Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Aspiring Advice: Handling A Rewrite

Discouragement takes on many forms in the world of writing: rejection letters, not having the time to work on your novel, and so on, but another common ailment is discovering a problem, a hole, or a grave inconsistency in your WIP, requiring you to put a halt on what you're doing and go back. It's like time traveling, going back and meddling with what's already happened in the past, and if you're not careful, your changes may create a paradox in your manuscript. Recently, it was brought to my attention that my use of the word sorcery was improper, as being one of three different types of magic, when in reality, sorcery is a collective term which deals in all magic. In my WIP, three magics are needed to achieve a certain goal, so why would sorcery need the other two? Good point. Luckily, this error can be corrected by using a different name, which I found easily enough thanks to my In-law, Aaron, for gifting me one of the best resources a writer could ask for - The Synonym Finder: By J. I. Rodale (Thanks, Aaron). However, I have to go back and manually change things up. I could go the route of finding and replacing every sorcery, sorcerer, and sorcerer's, but the context around each use of the word has to be verified as well. This will take me the better part of a day . . . or two.

This is small stuff compared to another project that I'll rewrite eventually, but how to you cope with a finished stack of paper that needs to be hacked, mutilated, and recycled into something new and better?

First, go ahead and share what you have with your friends or critique groups. Note their likes, dislikes, and other things they point out for improvement. Chances are they'll find something that you didn't notice.

Second, reevaluate your MS and decide what can go and what can stay. This is why I write all my chapters as separate documents. It takes the stress out of scanning over a 200+ paged manuscript for problems.

Third, take a deep breath or have a little cry. It's okay. This isn't easy. Your pain and endurance will pay off. Even if you find someone to publish your story, they'll ask you to cut X amount of words. Learn how, now.

Forth, get to it. Not everything has to go, but you may want to look at your scenes from a different angle or move scenes around, but take it one step at a time as a new WIP, pasting the material that you want to keep.

Fifth, go one chapter at a time until it's finished. The advantage you have is knowing where the story is going. That takes out much of the guess work of pacing and blocking your story and how it all wraps up.

These are not the rules, but the advice of one who has been there. Rewrites can be fun, and they are helpful in training your eye to be more critical, as not to make the same mistakes with future projects. It helps you become a better critiquer too, but do be constructive. A late Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year to everyone. Let's make 2011 a productive year!

I'm David, and this chair wheel thing ate my shoelace!

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