The first rewrite
When I begin a book I’m never sure that I will be able to finish it. I always have done so, but, somehow, I’m not convinced that I can do it again. At the end of the first draft I’m elated that I actually managed to complete it. It seems a gift of the gods, a miracle, and I revel in the accomplishment. I say ‘Fantastic!’ and celebrate with friends.
I am prepared to revise my manuscript looking for a smooth development of plot, speech patterns that reveal character, action that comes out of motives of the characters, and generally look for anything that strikes me as not being quite right. Then, I start the revisions and wonder why I was so pleased with this story. Who wrote this drivel? What idiot thought she could make a cohesive story out of this? The character in chapter 2 who played the flute suddenly in chapter 4 plays the guitar. Blue eyes turn to brown. Fathers who were land surveyors in chapter 3 are suddenly airline pilots in chapter 8.
I recognize that I need to do more work on some characters and have to take the time to do character sketches and psychology profiles on secondary characters which I, up to this point, had ignored. This work should have been done before I started. What kind of a writer does it after the book is completed? I berate myself and argue about my obvious incompetence.
In spite of my careful plotting, my chapter-by-chapter outline, and my attention to character profiles, I sometimes get so immersed in my writing that I steamroll over my own designs and careen off course. How could I have been so unthinking? How could I have ignored my own outline? As I was snarling around the house once, a friend commented, ‘Revisions?’ so I know this irritating, flagellating frame of mind is part of the process of writing. This is the time that I discover I have repeated the word, ‘information’ four times in one paragraph, or I have raised a concern of plot and failed to mention it again. It just disappeared leaving questions in the minds of the readers. This process of revision is the self-editing process. The logical, analytical part of your brain contributes to the production of a good manuscript. Difficult as it may be, it’s necessary.
These onerously garnered tips might help.
- When rewriting:
- Limit yourself to one chapter at a time; don’t take on the whole book at once.
- Allow yourself time to check facts, find the “best” word, even consider different ways of organizing your writing.
- Be prepared, at this point, to jettison whole sections of a chapter and create new ones.
- Rectify your usual mistakes. Different writers tend to write too much or too little in the first draft. Decide which type of writer you are and compensate for your habit. If you usually write too much, strike out anything that does not contribute to the plot. The rule is that if the book makes total sense without a particular word, sentence, paragraph, or chapter, take it out. If you usually write too little, decide what word, sentence, paragraph, or chapter is missing, and add it. Be alert to your habitual errors.
- Correct spelling, typing, grammar mistakes, and points of logic.
- Check the pace. Does the story move in an exciting manner? Is there too much excitement at one time or not enough? What is your emotional reaction to the character as the story progresses? Do questions come to mind about the plot as you read?
If you are still with me next week, I’ll talk about the next rewrite. Good luck.