Herein we enter the phase of rewrites I never properly considered … and have had to do many, many more drafts of the zombie book than I should have. So hopefully you don’t have the same problems, I’m here to help.
Phase 2 looks at the big issue changes and issues to address during the rewrite. One of the things I’m trying to do is spend less actual time reading the actual text ad-nauseum until you get to the point where you positively despise every word, good or not (you know that feeling, right?). That’s why this phase makes a lot of use of the notes you made in Phase 1.
Do note that this is a big phase. Unless you are superhuman (and I totally envy you if you are!), then it may take you a while to get through each of these steps. To give you some idea, it took me a bit over a month to read through and make notes, a day for the chapter by chapter, and almost a week for the re-organization. I wish you all the best if you can do it faster – and it’s certainly possible – but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t. So not useful. 😉
Phase 2: Macro Assessment and Changes in 4 steps:
- Read over the chapter by chapter summary you created. Do scenes flow seamlessly and logically into other scenes? Does the progression of the story make sense to you? To others who might take a look? Do you have multiple chapters saying and doing the same thing?
- Structure Test. Can you clearly identify which scenes are the major structural elements of the plot? Are they behaving and coming across the way they need to? Are you missing pieces of the plot?
- Scene test. Beside each chapter / scene, write out the scene purpose and goal for you the writer. That is: why is this scene in the book, what does it do, why do I need it? Do you have scenes without a purpose? With weak purposes? Consider how these can be strengthened, or deleted.
- Re-organization. If you found some red-flags in step 2, now it’s time to fix the problems. Weak structure is often a failing of many unpublished novels (which is what I remind myself of too when I’m annoyed at the mistakes I make – you can remind yourself of the same). So, now make a second copy of your chapter-by-chapter (just the chapter summary) and chop each chapter into its own little strip. Start with the major plot points, and work through the plot either using a huge drawing of the plot arc, the four-act structure, or whatever works for you. You want to re-organize to make sure a) each scene flows logically from one to the next, b) the character growth and plot intensity progresses logically, c) you haven’t missed anything. This might mean chapter 5 becomes chapter 20, or vice versa – the number doesn’t matter. You may also combine chapters, switch some out, and delete others.
- Filling in holes. Once you determine what’s working, you may find that some scenes don’t progress from one to the next, or that you’re missing steps on the character growth or plot progression. Fill these in with rough notes of what you require in the scene, and perhaps brainstorm a few ideas.
- Name your chapters / scenes on your main chapter-by-chapter summary. Nothing fancy, perhaps the purpose of the scene or something that helps you identify it. This will be important when you start moving things around in your actual manuscript, especially if you use a word processing program.
- Tape together the new order of your scenes, and make notes. They can only get taped or “finalized” if the scene flows from one to the next. I made additional notes of each chapter to understand the flow, especially because I added new chapters / scenes and needed to clarify what I needed, and because I was combining other chapters, and wanted to know what the heck I wanted out of each.
- Read through your new chapter by chapter (or scene) progression. KEEP THE OLD CHAPTER BY CHAPTER, because it has your earlier notes, and you’ll need those later. If things still aren’t working, go back to step 1. Otherwise, behold the new order and wonder your book will be. Post somewhere you can see and refer to them later.
- Take a moment to smile and be proud of yourself. Try to forget that now, the real work begins.
Phew! That phase wasn’t easy, was it? Pat yourself on the back or feed yourself a treat for getting that all done. You deserve it!
Next week: Phase 3: Implementation of Macro Changes
But first: how do you assess major changes and rewrites? How do you decide what needs to be changed, and what stays? Any tips to help the rest of us write the best darned book we can – and survive rewrites?
Thanks for reading, and have an awesome week. And hey, why not stop by and sign up for the blog? It’s fun here. 🙂