also look for typos, underlines indicating that Word things you’ve done something wrong, etc.
  7. Ship it off to wherever it is going, and collapse on your couch with a great big huge glass of wine.

Phew! It sounds like a lot of work, and it is.  But I’m accomplishing it, start to finish, in just shy of a month.  And I will confess I dithered at the front end, because diving into a rewrite always takes a bit of dithering, in my estimation. One must worry that one will not be able to accomplish it, even though one has done it a million times before.  And my dithering probably cost me  a week few days.

That’s my process.  What’s yours? Or are you too exhausted after reading all this to tell me?

Photos by kiamedia and wax115, from everystockphoto.

4

Otherwhere: Monday Distraction

The art of noticing

The art of noticing

The sun is shining in my window! We are having a run of glorious warm, spring-like days.  Here are some of the links that have caught my attention over the past week:

Writing

This, about another wildly successful indie author/publisher, will either cheer you or make you sick with jealousy.

Jennifer Louden on the art of noticing, some good advice for writers here.

Thoughts on that topic dreaded to all novelists, theme. (Don’t let the word scare you away–there’s good stuff here.)

Don’t let age stop you from writing.

On choosing viewpoint.

I’m not a fan girl of Chuck Palahniuk, but I did like this article, especially the end.

50 great writing blogs.

Knitting

I know, this is a blog about writing. But I can’t resist this article about men who knit and the link to the two cool guys from whom I got it.

What are you reading about/interested in/writing about this week?

Photo by Erik Newth

4

Five on Friday: February 5th

Not much going on here but a whole lot of rewriting, about which I hope to have a post soon.

Lieutenant in slightly tubbier days.

Lieutenant in slightly tubbier days.

What I’m Watching: Madame Secretary (created by Barbara Hall, who seems to be a creative machine, and oh hey, we share a birthday) and American Idol. I know, dorky. But it is the last season. Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m a fan of AI, but even more so of The Voice. Dean Wesley Smith maintains that watching The Voice is one of the best ways to understand what it takes to make it in a creative field, and I agree.

Who’s sleeping beside me as I write: My cat, Lieutenant.  His brother, Captain, is prowling the kitchen for food. Or plastic bags. Captain loves him some plastic bags.

What I’m interested in: Suddenly I can’t get enough of the presidential race. I’m fascinated with the interplay, if that’s what we’d call it, between Hilary and Bernie. As for the Republicans, well, buffoons.

What I’m reading: Fates and Furies, still. It is not a quick read. I’ll likely finish it tonight. And then I have a huge stack of books from the library to peruse.

What my favorite dinner was this week: Acorn squash stuffed with ground lamb, onion, sage, thyme and fennel, shared with my daughter and her family who ended up spending the night here, baby in tow, when the power went out at their house.

And that’s it, that’s all I’ve got.  What’s up with you?

8

Otherwhere: A Bright Shiny New Month!

present-heart-gift-4077-lHey, its February! How about that? January went by in a blink, it seems to me I was just in Nashville.  I have it on good authority that this month is going to be a good one, full of new ideas and energy.  But first, let’s wrap up January with a look at some of the posts I read over the last week.

Contests, Submitting, Etc.

Okay, I was all proud of myself because I had an interview with the editor of the New York Times column, Modern Love. But now I can’t find the link. So I went in search of it and found this and this.  I think that last one was the one I originally had in mind–some good tips for submitting there.  And here are the submission guidelines from the Gray Lady herself.

If you’re interested in free-lancing, here’s an article for you.

Women’s fiction writers, here’s a contest for you!

Odds and Ends About Writing

Taming the green-eyed monster.  (Who me? Jealous?)

Finding beta readers.

Plotting. If you’re like me, its a big bugaboo. Janice Hardy offers good advice.

Comedy writing secrets. (Here’s a tip: its hard! My first novel, Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior, was funny, but that wasn’t entirely purposeful, its just the way it came out.)

What to do in the empty spaces between books.

Other Items of Interest

Knitting is good for you! (And thanks to Jenni for sending me this link.)

Breakthrough moments.  (And I got this link here.)

