Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Writing is rewriting. No kidding.

I have an imaginary world, separate from the world in my novel. The world of writing my novel. It's a place where I read through my stack of pages, make a few notes, then click my pen and put it away. It's fine. All these changes are cosmetic. The bones are in place, the description is relevant to the story, the characters are deep and consistent...but it's not real.

I'm finishing my hard-copy edit- my third pass at the whole manuscript. I THOUGHT that the end was in decent shape, but it is not. The last hundred pages are over-complicated, confused and convoluted. The good news is I thought of a way to streamline the whole thing, but it involves cutting that chunk and rewriting.

I remember thinking "I'll have to come back to this," and just wanting to get my characters to the end. That was fine, then. I needed a frame to start with, and that's what a first draft is for me. An ugly, chipped-paint, rusty, teetering scaffold.

My second pass was mainly to learn more about the craft of writing- a really long writing exercise about believable dialogue, fresh description, a weaving together of story elements to form a cohesive whole. I did a lot of workshop critiquing and read a lot of agent tips and writing articles in this pass.

So, now I'm in the third edit. Streamlining plot, refining characterization and motivations, and checking details. Cutting passive voice, deleting/adding commas, checking commonly overused words (just, that). I also have a habit of  using multiple verbs when one will do- ie- I thought I saw, I turned to see, etc. I'm not sure what that's called, but I recognize it.

I've also started a fourth edit using Microsoft Narrator (mainly so that any submissions I make to my crit group will have an extra pass of editing), where I listen to the computer read me the text. Narrator is a bit of a pain because it won't read from Microsoft Office, so I copy the chapter I'm working on into Notepad. The narrator goes as fast or slow as you want, but it feels safer to me to take notes fast, and then make the changes in Office slowly. The really nice thing about Narrator is it came with Windows. So maybe you already have it.

My next step after the Narrator edit is to hand out the full manuscript to some Beta readers. After responding to their comments, I think I'll be ready to query. In my dreams:)

I critiqued a friend's first chapter a few months ago. He hasn't read it, nor will he until he finishes his first draft. I think that's fine- that's what I did, too. Not because I didn't want feedback, but I wasn't sure I could do it. I needed to get the boost from concluding the story and believe that I was a writer before I had people tell me what was wrong with my writing. So, join a crit group if you can, but not if you're not ready to learn. Because humility and learning like to hold hands. They're going steady.

One day I'll read my MS and feel satisfied. Or at least tolerably pleased. But we're not there yet. And that's okay.


  1. "Because humility and learning like to hold hands. They're going steady." Ha! I love it. So true for writing.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Stephanie. Sometimes I write stuff and wonder if it's too dorky to let stand, so I appreciate the feedback:)- Kelly