Thanks, BIC, and Rewrite Tips

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First, before I get started on writing tips, ideas, etc., I want to thank our readers for making us so popular. Thanks to you, www.magicalwords.net is very high in the overall listing of all existing websites. Because you come here and read, send others here to read, mention the name on your own blogs, and share our posts with other blog and informational sites, we are in the top 5% of all websites. We thank you for making us so popular! And yes, we totally know that *you* have done this! Whoowhoo!  

Ahem… Okay, back to work. David spoke, on Monday, about there being no right way to write a book.  I commented back and now want to expand on it. I have always believed that *everyone* is driven to tell stories, that the need to do so is hardwired into our genetic structure, because early survival depended on keeping the past and the knowledge gained through pain and suffering available to future generations.  Hence, humans stored knowledge in stories, which were easy to remember and offered wisdom, information, tactics, and strategy on many levels at once. Therefore, when someone tells me that he *wants to, needs to, must* write a book, I totally believe him.  I completely understand that natural, deeply driven desire.

My usual reply to the quest for writing a book is: the only way to learn to write a book is to write a book. That said, I there are things a published writer can share that can make a difference. First, very basic stuff…

 

  1. BIC. Those of you who have been here a while know that is Butt in Chair. If you don’t the old keester in a chair in front of the keyboard (pad and pen work too), you will *never, never, never* write. It doesn’t matter what comes out of your fingertips at first. And trust me, you will look back at the early stuff and cringe, maybe weep.
  2. Study all the things you can find on writing. Read books about writing so that you will have an understanding of what POV is, narrative voice, character voice, dialogue and all the other stuff you have to know, intellectually, in order to be a commercially published writer. And read your favorite authors.  Buy the books, don’t borrow, because you should read with multicolor highlighters, and highlight things that work and things that don’t. This teaches your brain to recognize and be able to reproduce the techniques.
  3. Go to conferences. Yeah, it’s pricy. But if you can swing it, conferences give you a chance to do the one-on-one thing with editors and agents.
  4. Stop agonizing over the editing. Write that *first* book all the way through. Push through the barriers.  Just *do it!*
  5. And um…BIC.

Now for the less basic stuff, that you need to have when you actually finish that first book. It is called rewrites. There are several things that writers (old hands and newbies) have to do in a rewrite. BTW, I have used sticky notes, colored pencils, and highlighters to track things on hardcopy.  Track what? Let’s start with the Macro Rewrites:

  1. Track the plot arcs. Make sure you keep on track with the primary conflict story line. Plot lines need to be the foundation of every scene, every character interaction. When you find *anything* that is not part of one of the storylines, cut it and put it in a different file. That way you can pull it back out if you need it later. If you are thinking about future books in a series, be careful not to put so much into future books that you loose sight of the current conflict line to be dealt with in *this* book. David B. Coe and CE Murphy (waves to David and Catie) are great at this! I haven’t read Misty Massey’s second series book (waves to Misty) so I don’t *know* but I am sure she will nail it because she did so well at leaving hints and clues in MadKestrel.
  2. Track every single character. Make sure none disappear, never to be seen again.
  3. Track your own voice. Find a hilarious scene in the middle of the book? You love it? But it’s a drama and the scene doesn’t fit? Cut it.

Then come Micro Rewrites:

  1. Do my character’s emotional arcs flow? Which brings us to transitions…
  2. Transitions…also called arcs, but I like transitions better. Everything in your book has to follow a logical ebb and flow. If you have two characters in a shower room in a gym after a workout, arguing, we need to follow not only the argument but the shower stuff. Is the floor wet under their feet? Is the scent of the place moldy or full of chlorine? Are the characters to mad to dry their hair (great for chick lit) do they drop towels? Do other people come in and out? A lot of this is scene setting, but it contributes to the immediacy of the character interactions too. Then – how does the argument contribute to the overall progression of the book?
  3. Do I use powerful action words with strong emotional overtones. I just had the privilege of reading the first page of David B. Coe’s new novel. OMG! Every word was filled with action and emotion. Very gripping! (Thank you David for letting me see it. I am honored.)
  4. Do I spell well, punctuate properly, make emotionally gripping paragraph changes. Don’t laugh. Where a writer breaks a paragraph can impact a scene quite strongly.

I admit that I don’t always do this stuff consciously by now, and I seldom pull out the pens and pencils, but I have used sticky notes to mark and track plot changes in the last few books. I’ve got a lot of books under my belt, and that makes rewrites easier, but I do still run through a book three times when I rewrite, and I pretty much do it by the Macro, Micro and then Micron method.

I could go on and on with things I do when I rewrite, but I want to hear what you guys have to say. What do you do in the rewrite process?

Faith Hunter, www.faithhunter.net

The Rogue Mage Series,

Skinwalker (out in July 09)

And Gwen Hunter, www.gwenhunter.com

But you can call me Faith!

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5 comments to Thanks, BIC, and Rewrite Tips

  • Editing? Is that the part where I read through it again and say, “I’m a FRIGGIN Genius!” or what?

  • Okay, I’ve taken my meds now. Editing is hard for me. I have lots of first drafts. I write them real fast. Editing, is killer. I live in the boonies, and have no CPs. I don’t know what’s working and what isn’t.

    I’m drowning in words, and have nothing to say. You can quote me on that.

    Seriously, I envy writers with a good, working CP.

    But I do read all my favorite writers, and try to see what and how they do those amazing things. I plot. I write. I obsess.

  • Tom,
    Glad the meds are working! But hey — you may indeed be a genious. I’ve met a few and they leave me green with brain envy.
    Faith

  • Great post, Faith, and not just because you complimented me on the new book… :)

    I find that my macro editing often takes place while I’m writing. I’ll do something with a scene or character in, say, chapter 15, and realize that I need to go back and fill in earlier occurrences of that place or character to make the development consistent. For this reason I always write with what a house contractor might call a punch list next to me. When I think of these things I jot them down on my list — AND THEN I KEEP WRITING. I do not stall the momentum of the book to retreat into rewrites (as one of the few good writing teachers I ever had put it). But at the end of the book, I have a list of macro issues to address, which provides me with at least a starting point for revisions.

    On the micro stuff, I read through the manuscript outloud to catch transition issues, syntactical problems, dialogue issues, etc. Reading outloud, as if for a conference reading, makes me conscious of how stuff sounds — and that, for me, is the best way of determining if it reads well.

    I’d also add here that it’s taken me a long time to learn to edit myself. I feel comfortable doing that now, but I’d written three or four books before I reached this point. This is why having a friend or partner you trust to read your stuff can be so valuable. And when I speak of trust, it’s not always a matter of trusting them to spare your feelings by offering criticism gently. Sometimes, it’s trusting them to be honest with you, to be willing to risk bruising your feelings in order to make your book as good as it can be.

  • Thanks, David. I agree totally about the punch list, and I keep one going with and without sticky notes in the *after-the-book-is-sorta-kinda-finished* stage. In the rough draft I tend to do it even more different from the way I wrote. I tend to keep a running outline going as a computer file and add the changes to be made into that — in bright color, usually red, which I change to teal when I have made the changes.

    My pal Kim Harrison used to have sticky notes all over her desk with her *punch list*. It looked like she was decorating for the holidays!

    *There is no right way to do anything in writing.*
    Faith