Achieve more by doing less (or, multi-tasking is bad for you).

Finally, I offer this link to the NYT book review of Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff.  I mentioned in my Friday post that I had started it and wasn’t quite sure of it. But now I’m totally absorbed and loving it.  The author plays with narrative structure and viewpoint in a way that is unique and would usually annoy me but for some reason doesn’t. Its a dense book, but one I think is really worth reading.

What have you been reading/thinking about/perusing this week?

Photo by plattmunk.

6

Five on Friday: The Rain Returns

LT by computer

Lieutenant helping me write this post.

Well, actually, the rain never really left for long, but we have had a couple of lovely dry, warm days that have felt like spring is not far off.  And they were accompanied by birds singing! That’s the best.  But this morning it is soggy again. But I don’t mind, I really like all kinds of weather. My one complaint is that I’d like a tiny bit more snow. I know those of you on the east coast are groaning right now.  Here’s what’s going on this week:

Quote I’m loving: “That which you are seeking is seeking you.” I got this from a month-long program I’m doing with my friend Monica Kenton.  Her ability to build her shamanistic studies into a rip-roaring business is just the best.

What I’m Reading: I finished the memoir by Pamela Jane,  which I loved.  It’s a page-turner. Look for more info about the book and the author here soon.  Now I’m reading Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. Gotta say, jury is still out on this one. I’m only about 30 or 40 pages in and so far I’m finding the style a bit hard to read.  Debbie bought it and got about 50 pages in before giving up.  Then she lent it to my daughter, whose book club was reading it. Annie loved it, in a weird sort of way, but reports that most people in the book club did not.  I’m struggling with it, and I have so many books I want to read that it barely seems worth it.

What I’m Playing: Spider Solitaire.  I used to be a huge Spider Solitaire player on my old computers, then I went over to the dark side and used a Mac for six years. Shockingly, there is not Spider Solitaire on the Mac–you have to go to very unsatisfactory websites to play it. Came to my senses and bought a PC last summer, which I love.  About a week ago, the thought occurred to me: I can play Spider Solitaire again! My friend, fellow writer and blog reader Jenni is a crack Spider Solitaire player, though she told me this week she’d gotten bored with it. So now I’ve taken up the cause.  I convince myself it is good for my brain. Ha.

What I’m Listening To: Nothing. At least when I write. I used to listen to movie soundtracks, but for the past few years I’ve written in silence. I now value silence a lot. When I drive, I no longer automatically turn on the radio or pop in a CD.  (I have an old car, none of that new-fangled technology wherein one can play their Ipod music or whatever.) I really prefer silence. Probably because I like to talk to myself. At home, I have a weird, old-school habit I inherited from my Mom. I have a radio playing all day long in the kitchen.  My daughter-in-law once told me she’d never been in our house when the radio wasn’t on.  I have listened to the same radio station for years–KINK FM. It’s actually one of the top stations in the country, known for making careers for some musicians and it plays an eclectic bunch of music that I like.

What I’m Working On: My rewrite.  Doing a rewrite is a strange and wonderful process. If I had more usable thoughts on it, I’d write about it. And I will one of these days.  The hardest part is getting organized and finding a way in.  I’ve finally managed that and seem to be rolling.  Phew.

What are you working on/enjoying/ excited about on this last Friday in January?

PS. Don’t forget, if you live in Portland, I’ve got an upcoming reading and an upcoming workshop on publishing. Read all the details here.

10

A Writer’s Miscellany

AnotherReadThroughI kind of love the word miscellany, whose official definition according to the Google is ” a group or collection of different items, a mixture.”  It sounds charming and old-school and like it would be said by a schoolmarm wearing a Little House on the Prairie outfit.  And honestly? The word and all its implications is way more grandiose than the collection of items I have for you today.

Which all have to do with me. I hope that still makes them a  miscellany.  Anyway:

Thing #1: I’m doing a special love-themed reading in honor of Valentine’s Day at my favorite Portland bookstore, Another Read Through.  The date is February 13th, from 1:30 – 3 and I’m appearing with several other local authors. Since the theme is love, I’m pondering reading the sex scene from Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior. (Which for reasons unknown to me is selling in the used section of Amazon for $58 and up, even though it is still available new.)

