Posts Tagged ‘rewriting’

How You Re-Write 3: Method over Madness

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

The philosophy I share with all students and editing/coaching clients? Anyone–ANYONE–can deconstruct and rewrite a manuscript. Anyone can learn to rework a story one element and scene and character at a time. Last week I shared some of my basic techniques for  understanding the key characters in your completed story draft (at a high level). Click here and here for those posts, to catch up or refresh or try to niggle a bit more out of each one.

This week and next, we’re diving into the actual method of deconstructing. My method. The title of this series is HOW YOU RE-WRITE, and the overall blog category is HOW YOU WRITE. So, disclaimer time: this works for me and many of my clients and students, but the only way you’ll know if it works for you is IF YOU WORK ON REWRITING SOMETHING OF YOUR OWN. Eh-hem… Sorry, it’s a nit for me.

writing is rewriting

What’s the deal, you ask?

Just as a refresher: re-writing is hard; looking at what’s not working with your characters and plot points and themes and secondary everything can be a nerve-wracking, soul-sucking, insecurity-making exercise; and a lot of people listen but never try many of the basic, not-so-hard-to implement exercises I recommend. Which is too bad, because learning to rewrite (and we’re all ALWAYS learning, with every new project) is your job. It’s not an option. And I can’t tell you the number of clients who fade away or students whose enthusiasm wavers after a course ends or followers contact me years later to say they still haven’t finished that book they were working on back when, but they’ve started 5 new ones since…and not finished them, either.

Which is unfortunate, sad and avoidable. Just do the work (or in this case the re-work). Do it. We all have to. All of our pretty babies are drafted in the shadows of “ugly.”

writing pen

It’s madness to think yours won’t, and inexcusable as an artist to let your creative drive for approval (especially your own) block you from learning and applying the craft that will better enable you to bring your unique voice and vision and stories to readers who are languishing these days, in a sea of often poorly-written, poorly constructed, badly delivered free or so-close-to-free-it-doesn’t-matter digital content.

Rant almost over. Except to say this: make what you create matter as viscerally and beautifully and impactfully (not a word, but you get the gist) as it can, by understanding it, honing it, and ruthlessly re-working it to the best of your ability. (more…)

How You Re-Write 2: Actually, it’s Beginning-END-Middle…

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

Re-Writing Lesson 2: Taking a closer look at my recommended method for using the B-M-E Chart!

Or, if it helps you more easily remember today’s discussion… My Beginning-End-Middle Chart.

BME Table

First, be sure if you haven’t to brush up on Rewriting Lesson 1, where I begin discussing my methods and philosophy for deconstructing and re-writing manuscript drafts.

Then grab all those notes you’ve made from your own Work-in-Progress, because you did your homework and have been looking at your current draft, right? Right?! And maybe you had a bit of a struggle encapsulating what’s happening with your characters at these key story turning points (Inciting Incident, Midpoint, and Black Moment). If so, welcome to the club. These aren’t high concepts most of us have nailed down when we first begin to draft.

So, let’s take another stab at it. Even if you’re happy so far with what you’ve learned about your story from using the chart, indulge me and lean into Lesson 2 and your draft with a fresh set of eyes.

The B-M-E Chart Process

Some quick definitions as we begin. Just summaries, for the sake of this exercises and post.

  • Inciting Incident: the first key turning point in a manuscript, when something happens that has never happened before, propelling the protagonist and antagonist together into the external flow of the story.
  • Midpoint: the center-most turning point in the manuscript, the tent post “propping up” the external and internal arcs of the story;the “ah-ha” moment when the protagonist realizes the “true” goal/conflict of her/his journey and pivots (through a shift in motivation) toward pursuing the objective that will drive her choices and actions for the second half of the novel.
  • Black Moment: the pinnacle moment where all that is at stake for the protagonist is revealed and all hope is lost if the the protagonist hasn’t learned enough throughout the story’s arc and/or isn’t ready to make the no-going-back, life-changing choice being asked of her.

Step 1: Can you isolate these turning points in your draft?

