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Writer's Re-writing Tips by J. Q. Rose
I was thrilled to finish the first draft of my mystery work-in-progress last week.
Now begins the fun part, the re-writing.
There is no great writing, only great rewriting.Justice Brandeis
Actually I enjoy slogging through the manuscript and "fixing" it up, slashing sentences, paragraphs, or even full scenes. adding the motivation or the one touch that pulls the heart strings of the reader, and finding that perfect verb to illuminate the action. Ah, what joy.
Now that I am ready to finish this third mystery, I would like to learn methods other writers do when re-writing their manuscripts.
What tips can you share with us to help make the re-writing more productive?
- Do you read through without making any changes to get the flow or pacing of the story? Find the muddle in the middle?
- Do you begin by fixing grammar errors and typos?
- When do you check if characters and descriptions of locations are consistent throughout the entire story?
- Do you perform all these steps in one reading?
- Do you keep each chapter separate and save it to its own file in MS Word? Or do you write all the chapters in one file? Or do you use a writer's helper like Scrivener to keep track of chapters, scenes, characters, etc
What nugget of information can you share with us? Please leave a comment below. We'd appreciate all the help we can get!
Rewrite in one sitting? I wish. I always read at least one previous chapter each time I sit down to write. Of course, I make changes, edit as I go. When I finally finish the first draft, I go back and rewrite, revise, edit, as much as it takes. Seldom before three even four times. In fact, I can pick up any of my finished stories, read them and still make changes. It's never ending. The biggest tip is to let the story sit for at leasat a week. Get away from it. Hope this helps.
After I write the first draft I let it cool for a few weeks. When I come back to it, I try to read it straight through, not worrying about anything except how it all hangs together (or doesn't). I then try to fix the big stuff to make it tighter. Here is where the elimination/addition of scenes happens for me. After this revision, then I focus on all the other elements you mention (verb usage, consistency, etc.), but it takes me another 2-3 rounds of editing to catch rough things to feel that it is ready for a group of beta readers. Then, depending on the feedback from the beat readers, I make subsequent revisions, until I feel good about it. Then and only then it might be ready for the eyes of a professional content editor. And then, after that feedback has been taken into account, it might be ready for the eyes of a professional copy editor. After this point, I consider submitting it for publication. I hope this helps. Thanks for asking the question.
I typically take it chapter by chapter when I'm rewriting. I'll read through it, tweak sentence structure where I feel it needs it, cut lines, reword lines, add lines, and fix grammar if I'm aware of it being wrong.
Rewriting is okay for me, but I love the creation better.
I usually read through the whole manuscript, marking it up with a red pen for pretty much anything--typos, cutting sentences, jotting down ideas on how to fix scenes. The thing I love about editing/rewriting is having all those little epiphanies when you figure something out. The more I figure out, the closer I feel to being done.
August IWSG Co-host
When working on a mystery, the first thing I would do is read the whole thing through and make sure you have left subtle clues for the reader, made the mystery unfold in a logical way, and explained how the sleuth figured out the crime. From there, I would go chapter by chapter and use the red pen liberally.
Elizabeth Hein - Scribbling in the Storage Room
I'm bad for not reading thru without changing something. I think I'm afraid I'll miss it next time. I often misread common words. You for He. Was for Are. Screwy mistakes that are so embarrassing.
Editing and revising - my favorite step!
First time through, I look at everything. I usually print out my manuscript and start looking for everything from grammar mistakes to plot holes to places that need more. (More description or more scene.) I know they say don't edit the typos until the end, but that stuff drives me so bonkers. I can't ignore it.
I haven't written a novel yet, only novellas. It's no so hard to keep track of the details when you're dealing with 10 to 20 thousand words. With the last novella I finished, I tried graphing the "intensity" of scenes. A scene in which a character has a fight with someone is more intense than one in which he's mulling over what to do. The graph gave me a sense of where I needed to make changes.
When I write I keep all the scenes separate because my first step to revising is looking at structure. When I'm done I read my work as a whole and then, when appropriate, swap my scenes around for best tension. From there add scenes, then I go to the paragraphs and finally the sentences.
And somehow I have fun with it :-)
Anna from Shout with Emaginette
I am only on my first manuscript. I am using Scrivener and set it up for draft plus 3 revisions and I hope that is enough. I am early on my first revision, so for now going through and editing for everything at once, but that might change as it's not working so well.
Great topic. My editing varies from story to story. I usually write chapters separately then put them together when the rough draft is finished. I try to look at character development first but cannot ignore punctuation and other grammar mistakes. (The teacher in me.) So I end up editing everything. And then again. And then again. :)
Roseanne-True, the editing is never-ending. When I read my first mystery after it was published, I went aargghhh, why didn't we catch that? or why didn't I do this?
Matthew--Thanks for sharing your re-writing process. I know it is hard to finally put the last period on it and send "my baby" off to a publisher for acceptance or, shudder, rejection.
Loni--When I sit down to begin writing the story, the creation is fun. It's the middle that I hate! LOL..but in re-writing I enjoy clearing up the muddle in the middle and making things smooth.
Sarah--I know exactly what you mean about the epiphanies when re-writing. Great explanation. Thanks.
Elizabeth--oh yes, the all important clues. Thanks for stopping in.
Joylene--I know. Finding those dumb mistakes is definitely a "slap-your-forehead- moment.
Alex--I agree. The typos, etc drive me crazy too. I can't not fix them. Thanks for commenting.
Jeff-I know what you mean about short stories and novellas. My first mystery was a novella and so much easier to tweak. This 44000 word WIP is so big and clumsy, trying to work everything out in it, main plot and sub-plots, is a lot to handle! Thanks for stopping in. You'll work up to the bigger novel. Each one I write gets longer, but not sure that's a good thing!
Anna--this is the first book I have written scenes I knew should be in the story first. But, it was so hard to for me to keep track of the scenes and where to put them, so I finally decided to just write straight through. I like the idea of writing the scenes to help with story structure. At this point I am breaking down the whole story into scenes to do that. We'll see. So interesting to discover how each writer works. Thank you.
Rhonda--Good to hear about your use of Scrivener. My CP uses it and loves it. Hope it works out well for you.
Beverly--good to know you keep it in separate chapters. I have to do it that way too. Thanks for sharing your re-writing process. I understand how you can't ignore those punctuation and grammar errors. Me too! Yes, it must be the teacher in us!
I'm still considering Scrivener, but I haven't taken the plunge yet.
I re-write in chunks. Sometimes I just make notes as I read, then go back and focus on the issues I've noticed in my read-through. It just depends on what that particular manuscript needs.
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