Posts Tagged ‘rewriting’

How We Write Wednesday: Discovering What You Don’t Know

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Revision is discovery? Yes. Revision, once your manuscript is complete, is about understanding, FINALLY, what you didn’t fully realize about your novel while you were planning and drafting. Revision is getting it. It’s triumphing over the unknown that threatened to overwhelming your story while the big picture once eluded you.

Jenni has the reins today, and her HoWW blog post is a triumph of inspiration and mining deeper into her process. Which, I assure you, will be different than your revision process and my revision process and your critique partner’s revision process. But she’s as committed to revision as I am. As we hope you will become. We both see as much value in rewriting as we do planning and drafting. We both hope you’ll make it as much a part of your process as you can.


Don’t fear what you don’t yet know about your story. Embrace it. Dig deeper. Discover the revision adventure you’re about to embark on with your WIP. Understand more with each pass through your manuscript and your writing process. Make your creation even better. So your books will be even more amazing. So we, the readers, will take a more breath-taking ride with you than ever before!

Embrace what you don’t know at the end of your rough draft. It’s your greatest opportunity to create magic. Your instincts are honed. Your characters and plots and settings are finally on the page. All the raw ingredients are primed. It’s time to season everything and add just a dash more of what you held back your first pass through the story. Basically, to add just one more metaphor ;o)–when you revise, you’re cooking with gas! 

Don’t miss the power of this vital step to your writing process. Make the time. Revise and discover the amazing things you’ve yet to write in your WIP!

Once you’re finished reading Jenni’s post, catch up on the rest of our  HoWW lessons. The come back next Wednesday, when I’ll be wrapping up our revision discussion here and talking about what’s coming in May ;o)

April’s Revision Adventures:

March’s HoWW plot speak:

February’s Character (and critique/brainstorming) posts:

How We Write: The No More Excuses Approach to Rewriting

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Anyone–ANYONE–can deconstruct and rewrite a manuscript. Anyone can learn to rework a story one scene at a time. And we’re talking rewriting–NOT copy editing a manuscript to catch punctuation or grammar mistakes, or line editing to make sure prose flows beautifully. These techniques are important, but only after an author has dissected the first draft and rewoven it’s parts into the best story possible.

Today in How We Write Wednesday, we continue Jenni and my’s discussion of rewriting. I’ll do my best to cover the high points of a technique it takes me a two-day weekend workshop to teach properly. This is interactive stuff that I love to work with writes on, while they’re applying what I’m showing them to a work in progress. The result of one of these weekend retreats that I hope you’ll get after reading this post, too, is–

  • No more excuses for not rewriting.
  • No more hiding behind “not seeing” what needs to be changed in your story.
  • No more big, scary book that’s too complicated to rework.
  • You feeling in control of your creativity as you rewrite!

Once your draft is completed, the story can seem too complex to tackle, right? You feel too close to your work to be able to analyze and re-craft it. There’s just too much there, and it’s impossible to see where each change will take the story. It’s easy to find yourself rewriting in circles, never really getting anywhere. And who has that kind of time?


So, let’s talk revision technique. Not HOW to do the revisions themselves–that will be for later posts this month.  Jenni and I have already shared a little of the nuts and bolts of rewriting and there’s more to come (and, frankly, fully learning how to revise a scene or a chapter or an act or an entire novel is more about trial and errror and learning from experience). But how to deconstruct what you have, so you can get to work on what needs to be done–THAT I can show you today ;o)

My goal today is to show you how to challenge each story component in your draft. Whether you think you’ve nailed it or not, whether you love what’s there as a whole or not, you need to take your draft apart and look at its pieces to be sure you’re getting the most from them individually and then as a whole.

