Archive | Rewriting

Now That You’ve Finished Nanowrimo: A 10-Step Plan for Rewriting

post-itsSo, you did it. You finished Nanowrimo. Huge congratulations! It is quite a journey, isn’t it? But now what, you might be thinking. And rightfully so.  You’ve just put forth a ton of creative energy over the last month.  Here is my 10-step plan for what to do next.

1.Decide if you’re at the end, really, or have farther to go. This depends on if you set out to complete a novel in 50K words or knew you’d be 50K in but not finished.  I fall into the latter camp. I completed Nanowrimo but figure I have about 15K words to go to finish my draft.  If this is the case with you, also, then finish up before proceeding to step #2.

2. Take a break.  It will do your creative spirit good to step away from your WIP for a bit.  When you do come back to it, you’ll have fresh eyes and new energy to bring to it. So go stare out the window. Take a bath. Get a pedicure. Go for a walk. Knit a pair of mittens for someone you love for Christmas. Go forth and put your novel out of your mind.

3. Resist the urge to consider it done and begin your agent search.  Please, please, please remember that what you’ve written is a draft. It will need to go through at least one and possibly several rewrites before it is ready to go out in the world.  Agents dread December 1st because their inboxes fill up with manuscripts completed during Nanowrimo, though only the authors of said manuscripts would consider them finished.

4. Reread and make notes.  This is the heart of my rewriting method. Which, by the way, I stole learned from Rachael Herron and have adapted for my own purposes. (Shout out to Rachael, who besides being one of my favorite novelists does lots of incredible things for writers, including a podcast of author interviews and essays on the creative process you can access through Patreon.) Anyway. This step has two parts to it, that you will do concurrently as you read:

A. Make an outline of the story.  Rachael says to do a sentence outline of each scene, but if that’s too much for you, figure out a way to do it that will help you to keep track of the story. Because the point here is not only to get the story back into your head, but also to give you a reference point later on.

B. Put any thoughts and ideas on post-it notes.  One idea to a post-it. This is the freaking brilliant heart of the method.  You don’t have to organize them or think deeper thoughts about these ideas, just scrawl on a post-it note and slap that note on a piece of paper. In no particular order. That will come later.

5. Review any rewrite notes you kept during the writing process.  Add these notes to your post-it pages.

6.  Create a page per chapter. Just a blank page with the number of the chapter at the top. I like to put them in a three-ring binder.

7.  Go through post-its and order them. Take your little post-its, put all the ones that go in chapter one on that page, all those that belong to chapter two on the #2 page, and so on. You can refer to your sentence outline to help you remember what happens when.

8.  Review and ponder.  Do your characters need deepening? Does your setting need clarifying? Does your structure need shoring up? Do the necessary work here and add to your post-it note outline.

9.  Celebrate.  A glass of red wine is called for. Because look how far you’ve come!

10.  Have at it! Carry on!  Get this baby rewritten so you can get it out in the world.

That’s all there is to it, friends!

Okay, so if you have any questions, email me at charlotte@charlotterainsdixon.com.  And if you need more help, let me know. You might be a great candidate for my coaching. (Which, I just so happen to be having a sale on until midnight Friday, December 3.)

0

Cutting the Fat

So, my novel manuscript, the one I’m almost done rewriting, originally came in at over 107,000 words.

I know.      spaghetti_fusilli_pasta_242129_l

Waaaaaay too long.

“But part of it is recipes,” I told myself.

Right. Like maybe 500 words.

Under orders from my agent, I’m in the process of cutting it to under 100K. (I’m currently at 99,378, with about 100 pages yet to comb through, so not bad.) I’ve realized as I do this, a couple of things: 1. that trimming the fat is making it a much better book, and 2. that this is a very inexact process.

All that being said, here are some ideas about how to approach cutting your precious words back:

Keep the noodles on the stove.  My characters love to noodle. To ponder. To think deep thoughts about life. And I, in my efforts to make sure the reader gets it, often have them noodle about the same issue. Over and over and over again. Noodling is one of the easiest things to cut. (A brief aside. I was cooking Mac and Cheese for my three-year-old granddaughter the other day and mentioned that the noodles were on the stove.  “What’s a noodle, Nonni?” she asked. Because only people of a certain age call it anything but pasta. Duh.)