And since this is a miscellany, I’ll tell you a funny story about the sex scene, besides that it was the one thing agents commented on over and over when I was shopping the novel.  Anyway, my daughter and son-in-law have a habit of reading books out loud to each other in the evenings (at least they did, before they managed to produce two boy children).  It was Russell who read the sex scene out loud and when he was finished, put the book done and was silent for a moment, then said, “My mother-in-law wrote that. Not sure how I feel about that.”

But reading it out loud in the comfort of your own home and reading it out loud in front of a group of people are two different things. So I’ll probably chicken out.

Thing #2: The very next weekend, in the very same location, my biz partner Debbie and I will be presenting the second round of our workshop, The Ins and Outs of Publishing.  It is a day-long workshop with lunch provided and our first group loved it and learned a lot.  We cover the entirety of the publishing world and bring in our friend Angela Sanders to cover self publishing. You can read more here. But let me also add that the bookstore is a great spot to hold a workshop.  Elisa has a cool upstairs loft that we use and we sit surrounded by the mystery section. I dare you to attend and not buy a pile of books (since the bookstore is mostly used, you can go home with a stack for not that much money).

So that’s it, that’s my miscellany.  And now I am off to the bi-weekly writing group, loosely called Wednesday Writers, that Debbie and I torture run.

What’s going on in your writing world?

Photo from the Another Read Through website.

2

Otherwhere: Last Week in January

dog with sunglassesYeah, it really is the last week in January.  Amazing.   And the sun is shining in my window as I write this–even more amazing!  Here are some coolio links for the past week:

Writing Stuff

In which genre do you write? Understanding how genre affects marketing is one key to success.

Every book needs a good editor, and if your publisher does not offer you one, you’ll need to pay for it yourself.  Here’s a post about how to lessen those costs.

One of the best things you can do in order to write gripping fiction is to torture your character.  This is really hard for most of us!  But Stephen Pressfield has some tips on how to make your hero suffer.

Method acting for writers. I’ve always thought acting and writing had a lot in common.  Thanks to Caroline Harrison for sending me this.

I’ve become more and more aware of diversity and trying to foster it in the fictional worlds I create. Here’s a post that talks more about it.

I know you don’t want to hear this, but it only gets harder (it being writing).

And in news unrelated to writing, check out this interesting idea, which assigns three words to every location on earth as an easy way to standardize addresses.

Also, I want to make this sweater.

That is all.  No wait, it isn’t.  I have a question.  Actually, you may not be able to answer it. But I’ll go ahead anyway. What days are you most apt to spend time reading a blog post?  I’m trying to figure out a consistent schedule for posting.  Monday, Wednesday, Friday? Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday? (Which has sort of been what I’m doing, except then I dreamed up Five on Friday so that gums everything up.) Any ideas appreciated.

The photo has nothing to do with anything. I just liked it. Credit: Duchessa.

13

Five on Friday: Can You Believe it is January 22nd Already?

LatteMacchiatoWhere has this month gone?  I keep telling my husband we’ll blink and be sitting outside on the deck for Happy Hour. It is almost warm enough today to do that, and I’m so sorry for those of you buried–or about to be–under snow.  Actually, I’m kinda jealous.  At any rate, here are my Friday offerings.

What I’m Telling Myself:  You don’t have to know the answers. That’s why you’re writing.  I’m working on a rewrite of my macaron bakery novel (for an editor who is very interested–yay) and I’ve convinced myself I have no idea what I’m doing.  Then I remember, oh that’s right. I never do.  That’s why I write–to figure stuff out.

What I’m Reading: I’m excited because I just got the ARC of An Incredible Talent for Existing: A Writer’s Story, a memoir by Pamela Jane.  She is the best friend of my business partner, Debbie and I’ve heard about the writing of this book for a while now.  Stay tuned, because I’ll have either an interview or guest post with her soon!