You want to layer as much as possible into each moment in your story, right? To do that, you need to look individually at–

The pieces of your plot:

  • Story Structure (inciting incident, turning points, midpoints, black moment, climax/resolution)
  • Secondary Plots
  • Chapter and Scene Openings and Endings
  • Conflict and Motivation

The characters in in your story:

  • Protagonist’s Arc
  • Antagonist’s Arc
  • Secondary Characters’ Arcs
  • Point of View
  • Conflict and Motivation
  • Backstory

And that’s just to start. (more…)

How We Write Wednesday: OUCH!!! Critique and Editorial Revisons

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Ouch! Other people’s revision notes hurt. A lot. No writer loves being told that what they’ve crafted doesn’t work for the reader. Even light critique or editorial revision comments can be painful to work through,  but WE NEED THEM. Eh-hem. Yeah, this is going to be one of those tough love HoWW posts I know you love so much…

Don’t think I don’t sympathize with a writer’s sensitivity to hearing constructive criticism.It’s never easy for me, turning a manuscript over to a beta reader (akin to dropping my creative pants in public) or my agent or editor and asking them to show me where the story breaks down (where I need to get back to the gym and work on the gushy parts). But I do it. Because I’m a professional writer, and I adore my readers, and I want every book to be the very best it can be. AND I can’t get the story and plot and characters and setting and theme and symbol and narrative structure, etc. there completely on my own.I know that while I draft, everything’s not always going to be perfect the minute my creativity poops it out ;o)

critique pig

We’re too close to our work once we’re in the thick of the writing. We’re no longer seeing the story’s journey from a reader’s perspective. At some point, our writer’s experience becomes the tunnel we see through. Which means, we’re in the tall grass (yes, I’m having fun with metaphor today, since Jenni’s doing the bulk of the HoWW post work), losing our way even as we write something unique to our voice that we want readers to love.

To be worthy of that love, we have to be willing to let go of a little of our creative control. At least long enough to ask the writing professionals we trust where we’re not getting the story right.

Enter the very necessary critique and editorial revision phases of your creative process. (more…)

How We Write Wednesdays: Draft Done? The REAL Work begins!

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Rewwriting time! Jenni  and I have been taking planning for two months now on HoWW. How to craft characters . And let’s not forget plot, because Jenni gets cranky when we do, and you won’t like her when she’s cranky. Now, it’s time to rewrite, because as David Kaplan says in A Creative Approach to Writing and Rewriting Fiction, “The purpose of writing a story is to rewrite it.”


Yep, that’s right. No book’s done with just a single draft in your pocket. Not even two drafts, if you aks me. You’re not done, just because you have your first thoughts down on paper (or in the computer). Once you’ve got that good stuff behind you, it’s time to make it even better!

Feeling a little cranky yourself yet?

Yeah, this motivational post is going to be a little heavier on the tough love than most.

Finishing  your first draft (and we’ll talk drafting in May), is just the beginning. It’s merely the end of your planning. For those of you who don’t outline your plot and character ahead of time (I’m shaking my head now. Can you hear the tense spots in my neck popping while I do it?), the draft is your only planning. But for even those of us who put serious thought into what we’re going to write before we actually do, we still don’t know for SURE what’s going to happen until that magical creative thing that is putting words onto paper happens, and the story itself takes over.

I’m a firm believer in the creative flow of drafting. The power of discovery. The synergy of planning and experience and momentum combining to create something magical. BUT… That something magical, that completed draft, is only the beginning. It’s not everything it could be. It’s not ready to leave your mind and your heart behind. It’s not all it can be. Which means, it’s time for the REAL work to begin…

Kaplan tells us that ”You need three things to be a good fiction writer…talent…a knowledge of craft…and just as necessary, a devotion to revision, to the merciless re-working of your writing until it is the best it can be.” And he (and Jenni and I) aren’t talking about looking for typos or grammar errors or tweaking your prose so it pops just so, though all that’s important eventually.

What I teach to craft students is re-writing, not copy editing or proof reading. Deconstructing what you’ve done. Figuring out why it works and why it doesn’t. Asking yourself questions like: (more…)