Cut entire scenes or chapters.  This is far and away the most painful thing to do. And the most effective–in my case, I ditched several thousand words in one quick swoop.  It was a chapter I’d added in to supposedly give the reader more insight into a particular character, but much of it was fluff. So I held my breath and slashed it. (Though nothing is ever deleted forever. See my procedural notes below.)

Ditch telling and then showing.  I see this often in my client’s manuscripts.  First they tell us something, then show it.  I thought I was good at not doing this. But hahaha, turns out that’s not only the case. Since my characters love to noodle, they often sometimes think about doing something, then say it in dialogue, and then…gasp…they actually do it.  Thus I am repeating the same thing three times. A good rule of thumb in such situations: dialogue or action is always stronger than thoughts.

Edit out sentences that say the same thing in different ways.  Similar to the above, in my efforts to hit my reader over the head with my brilliance, I say it on way. And then another. And then…oh wait, just in case, let’s try yet another way! Away with all of these repetitious bits.

Keep the momentum moving forward.  It’s easy to unintentionally stall the action.  Here’s an example. My main character, Madeleine, is at a party.  She goes outside to deal with one of the party-goers and then thinks, “Suddenly the prospect of returning to the party wasn’t so appealing.” But I’ve still got a bunch of things that have to happen at the party. Yet she’s letting all the air out by saying that. This also happens when writers build up to a scene, say an argument between husband and wife, and then don’t end the scene without writing the argument.

If something is niggling at you, pay attention to it.  Sometimes it happens that a little thought comes into your head along the lines of you should go back to chapter 14 and look at what Richard says. But you ignore it. Because, you’re way beyond chapter 14 and who wants go go back? But that thought keeps niggling at you. Pay attention. This happened to me earlier today and after I dragged my metaphorical feet long and hard, I finally went back–and rewrote a chunk of the chapter. It’s much stronger now.

That’s it for the actual wordsmithing.  But below find a couple of procedural tips:

Keep a hold file.  This is an extra file in which I copy and paste the gems I’m cutting.  I’ve done this for years, so that I’m certain to hang onto my brilliance. However, I learned a better way to make sure I don’t panic when I highlight vast swaths of copy and hit delete. And that is:

Save a new file every day.  I do this by date: BCRewriteFour8.25.16. And so on, through all the days I’m working on it.  Then you know you can always go back to what you wrote the day before and your brain won’t tell you that you can’t delete those delicately beautiful words because the world will suffer if you do. (I learned this tip from Rachael Herron.)

What are you working on? Doing any rewriting? Got any tips to share? Please do!

(Photo by brokenarts.)

2

Dog Days of Summer and Rewriting

wasp_macro_wasp_243277_lI’m back. It didn’t seem like much of a hiatus, at least from this end. And I’m still not finished with the rewrite. But I’m making excellent progress and feel very good about it.  (And, so you don’t think I’m all fakey optimistic, let me just remind you that I sat out most of July working on it because I didn’t know how to approach it.)

I have a couple of brilliant thoughts on rewriting to share, but first, let me tell you a few fun things that happened while I was gone:

  • I got a bee sting while valiantly defending my three-year-old granddaughter from said bee. Her mother is allergic, and we’re not yet sure if Liv is. She’s been stung once, but often the allergic reaction doesn’t occur until the second or third sting. I sure didn’t want to be responsible for anything happening, so I was glad the bee stung me. But it turns out I’m having a fairly intense localized reaction, with my arm red and swollen to about the size of an elephant’s leg. And it itches like a mo-fo.
  • I have a dying root in a tooth. If you’ve never experienced this, it is hard to explain the agony.  And I thought being pummeled by my massage therapist was bad. Also, a helpful note: do not get a toothache in August because every dentist in town is on vacation.  I’m in between dentists because I needed to find a holistic one, aka, one who will not fill my mouth full of mercury. I already have plenty, thank  you very much, and I just went on a nasty three-month cleanse to get rid of it.  Anyway, I have an appointment two weeks hence. Meanwhile, I’m swishing with coconut oil and Listerine and salt water, and using clove oil and Orajel. Also taking lots of ibuprofen, which I know is terrible for me but c’mon, this pain is intense.

Aren’t I a fun date?

