I apologize for taking so much time off from Choices. My temporary day job has been exhausting and as such has given me little time or energy to write here. However, I’ll be free of it early next week and look forward to getting back to my writing work.
That said I attended a rewrite seminar last weekend to hopefully help me get revved up to work on my novel after a long hiatus working a proposal management consulting job. Some of the contents of the seminar were familiar – I learned a lot about rewrite and revision while working proposals in the aerospace business – and some things discussed gave me some new nuggets to incorporate in my work. Here I’ll try to give you ways to tackle your own drafts.
The two-step process for writing a book are:
Step 1 – write the draft
- Just get it out
- Don’t hang up with editing
- Don’t go to the Thesaurus to find a word.
- Lay all your cards on the table as fast as you can.
- And avoid tendency to write in chronological order
Step 2 – get perspective
- Take a break from your work, for as long a time as you can afford
- Go back to it with a hard copy and a red pen
- Wearing different clothes
- Work in a different location
- Get feedback from others. Two or three sets of eyes on every draft is ideal.
I’ve had two rounds of Beta readers, consisting of four or five readers each, read two of my drafts – one early and one later. And just recently I hired an editor to do a critical assessment of my latest (eighth draft). That’s why I took the seminar. I needed to be inspired to take this editor’s capacious notes and sit down at my computer and decide what and how to deal with them. I need to sift out the useful criticism, discard the rest, and get on with the rewrite job ahead.
I think it’s a good idea to use your gut feelings about what helps and what doesn’t. It’s also good to take a leave from your book. My six-week proposal management job was the perfect get away. When I tackle my novel again I’ll be looking at it with a fresh perspective as well.
I also learned what to look for in picking readers:
- Someone who is critical and will find flaws
- Someone working in the publishing world
- Someone who lives and works in the world I’m writing about
- Someone who is a writer (but don’t pick more than one or two writers)
- Someone who knows something about the project and me
- Someone who knows nothing about me or the project – comes in cold
- Someone from your prime audience—someone who would actually buy the book
Then once you get feedback, ask a lot of questions before going back to work. The main question I asked my editor was:
- Did I have a viable story idea?
- Was it worth working on?
- Even with all the things he thought were wrong with it, should I continue working on it?
Since he said a resounding yes, I’m determined to keep on keeping on. He also suggested I have my book line edited after I finish the revision.
Here’s a list of line/copy editing tasks:
- Shorten sentences
- Shorten paragraphs
- Leave a lot of white space on the page
- Ask why is that scene there – if something important is not happening, shorten the scene
- Less words are better
- Don’t use big words when a small word will do
- Don’t hire a professional until it’s gone through a couple of drafts and it’s seen by readers
- Hire a line editor when you’re done with the content. That’s a person who looks for errors – like proof reading.
I think that’s quite enough writing about rewrite and revision. It’s now time to do the actual work.
Where are you in your novel writing? Are you revising or still drafting? Please let us know what you’re going through and how you’re feeling about your work.
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