Writing Wrongs

September 10, 2006

How to edit rewrite revise.

When you find out, tell me, please? Both Marianne and Allie have been discussing revision and rewriting and staying on track and not getting derailed by another story. While I will work on another story idea while revising something else, I almost never get derailed. Iíll write scenes, but I wonít dive into a story without doing a significant workup, because I hate the idea that Iíll get to page fifty and get stuck.

Iíve tried various approaches to revision, none of which really wowed me. Holly Lisle has something called a one-pass revision. Thereís actually a lot of good to it, but the only thing I canít do is the one-pass part of it.

Maybe when youíre as proficient as Holly, it works. But I need to do things in layers. What was great about the Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook was I could do the majority of heavy duty revision without touching much of the manuscript.

I could re-see or re-dream the story without all those extraneous words getting in the way. Words, what a pain. Seriously, you can stare at something for too long, until youíre so attached you canít imagine changing anything or until you absolutely despise it and canít imagine working on it.

Neither spot is a very good place to be. which is why I like to revise without looking at the actual text, and when Iím to the point of working on the manuscript, I avoid dwelling on any one part of it.

This is hard. Iíve fallen in love with scenes and have read them into the ground. Iím getting better at walking away from the computer screen.

Hereís what I did/am doing for The Geek Girlís Guide to Cheerleading:

  1. Worked through the entire Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. Not just part of it, not chucking it when it got hard--and it did. I figured I wouldnít know if the method worked unless I went through it start to finish.

  2. Then I sorted through what I had and figured out what new scenes I need to write.

  3. Then I wrote those scenes, quickly, without looking back. I also did a fair amount of cutting of old stuff that didnít fit any longer.

  4. Next up: going through the entire manuscript at about thirty pages at a time and doing serious line edits. This is where Iím at. Iím about half way through, on page 132 of 263.

  5. After this, I want to do a lighter edit and continuity read. Iíll reassign scenes to chapters. Iíve been plopping scenes down and cutting without regard to what thatís done to the chapters. So Iíll fix those up and add each segment from the ďguideĒ to the front as well.
  6. Then I let the whole mess rest for a bit. I might ask for victims volunteers to read at this point, mainly for continuity. While the ďskeletonĒ remained the same, Iíve changed so much about the story, Iím afraid Iíll miss something with all this to-ing and fro-ing.

  7. After that, Iíll do one more read through before sending it off to the Golden Heart.

Oh, have I mentioned Iíve been doing this since late March? I estimate so far, five solid monthís of revision. I donít know if thatís good, bad, or indifferent. To paraphrase the author of Writing the Breakout Novel/Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, Donald Maass (or ďThe DonaldĒ as some of us like to call him--do you think heíd mind?): No one else in the publishing industry is in a hurry--why are you?

Whatís been the neatest thing so far about this process is how much Iíve enjoyed it. It wasnít--and isnít--easy. Some days, I simply donít know how to fix something. Other days are magic. All these years, I had the notion that writing should be a certain way. Not easy, but not like I was beating my head against a wall either.

I think Iíve found that process. Which doesnít mean the Geek Girlís Guide will go anywhere in the end. It may simply be a learning novel. But thatís okay, because so far, itís been a lot of fun.

Charity Tahmaseb wrote at 4:52 p.m.