Okay, now that we’ve gotten that over with, on to the gems of wisdom about rewriting. Here goes:

  • Every book is its own beast.  You have to honor the shape of what you have, you really do, and listen to how the book responds as you work. Some planned changes just may not work when you actually get to it. For instance, I figured out this elaborate backstory for one of the characters that was just perfect. I planned to fit it in in dribs and drabs. But when I actually got to places it might go, it didn’t fit.  So I had to let it go.
  • Rewriting happens in macro swaths, such as rethinking a character, but the meat of it is in the micro. How a character reacts to the character you’ve rethought, for instance, which you show in dialogue or action.  I’m struck this time through what makers of magic we are–erase one observation from a character’s head and you’ve changed the whole scene. Amazing. Which reminds me of something that used to happen all the time when I was in a writer’s group. I’d bring in a rewrite and people would wax poetic about how much better it was–when really all I’d done was change one or two tiny little things. But that’s the power we wield.
  • It really helps to have someone you can hash out ideas with. I was truthfully sort of scared of my agent at first, but this time through we’ve talked a couple times and emailed about what I’m doing. Also, when Debbie and I went on our writing retreat, we discussed our stories on breaks and at night. It really helps.  Find someone with whom you can brainstorm–or just moan and whine to.

Okay, that’s it, that’s all I’ve got for now. I’m going to go take some more Ibuprofen and ice my elephant’s leg arm. But, I’ve missed you. So please tell me what you’ve been doing this summer and how the writing is going.

Photo by hberends.

4

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

It’s About Damn Time She Wrote a Post

Hi. Bear_waving_bear_252005_l

Here I am again.  

I've been pretty much missing in action, with the exception of a prompt round-up post or two, and one measly blog post, for the last couple of weeks. (And, now that I'm here, I've just had an idea for another post–which proves my oft-repeated point that writing breeds more writing. Alas, I don't have time to complete it at the moment.  But it shall appear soon.)

But I'm nearing completion of my rewrite of the Bonne Chance Bakery, my next novel, so I thought I'd pop in.  I'm learning all kinds of things as I rewrite this novel.  And that is why I love writing so much, because there is always something new to learn.  

Have I ever told you my favorite story about this?  Well, if so, sorry, but you're going to hear it again.  

I was at dinner with the parents of a friend of my daughter.  They were lovely people, and both had retired from high-powered corporate jobs.  Fly all over the world, big responsibility type jobs.  The mom asked me what I did and at that time I was in the middle of earning my MFA, so I explained. And then this happened:

"And how long is the MFA program?" she asked.

"Two years."

"Oh." Startled look.  "I would have thought you could learn everything about writing in six months."

Yes, she really said that, people.  And for once in my life I had the perfect retort, which still pleases me to this day:

"Some people think it takes a lifetime to master the craft of writing."

Boo-yah!

So, anyway, I'm learning lots.  Which is a wonderful thing that I'm sure I'll write blog posts about. But not yet.  In the meantime, however, a few things I need to give you a heads up about:

I have another free book on Noise Trade!  It's called, Set The Words Free, and it is all about smashing writer's block.  It's available in all the usual formats, but since it is a workbook, I think downloading it in a PDF is the best, because then you can print it out.  You can download it here.

Next week, my publisher is participating in the 4th Anniversary party of the Romance Reviews website, and on March 20, you can enter to win a copy of Emma Jean!  I will remind you next week, as I should be back in action by then, since my rewrite deadline is this Friday, March 13. Urp.  I better get back to it.

But before I do, one more thing to put on your calendar.

MacaronsNEXT FRIDAY, MARCH 20, IS MACARON DAY!! (The subject of the Bonne Chance Bakery is macarons, or more to the point, a woman who bakes them.) In Paris, New York, Portland, and many other cities, you can go to participating bakeries, donate money to a charity (here it is the Meals on Wheels), and get free macarons!

That's all for now.  What's going on with you?  How is your writing?

Bear photo by omster-com.

Macaron photo by Oregon Live.

6

A Compendium of Writing Tips and Tricks

Note_creative_author_260972_lAs I've announced at least fifty million times in every place I could possibly think of, I'm busy rewriting my novel for my new agent, Erin Niumata, which is why things have been quiet around here.

But as I've been concentrating fiercely on my rewrite the last couple of weeks, I've realized some things that are working well for me–and things that I'm learning.   I'm hopeful these miscellaneous tips will be of value to you, too, so here they are.

1.  Getting up every 30 minutes (or so) makes a HUGE DIFFERENCE.  I've been at my desk a lot lately, for longer stretches than usual, and I've been consciously getting up regularly and walking around and stretching.  One day last week I didn't do this–and I felt completely difference at the end of the day. The romantic image we have of writers requires us to be so wrapped up in our work that we sit for hours.  But actually you will feel better and do better work if you get your butt up off the chair.