Not theoretically, not as you think back about what you meant to do with your story. Actually, physically, can you turn to these places in your printout (PLEASE, when you’re deconstructing a drafted work-in-progress, print it out and work with a hard copy. I swear, developmental/content editing is so much more effective at the analytical stage if you work with hard copy rather than scrolling through a digital copy)?


I have a method I’ll describe in a later re-write lesson for isolating specific scenes while deconstructing a novel, and how to learn the most you can from that exercise. But for now do the best you can and put your finger on when these three critical events happen to your protagonist. Not what you planned to do, or what you meant to do, but what you physically wrote as you drafted. (more…)

How You Re-Write 1: Revise with the B-M-E Chart

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

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.

beginning middle end

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.

BME Table

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? (more…)

How We Write Wednesdays: Love Your Backstory, Make it Shine

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

How We Write’s focus turns to backstory this Wednesday. Jenn and I have talked planning and plotting and revising and characters and story structure. But what about working what happens BEFORE, into your story’s now? That can sometimes be as much work as all the rest–combined.


You may have noticed my blog’s slowed down the last few weeks. Why? I’m heads down into the most complicated proposal I’ve written yet (and that’s saying something considering I just finished Sara and Maddie Temple’s story), and I’m trying to sort through everything I’ve been researching and planning for the next three books in the Legacy series and start the story, set the story, yet propel the characters through the first three chapters of the story without dampening the kick-ass pacing of the psychic thriller/magical realism my readers have come to crave.

I teach “free writing” to my students. To write to the end before you go back and revise. But I always qualify that I first get through the proposal stage. The initial 50 – 75 pages. The three chapters my agent needs (along with the BEST synopsis of the full story or series I can write) to sell my books to my publishers. Those first three chapters are an art form, a story, all to themselves. They need to establish your story not just for a reader, but for the editor you want to buy your manuscript.

You’ve heard me say it before–how you handle the inciting incident has plot and character ripples that flow through the middle and most importantly the dark moment and climax of your story. But it’s not just that. Weaving in the backstory of your story, intriguing the reader without revealing too much, all while you’re being sure to tell them enough at the exact moments they need to know… The finesse and delicacy in which you do this is part of your voice. And it has to change in subtle ways with each story. You can never be too careful or creative about how you handle it. You can’t just dump in the “goodies,” then get back to the creative work of telling your story. Some of the most creative writing you do comes when you craft the past into your on-the-page world.

Theres’ no quick and easy way to describe how to handle the “no dumpage” mandate for backstory, or how to work around the “show don’t tell” rule we’ve all had beaten into us. What a surprise!

type keys

There are no simple rules for backstory, any more than there are for anything else. If you don’t give enough in the right places, you frustrate and lose your reader. If you throw to much at the story when it’s not needed in ways that don’t fit your characters and world, your pacing crawls to a painful halt. (more…)

How We Write Wednesdays: Plot Points You Toward Better Drafting

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

I asked the #weWRITE faithful on Twitter what terms and trending craft topics did they want us to explain in more detail. The top choice? Plot points, and how come they’re so important to the escalating tension in a story. It sounds basic, but Jenni and I have learned, just like every other working fiction writer, that you can never take for granted just how important the basics are.

First, let’s start with quick glimpse back at where How We Write Wednesdays (HoWW) has already been:


In March, Jenni covered basic story structure terms. It’s a great blog on the “secret” to discovering your own writing process (because as much as we like to teach together, we’ve learned that we plot very differently). Go back and read it for that insight alone. But within the post is an excellent summary of the basic turning points within a novel: Inciting Incident, 1st Turning Point, 2nd Turning Point (also known as Midpoint), 3rd Turning Point, Dark Moment/Black Moment, and Climactic Scene. This  is a purely external way to look at the bones of your story. What happens and how each major thing that happens is connected to the next (and the last) one.

In February, I shared my “Character Chart” that I use to plan/plot my characters’ emotional arc through the beginning (Inciting Incident), Middle (2nd Turning Point) and end (Dark Moment/Black Moment) of a story. Take another look, to get a refresher on how I chart my characters’ internal growth through the three most important turning points in a novel, long before I figure out exactly how I’m going to motivate the character(s) externally.