I have a stack of at least 10 other books waiting to be read as well, and it is all the fault of our library.  We have one of the busiest library systems in the country, and the branch I frequent is one of the busiest in the city.  (Yesterday when I was there, I overhead a librarian telling a patron where she could find a quiet spot to study–at the coffee shop next door.)  I have a bad habit of putting a ton of books on hold.  As soon as I hear of a book I want to read, I go to the website and put a hold on it.   Then its like Christmas when the book comes in.  The only problem I haven’t yet figured out how to solve is the flow.  I either have no library books or they all come in at once.  And then of course, i go to pick them up and choose more.  Ah, me.  Such first world problems to have.

What I’m Studying: I’m a student nerd.  Or maybe that would be nerd student? Anyway, if it were up to me, I’d be in school forever. But, since I can’t do that, I sometimes devise courses of study for myself.  My current one is writing the mystery, and I’m starting with a study of the books and life of Agatha Christie.  I have a stack of books from, you guessed it, the library.  Of course, since I’m rewriting my novel and continuing with my client work, this little project may suffer from a lack of attention.  But the desire is certainly there.

What I’m Working On: Healing my body.  The latest in my continuing adventures with energy and body work is getting ashiatsu massage.  For those of you unfamiliar with it, as I was until I saw a Groupon, this is a technique where the massage therapist uses her feet.  It’s also called Oriental Bar Therapy because there are two parallel bars on the ceiling above the massage table that she holds onto while she tromps on you massages you.  In some places it hurts like the devil is poking your muscles, but it is also the most effective massage I’ve ever gotten.  Awesome.

What I’m Drinking: My new favorite drink is the Starbucks Latte Macchiato.  I’m sort of a fiend for their holiday drinks and when they are gone, I miss them.  So it is delightful to have a new favorite.  My daughter and I throw her boys in the car and go to the drive-through for them.  We get a dose of caffeine and the boys fall asleep.  A win-win.

And that’s what I’ve got today.  How about you? What’s up with you?

4

Why Resistance to Your Writing is Sometimes Good

Burning Writing Of An Dark-Illuminated Paper Sheet

Here is one thing I have learned for certain in the gazillion years I’ve been writing: that resistance always has meaning.

Always, always, always.

It is up to you to figure out what that meaning might be.  But here’s the deal: once you do figure it out, then you can explore it.  And get over it.  You’ll understand more about how you approach your writing, and also your current writing project.  As far as I’m concerned, that covers pretty much everything.  So let’s look at both these categories.

How You Approach Your Writing

Your very own wonderful little self longs for expression.  And I’d venture a guess that for just about anybody reading this newsletter, that wonderful little self longs for expression through writing.  But sometimes that same wonderful self does things that are counter to that longing of expression.  Like procrastination, for example.  Or being a perfectionist.  Or being harshly self-critical. Or being all loosey-goosey and not discerning enough. (Sending out a first draft, anyone?)

You know which one is your own personal favorite form of resistance.  Mine is procrastination, and I’m very good at it.  I can even convince myself that what I’m doing when I’m not writing is critical to my well-being.  I can surf the internet and the whole time convince myself it is crucial to research for my novel. I can scroll through my phone and convince myself I’m doing social media (when really I’m looking at cool photos on Instagram).  And so on.  Insert your favorite distractions above.

But because I know this is my form of resistance, that this is likely how I’m going to approach my writing when things get tough, I also can call myself on it.  And the funny thing is, because I understand how I resist writing, I can also see how I resist other things in my life.  Like exercise.  Or gardening. Or cleaning the house.

It is important to not get all judgy on yourself.  At first, just observe.  Watch what you do and how you react and think of how interesting it all is, how clever a brain you have atop your body.  Next time, realize you’re doing it again.  And carry on.  After this happens enough, the observation of it will stop you—because you’ll grow weary of observing this pattern over and over again.  Trust me, watching oneself sputter and flail about does get boring pretty quickly.

 Your Writing Project

 The other aspect to resistance is your WIP (work in progress).   You may hit upon a scene or a chapter or a segment of it that you start to avoid.  You can be writing merrily along and suddenly something just isn’t working.   You marshal your forces.  You attempt to carry on as usual.  You forge ahead.

But nothing works.  The words fall flat on the page, the dialogue sounds wooden, the scene just won’t come together.