2.  Your main character needs an origin story.  Just as superheroes have stories about how they got their superpowers, your protagonist (and probably others in the story, too) needs an origin story.  How did she get her obsession for fashion?  Why did he become a detective?  Did he watch his best friend get killed and vow to avenge him?  Figure this out and you've unlocked your character. This deserves a whole post and will get one when I'm done with my rewrite.

3.  Use more description than you think you need.  I mentioned about how I've been learning this as I rewrite to my agent's notes.  And I am finding that more description makes for a fuller, richer read. (Bear in mind that I'm writing women's fiction, and lush description is a huge part of it.  In another genre, this might not be so.)  Also, as my buddy J.D. Frost brilliantly pointed out to me in an email, you can use description to pace your plot.  A lot of it signals a restful spot.  A lack of it shows action.  

4.  Having long stretches of time to write is a wonderful thing.  I'm the original proponent of using little bits of time here and there to write when you can, but for this rewrite, I've gotten in the habit of clearing away whole days to work.  (See #5.)  Let me tell you, it is fantastic, especially when you are working on a rewrite and need to hold the whole book in your head.  Having more than one or two hours at a time to devote to the book gives me the mental space to dig deep into character arcs and figure out a more cohesive plot.

5.  You have more time to write than you think.  I have a lot of clients at the moment.  They are all wonderful and diligent and doing good work, and I adore every single one.  (I really, truly do–I am constantly amazed and honored to be chosen to shepherd a writer's creation.) And, they all need my care and tending: reading their work and then time on the phone to discuss.  I'm also planning three in-person workshops (France here, Nashville here, Portland is already full).  And I have a clamoring family that I love to let distract me.  Yet I've carved out four full days to devote to my rewrite in the last week.  I never would have thought I could do that I've you'd told me so in January.  But I did it, by working really, really hard on the other days and carefully managing appointments.  It is working so well, I'm going to continue to do this even after I'm done with this rewrite.

6.  Notes are your pals.  I had pretty much totally gone over to Evernote, which I do love, because I tend to accumulate scraps of paper with notes on them all over my desk.  But that's gone out the window with this rewrite and I've got lists and notebooks everywhere.  The thing is, this is working for me (it wasn't before, which is why I sought out a different system). When I'm working on chapter six, and I get an idea for chapter ten, it is easier to grab a piece of paper and scrawl my idea on it, then to open the Evernote app and create a new note.  The thing to remember is to go through your notes regularly!  And the point of it all is to do what works for you to get the writing done.

7.  Reading is your BFF now more than ever.  I'm reading a ton at the moment.  What am I reading? Women's fiction, exactly what I'm writing, with a stray girly mystery thrown in.  As I read, I learn.  In the novel I just finished, I noticed how the author handled description of characters and emulated it.  In another novel I just started, I liked how the author wrote about the setting.  All these ideas go directly into my work.  (And yes, I will write a post like this one about the books I'm reading soon.)

So that's what I've learned while writing lately.  How about you? What are you working on? How is it going?

12

Gone Rewriting

I am working on a rewrite of my novel, The Bonne Chance Bakery.  And, of course, the exciting news is that this rewrite is not just for me.  Nope, I am rewriting to the notes from the agent with whom I just signed, Erin Niumata, and one of her readers.  

This is all happening fast.  As in, a month ago I hadn't even submitted a query on this novel.  And now I have an agent for it and am working on a rewrite.  This process is interesting, and to all my students and clients, current and former, I say, yes you really do need to expand those descriptions and details! That is one thing I'm seeing repeatedly–a request for more details and description of my characters.  It cracks me up, because I'm constantly saying this to clients–more, more, more!  

Anyway, I have a deadline coming right up to finish this rewrite (which is an excellent thing, as I am very deadline-oriented).  But with my current load of clients, my students at MTSU, and my clamoring family, that means time is at a premium the next couple of weeks.  I've already emailed people and postponed lunches and coffees and non-essential meetings.  

The next thing to fall is going to be blog posts.  You know I can't ignore you for long, and I won't.  I will post at least once a week, but until mid-March that will likely be it.  I know you will understand and forgive me.

In the meantime, there's over 1,000 posts on this site, so you can start at the beginning, nearly eight years ago and read up to the current day.  I'm kidding.  However, there is a topic cloud in the right sidebar and if you click on some of those subjects, you'll find reading material tailored to your interests.