So, that’s the basics, at least the way we seen them. But what does it all mean, when you’re looking at planning/plotting, drafting, and revising your own story? (more…)

How We Write Wednesdays: Draft Free, Revise Strong…

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Drafting with creative freedom is key. Writing without constraint. Drafting without clinging too tightly to planning or expectation. BUT we’ve said over and over on How We Write Wednesdays (HoWW)–you have to revise every rough word you draft. How do you lay the groundwork for the “rework” you know needs to be done, while you’re giving your stay committed to your creative freedom?

Jenni’s taking the lead over on her blog, revealing wondrous and amazing secrets for how she spreadsheets and charts her way into keeping track of story while she writes it. Me? Remember I’m a geeky, techno-loving girl who while drafting must continually slap my hand and let go of the overly organized stuff that enables the more analytical side of my brain. So nix on the forms and charts for me. But keeping track of changes I see coming and new things I draft into the story on the fly is still key. But I had to find a way to do it that wouldn’t break the delicate flow of my drafting…

draft free

So, what do I do?

I’ll talk more about it on Twitter, using our growing #weWRITE hashtag where writers from all levels of experience are sharing their writing process and learning from ours. But, to keep things simple here, let me say that I keep up with everything I’m learning as I draft a story in Microsoft Word.

Using the “Notes” toolbar/feature, which enables you to leave searchable notes you can easily track and keep up with, here’s the basics:

  •  Whenever I recognize a change that needs to be made in something I’ve already written, I leave a note where the change first needs to be implemented. I DON’T make the change, just the note.
  • When I introduce something completely new into the story (a new character, unexpected scene, different detail or symbol or mannerism, etc.), I note where it first begins and from where it needs to be worked into the stroy, then move on.
  • (more…)

How We Write Wednesdays: Let’s #weWRITE our way to a new draft!

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

It’s been four months of HoWW craft talk, from characterization to planning to rewriting to drafting. Amazing! And Jenni and I are amazed by the growing enthusiasm for our #weWRITE Twitter hashtag. It’s time to put our money where our mouth is, and challenge our readers and fellow writers to WRITE EVERY DAY for a week. Not for a month. Not an entire novel or story. Not a perfect draft. Just write, fearlessly, until you plug into the energy that calls you to create.

This year, more than any other, that’s what this blog has been for me. If you follow my Revising a Yearseries, you know I needed something to daily inspire me to re-engage my creativity. I challenged myself to write something interesting and meaninful and creative, every day. And the various categories to the right have been buckets of inspiration that refuse to let me off the hook when I sit in front of a blank screen and the doubt demons begin to weigh in on whether I can put imagine on the page that anyone in their right mind would want to read.

Not just How We Write, though working with Jenni on this series has been an amazing experience. But talking about my teenager’s quirky view of life, and about the crazy things I hear throughout the day, and my shoe obsession, and how Publishing Isn’t for Sissies, and my personal challenge to visit all the waterfalls I can reach in North Georgia,  Tennessee, and North and South Carolina. And some of the most amazing mornings have been writing about the dream theories and psychic realm parapsychology that thrives in my psychic fantasy novels.

But… That’s not getting the next book written.

once upon a time

Sure, I’ve worked on several proposals that are now with publishers. Still, the need to write books is always there, waiting for me to dive back into that flow. And I know many of you are in the same place daily. Will I write today? Will I make real progress toward my daily goal? Will I make that book or story or whatever real, when it only exists for now in my head???

So. Here we are. We’ve talked the basics of writing craft. Jenni and I already have plans to cover more formal story structure, etc., because we get so many questions about the terms and techniques we use. And we’re approaching other authors to join us for guest blogs over the summer, to share how THEY write. But that doesn’t get those words on the page, and filling that page with amazing story is ultimately what HoWW and #weWRITE are all about. (more…)

How We Write Wednesdays: I Draft. You Draft. He, She, We and They Draft…

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

We all draft story differently. We all find our own way to create something magical from raw creativity and intuition. HoWW today is about finding your own way to draft AND helping each other grow!

