Re-writing is your friend. No, seriously. Re-writing is your BEST creative friend of all… Revisions, if you will. But when I teach and keynote and author coach and content edit, I make a clear distinction between line and copy editing and proof reading and the creative work of developmental editing, also known as re-writing.
And since for most of us mere mortals, our first full draft of a project rarely tumbles out of our brains fully realized, just dying to be written, part of our job–arguable the most important part of your job–is re-crafting that draft until it’s its best self. And that ain’t easy. In fact, resistance to re-working and re-writing and re-imagining the whole that’s sprouted from that kernel of an idea that drew you to write a story is the Number One reason a lot of authors never publish traditionally, and why a great deal of independently-published novels will never find a home in a reader’s heart.
Rewriting isn’t an easy friend. It’s overwhelming work, and creative fatigue and doubt and frustration can win the ensuing battle if you let them. But you’re a professional writer. Say it with me, “I’M A PROFESSIONAL WRITER.”
And your job is to take control of your creative process every step of the way. And for the purposes of this How You Write post, your job is to rewrite your draft for however long it takes for the story and characters and journeys you’ve created to connect with the reader on every level possible. You’re the boss, not the draft. You’re ready to work through the exhausting process of diving back in over and over. Really, you are ;o)
The way to do that?
No, the process isn’t simple. But you job is, so to speak. All you have to do is break your draft down into simple parts, so you can effectively execute the work left to be done in manageable chunks.
When you’re drafting with a plan (and you have a plan, right?) or rewriting with plan (because you revamp your plan for your story before you rewrite, right?), you give yourself a chance to conquer the overwhelming, sinking feeling that you can’t succeed at something as complex as creating a novel. You allow yourself to focus on one piece of the story at a time, until the whole manuscript finally begins to take shape. But what is your re-writing plan???
I’ll get more specific about my re-writing approach in my twice-weekly July How You Write blog updates. But for now, accept for the sake of argument that writing is a process (while creativity and voice and the compulsion to share story with the world through the written word is a gift, bless you heart…). And as part of that process, re-writing can be learned and executed and mastered by anyone determined get better at her/his craft.
To help simplify things today as we dip our toe into re-writing…
I encourage every new student and client to do what I do with a freshly drafted first pass at a story–focus on the beginning, middle, and end of your characters’ journeys, as you deconstruct what you’ve achieved with your novel. Before you rewrite the first word, you first have to understand (to “conquer”) what you’ve already written.
First up! I teach students and clients to pinpoint the emotional focus of a character at the inciting incident of a story, at the midpoint, and at the black moment.
Make a chart (easily done in Word or Excel or freehand on a notepad). A simple one, with a row for your protagonist, your antagonist and perhaps one significant secondary character. Three columns: Beginning, Middle, End.
Then read through those three key turning points in your story draft (inciting incident, midpoint and black moment) and see if you can define the state of each character’s internal journey. Jot down only a sentence or two for each turning point and each character. You should be able to summarize very specifically how a character is growing or wanting to change at each critical juncture. Once you’re done, take a look…
Is each character’s emotional state dynamic and arcing throughout the story? Read the rest of this entry »