And let me just remind you of three upcoming workshops:

In Portland, How to Write A Book, on March 21 (mercifully after my deadline).  I think we only have a couple of spots left, so let me know if you are interested!

In Nashville, May 1 and 2nd, From Spark to Story.

In Collioure, France, Secrets of Structure, September 5-12.  There is only one spot left here, so let me know if you want to come.  It is going to be a blast!

Oh, and rumor has it there may be an online workshop coming up one of these days soon, so stay tuned!  And happy writing!

16

Rewriting: The Middle Way

Table_269134_lThis is a short-ish post, seeing as how it is two days before Thanksgiving, when I host a dozen family members here for dinner, and the lovely Olivia (19 months) is spending the day with me, and the house needs a lot tad bit of cleaning and, oh right, I do have to figure out a few recipes.

I'm deep into rewriting my next novel, and all I can think about writing-wise is related to rewriting, which is kind of an individual thing.  So I've had a hard time coming up with ideas for writing posts lately, which you know is unusual seeing as how we're coming up on eight years of blogging and over 1,000 posts.  Craziness.

But, upon further reflection, I did realize I had something of minor brilliance to say.  It may even be major brilliance–it all depends on if it resonates with you or not.  Here's the story:

The other morning, 5:30 ish* and I'm working on my rewrite.  I come to a part I'd dreaded, because it involved the way one of my main characters, Jack,  reacted to a situation.  Readers commented they didn't believe his reaction, given his actions earlier. 

What's the obvious fix here?  Why, give him the opposite reaction, of course.  Which is what I had figured I'd do in all my rewrite planning.  But as I started making the fix, it didn't work for me.  Didn't feel right.  Didn't seem like something Jack would do. 

So I got up from the computer (actually I sat there frustrated for a few minutes) and took a shower. And the answer came: Jack doesn't have to have a different reaction, he just has to have his current reaction challenged by the other characters and thus explain his reaction.

In other words, what I needed to do was make it work on the page.  

This, my friends, was following the middle way.  It's the sometimes circuitous path between two black and white option, and it comes to us not just in writing but in life.  You look and look and look at an obstacle and can only see it as something barring your journey.  But then, suddenly you realize you can just go around the damn thing–and get back on your road.

And so that is what I did.  Jack is happy.  And so am I.

I had a counselor once who called this grace.  And that's what it feels like, doesn't it?

Have you had moments of grace in your writing or life recently?

*I've used "ish" twice in this post.  Last week, I was having lunch with a childhood friend (we grew up around the corner from each other) and we agreed that both of us had the same laidback attitude toward life, which she attributed to being the baby of the family.  She said–and I love this–that her favorite word is "ish."  As in,  soon-ish.  Or later-ish.  You get the picture.  Thus, the preponderance of the word "ish" in this post.

Photo by monmart.

4

The (Sometimes) Joy of Rewriting

Just in time for Mercury Retrograde, I am launching into the first big rewrite of my novel.  (More on Mercury Retrograde in a moment.)

The background        

GreendoorPezenas

A green door in Pezenas, France. It's a doorway to rewriting, get it?

I started this particular novel last year in late September, and finished it almost a year later, on the last day of August.  By many standards, including mine, that is a slow pace for a first draft.  But there were entire months when I set it aside to work on other projects, so the entire time span of active writing was probably was more like eight months than twelve.

I got the idea for this novel in the shower one day in one of those Eureka moments.  When I started writing, in first person, the voice of the narrator came easily and naturally, much as what happened with my Emma Jean novel.  I love when this happens–you don't have to struggle with voice, it is just there. 

My writing group has been enthusiastic about the story, and responses from people who've read the first 50 pages of it in a MFA alumni writing workshop have been also.  And I already have a ton of ideas of scenes I need to add and ways to deepen certain characters. So, I'm excited to get on with the second draft.

The plan

Thus, I was even more excited when my wonderful client and friend Beverly pointed me towards this page on Rachael Herron's blog.  It presents a coherent, cohesive plan for rewriting.  And, I don't know about you, but in my writing life, coherent, cohesive plans for rewriting have been in short supply, witness this story from my MFA days:

I had finished the first draft of the book I lovingly call my MFA novel (It now resides in a cupboard and will likely never see the light of day) and was ready to rewrite it.  So I asked my MFA mentor, an accomplished novelist, writing teacher, and world traveler (who shall remain nameless only because what follows might sound like I'm dissing her and I don't want anybody to think that because she was amazing) how to go about it.  