Okay, remember: resistance always has meaning.    writing-1560276

And in this case, something is wrong.  Here’s a handy checklist to divine what it might be:

Your setting.  Most often, this is it for me.  Maybe the scene is currently set inside and needs to be outside, or vice-versa.  Maybe you’ve set too many scenes in the same place.   I can’t tell you how many times I’ve changes the location of the scene and suddenly it comes alive.

 Your characters.  Are the correct ones in the scene?  Does your character need to confide in her best friend or her mother? Or maybe an old woman sitting on the park bench? Play around with the characters in the scene to see if you can’t get it going again.

Their motivation or backstory.  Perhaps you think your heroine is motivated by greed—but when you take the time to dig deeper you realize it’s the opposite.  Maybe you think your antagonist is a cranky jerk because his father died when he was young, but really, it was his mother who passed.  Etc.

The placement.  Maybe there’s nothing wrong with the scene, but where you’ve got it set in the plot isn’t working.  This is harder to figure out until you’ve finished a full draft, but worth considering.

These are just a few suggestions—I recommend looking at every aspect of the story until you figure out what’s going on.  And for my money, the best way to figure things out is to write about it.  I like to call this writing around, and I probably write about three to five times as many pages in writing around as I do in my current WIP.  It is how I figure out everything.

So, there you have it—proof that your resistance is a good thing.  The catch is, you have to deal with it.  But that’s much better than giving up writing for a week or a month or a year.

What are your favorite strategies for dealing with resistance? Please comment below.

Photos from freeimages.

4

Committing the Cardinal Writing Sin

manzana_original_adan_241995_lForgive me, father for I have sinned am sinning.

I am committing one of the cardinal writing sins.

I am three-quarters of the way through the first draft of my next novel, and rather than writing all the way to the end, I am starting over.

I hear your gasps.  I see your open mouths.  I understand your shock and dismay.  Because I feel it, too.

Here’s the story.  I am known to expound on the virtues of the writing process loudly and often, at least among certain groups.  By the writing process, I mean this the following.  You do some prep work, such as character dossiers and a loose outline, and you write your first draft (also known as the discovery draft) from start to finish, emphasis on the finish.  And then you ponder and make notes and ponder some more, and return to the manuscript and write the second draft.  You rinse and repeat as many times as necessary, ending with the revision draft, in which you concentrate on word choice, deleting adverbs, and grammar.  All the little things.  Then, and only then, do you consider your manuscript complete.bulgaria_sinner_saint_51020_h

Any deviation from this process is frowned on in my world.

But here I am doing it.  I am planning to launch into the second draft before completing the first.  I have good reasons, I swear it! From the start, I’ve known this draft was lacking in everything a few things, such as, oh, voice and plot and interesting characters.  I started it on a whim while in France last year, and had written several chapters before I really started thinking about where I was going with it (do not try this at home).  I knew I had issues and yet I liked the main character and her arc a lot and so I plunged on.

But the antagonist was a soft, sweet Mama-bear type.  And the love interest was too perfect.  And I had a whole sub-plot going that really didn’t combine with the main plot.  At all. Sigh.  While in Nashville last week, I did a ton of journaling and writing about, which is my way of thinking through issues with my fiction.  And I came up with ideas that pop the whole story open and make it all sparkly and shiny.  Ideas that I love.  But my antagonist is totally different now, and the love interest’s imperfections make him a new character.  That stupid sub-plot is gone and there’s a whole new location.

Often, you can come up with ideas for big changes in your novel and keep writing as if you wrote the first three-quarters of the story with those ideas in place.  But the changes that I have in mind seem to me to be so innate that I need to begin again.

So that’s what I’m going to do.  HOWEVER, I just received rewrite notes from an editor who is very interested in The Bonne Chance Bakery and so I am setting everything else aside to work on that.  Maybe–just maybe–I will change my mind about starting over in the interim.  I have agonized over this a fair amount.  But I highly doubt it.

What is your usual process? Have you ever started over on a project before finishing it? Do tell!

Photos by intrusoft and KevinWalsh, both from everystockphoto.

0