Jenni shared last week all the amazing, structured, spreadsheet-y ways she keeps up with details while she writes “freely” during her drafting phase. It’s pretty impressive. I tried it that way for a few books–NOT a pretty picture, me drooling in the corner, clutching all my charts close and whining because I can’t be creative with the analytical part of my brain engaged…

But I’m REALLY glad it works so well for Jenni, and that she looks so cool and professional with all her screen shots and all. You know, while geeky little me left show and tell behind when I was talking planning and rewriting, and all I’ve got to share now is my, “I can’t do anything but free write when I’m drafting, or my imagination shuts down…” advice to share.

Let me look. Maybe I have an image to help you visualize what I’m feeling as I write this…


No, it’s not that bad.

But Jenni and I DO draft that differently. She has to keep up with the details or she shuts down. I have to write blind, or I never let the details of what I’ve planned and already written go long enough to actually create something new.

If you’re someone who starts a book and months (even years) go by and you never get any further than chapter three or four, you might be one of “my” people ;o)

More than that, if you find yourself stopping your forward momentum too often and never achieve a rhythm in the drafting phase of your process–if you never feel that swell of knowing you’re in the right place with your story and you could keep writing forever it feels so good–SOMETHING is stalling out the imagination and confidence that feeds you.

If that’s the case, then it’s time to take a closer look at how YOU’RE writing. (more…)

How We Write Wednesdays: The ONLY WAY to Draft Your Novel

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

As promised, today’s the start of our all-in, sure-fired, do it THIS WAY month of novel drafting instruction. Because if you don’t do it THIS way, you’ll fail. What way? YOUR WAY.


one way

Yeah, this month’s blog courses won’t be any more straight-forward than the last three (which are summarized at the bottom of the post). Jenni’s starting today with a great discussion of her drafting method. So NOT my method, because she’s still all about spreadsheeting and outlining when she draft writes, and geeky me can’t let myself go there while in this “in-between” creative place.

In between planning and rewriting, I have to stop thinking. No, I don’t actually turn my brain off. But I do have to tone down the analytical volume of my cognitive thinking, so that juicy imagination takes over. I’ve tried it Jenni’s way. And, I know you’ll find this hard to believe, her very structured method of drafting doesn’t work for me. Spreadsheets and outlines are like crack for a mind like mine. I’d be hitting that pipe all day long, while  never giving free rein to those characters and settings and turning points I planned for.  The creativity that comes second to my nature, behind the drive to understand EVERYTHING before I write anything, would never take the wheel.

Jenni and I aren’t polar opposites in our process. We share many of the same drafting techniques–and I’ll get to them next week when it’s my turn. BUT, we each have our own individual method. No matter how many times we talk and compare notes and critique for each other, we’re never tempted to trade in our individual approaches to writing story for the other’s. Because doing exactly what she does would stall my creativity, and vice versa. We have to understand and trust our own writing strengths and weaknesses and own the drafting approach that gets us to the end of that “ugly” first draft with the best story we’ve ever written.

And so do you.

stop signs

The only GUARANTEED method of drafting success is your method. Your way. (more…)

How We Write Wednesdays: Rewriting and Planning–Bookends for Drafting

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

I’m wrapping up revisions today and making plans for May’s Drafting HoWW lessons. Yes, Jenni and I taught planning first, then rewriting, and next we’ll do drafting. Messed up?  No. Why? Because your plans and your faith in your ability to deconstruct and rework a novel are the bookends of your process–mastering these first two techniques frees you to draft without constraints.


Think about it. Once you plan as carefully as time and tolerance allows, you have a game plan. If you’ve invested in your process enough to be confident in your skills as a rewriter–of anything, no matter what you come up with–then there will be no anxiety waiting for you at the other end of your drafting. So what’s to stop you from writing free, using your plotting work as a guideline?

I teach students at my workshops and weekend retreats that how we approach our writing is a metaphor for how we approach life. Everyone’s blocked by something. Everyone fears something. (more…)