"I'll tell you how to do that," she said, tossing her long, thick, red hair.

I leaned forward, excited for more of her words of wisdom.

"You sit in your favorite easy chair and read your novel as if you're reading a book from the bookstore."

I waited.  Then I waited some more.  Being too in awe of her to squawk, "that's it?" I waited longer.  

Finally she broke the painful silence.  "Then you will find a way in."  And she bestowed a smile on me.

So, um, you can see why I'm thrilled that plans for rewriting the novel exist.  And, lord have mercy, said plans involve buying office supplies, like post-it notes! A three-ring binder! 3-hole punched paper! Washi tape!  (Okay, the washi tape wasn't strictly necessary, but how could I resist it?)  I'm in the process of printing out my novel and have already begun following the first part of the plan.

Oh, and today, in my internet travels, I ran across this post from the always helpful Janice Hardy about rewriting.  It's worth a read, also.

Iphone6Paris

A giant ad for the Iphone 6 on an historic building in Paris.

The timing 

And now we come to the part about Mercury Retrograde.  Three times a year, the planet Mercury essentially goes backward.  (Don't ask how, just accept, okay?) Most people intone the words Mercury Retrograde with the same dire tones they use to say black plague, or these days, Ebola virus. Communications go haywire, and technology goes bust.  (Don't even think of buying a new computer or phone during one of these periods.  And whatever you do, don't sign a contract.)  Travel plans tend to go awry.  Fun and games, people, fun and games.

But.

There's always a but, and this is a big one.  At the same time all the above-mentioned crazy stuff is occurring, there's something else afoot–and that is that anything that has the prefix "re" attached to it will be a good activity for you.  So, reorganizing, remembering, renewing, or, ahem, rewriting.  Yes, Mercury Retrograde is the perfect time to return to something you've been working on and a good chance to look at it with new eyes.  So there.  I've just given you reason not to dread Mercury Retrograde.  Just don't get tempted by those new Iphone 6s.  

How do you approach rewriting?

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Rewriting: Print Out Your Work

Aelse_ilovenature_glow_5663_hSorry, trees.

The topic of today's post impacts your health on this planet, and for that I'm truly sorry.

But I'm rediscovering the helpfulness of printing out my work in order to rewrite and revise it.  (I like to make a distinction between the two words.  To me, rewriting is what you do on the second draft, when you're looking at big stuff like character arc and plot.  Revising is what you do on the final draft, when you're looking at every word, and comma and period.  Big difference.)

This all began when I saw Anne Lamott last Friday night.  She spoke in Portland at the Baghdad Theater as part of her book tour for Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First Son.  The theater was packed, I'm happy to report, full of happy fans eating pizza and burgers and drinking wine and beer.  Which was just the wee-est bit ironic, seeing as how Anne is a famous recovering alcoholic.

But it didn't seem to bother her and she had some great things to say about her life and her writing.  (She delivers her lectures in almost a stream-of-consciousness style that appears effortless and is very entertaining.)  She talked about writing as a radical act (hear, hear) and also that she likes to repeat the mantra, "it could happen," after a character in an old movie, Angels in the Outfield. (Such as, bestselling novel?  "It could happen."  And so on.)

What really struck me, however, was when she talked about printing out your work in order to edit it.  Yes, we live in an electronic world, but it is still important to make a hardcopy of your writing and see it on the page.  Use the electronics to communicate with the world and tinker with your work on the page.  The real page.

I used to do this all the time.  It was the only way I could rewrite.  But lately, with the convenience of editing on the computer, I've gotten away from it.  This week, I decided to experiment and printed out 70 pages of my next novel.  Totally different experience.  You simply see things differently when you edit on the page.  Try it.

I'm not sure I recommend printing out pages every single time you edit.  So much of editing goes on as you re-read a draft on the computer, perhaps before you begin your writing session.  But as an exercise at certain key points along the way, it can be very useful.

And as for the trees? Buy recycled paper.

Create a successful, inspired writing life: Next time you're finished with a draft, print it out to make your revisions.  See if it works for you.

Please comment.  How do you approach rewriting and revising?  Do you do it on the computer or on hard copy?  Which do you prefer? 

Photo by Josef F. Stuefer, and I found it on Everystockphoto.

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