writing

Rewriting

I’m really hoping that this last round of rewrites is the more or less final version of this book, other than wordsmithing and fine tuning. I’m trying to make myself stop and dig deep to figure out what happens next rather than forging ahead and then figuring out that I did it wrong.

One of the real challenges with rewriting is disconnecting myself from the previous version. It’s far too easy to just keep trying to make what I’ve already done better rather than figuring out if there’s a better way to go entirely.

I’m at a big decision point for the book, and I was starting to go down the path I’d already taken, just with adjustments to accommodate earlier changes I’d made, but I made myself stop and really take stock. There’s a brainstorming technique I love called the List of 20 (or there are other things it gets called). The idea is that you make a list of 20 things that can happen. The first 10 are usually pretty easy, and if you’re rewriting, those are usually the things you’ve already written. You might be able to come up with the next few with a little thought. To fill out the list, you may have to get a little crazy. What I often find is that items 15-17 are totally wacky and unrealistic, but once I’ve gone off the rails, that jolts my thinking, so that 18-20 have something that might work that I hadn’t previously thought of, and quite often I’ll end up with about 23 things because that starts me really thinking.

One of the things I’m trying to do in this rewrite is make my protagonists more proactive, so they’re not just reacting to events. That’s easy enough to do with my narrator because we’re in her head and know her motivations, but more challenging when it’s people we’re only seeing from the outside. So I made a List of 20 for each of the characters yesterday, just thinking about what they would do in the situation they’re in, with their goals in mind.

I haven’t yet sorted through everything I came up with (since it was choir night), but I think I’ve got some good stuff that I can really work with. The bad news is that it kills a lot of what I’ve already written for the last half of this book. I may be able to salvage a scene or two, but the book is probably going to go in a different direction, which is good, since the previous direction wasn’t working.

While I’m processing all this, it looks like this is a good day for the Epic Day of Getting Things Done, since I have errands to do I was putting off while we had a week of rain. Now I can safely emerge from the house without needing an umbrella, so I need to get groceries and go to the library.

2 Responses to “Rewriting”

  1. Angelika

    I think the rewriting process is not something that rookie writers know enough about. Lots of great encouragement for 1st draft writing (NaNoWriMo and all), not much for the process beyond that. So it’s good to hear from a veteran how it can work.

    reply
    • Shanna Swendson

      Rewriting is probably even more important than first draft writing if you want to make a career out of it. I should do more posts on that topic because it’s the rewriting that really separates those who’ll make it from those who don’t, and you’ve got to be able to revise if you’re going to work with an editor. I think I went through about five rounds of revisions with the editor on Rebel Mechanics.

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