To Plan or Embrace Spontaneity?

The resort we stayed at, looking out from our 4th floor balcony
The resort we stayed at, looking out from our 4th floor balcony

I am not, in normal life, a spontaneous person. As much as I complain about the trudge of the usual ruts life settles into, there is comfort in familiarity. So this past weekend was planned much the same: clean up around the yard preparing for autumn, have an overdue dinner-party with friends, and fit in some work.

Suddenly, Thursday, mid-morning, friends have to cancel. Thursday 5pm, decision made to accept invite with family to the mountains. Friday morning, up and out of the house before 7am. This was then followed by an 8 hour drive (with 2 stops, but still – hubby fibbed when he claimed 5 hours!). We reached the mountain resort at around 3:30pm on Friday, and had to turn around and drive back Sunday (yep, another 8 hours). We were tired, I’ve somehow developed a cold, and yet, it was refreshing and different, a mini-holiday despite the drive.

Which made me think about the advantages of spontaneity. While in life I generally stick to the plan, in writing I’m much more likely to go where whim strikes me. Sometimes this is to my detriment (and requiring lots of rewrites … or deletions). Sometimes, though, following the flow of a thought, or listening to the quiet voice of our heart leads us somewhere more interesting, to something other than what we expected. IMG_1767

Like this weekend, and the sudden adventure. Yes, if I’d stayed home, I may have been rested enough to have shaken off the cold. We probably would have cleaned up the yard, done lots of things on the “this should be done” list. Yet we would have missed the “ooh!” of our two-year old as she saw the mountains for the first time. Her giggles as a goat licked her hand. Her joy swimming and generally getting spoiled. We wouldn’t have started to anticipate my brother’s wedding with greater excitement – now we’ve seen where it will be held, and can imagine just how marvelous it’s going to be.

There’s something to be said for a little spontaneity.

What say you? Are you spontaneous in life? In your writing? Do you stick to the plan in life and work? I love to hear from you. 🙂

Thanks so much for reading. Have a great week, and hope you find a bit of spontaneity and happiness.

Rewrites in 4 Easy Phases: Phase 4: Micro Assessment and Changes

March2013 003We’ve made it. We’ve arrived at the final phase of the rewrite, and from here, you know you can succeed. (Um, is it just me, or have I really been that obsessed with plot structure that I think the 4 phases are also based on the four plot sections?) Well, good news is, we have just the climax ahead, and we will succeed – no martyrdom allowed here.

So, the 5 steps of the final phase: Micro Assessment and Changes.

  1. Read through and make notes as you did on step 1 of Phase 1. If possible, do a search and highlight of overused words / phrases, throw-away words, etc. Look for awkward wording, anything unclear, and particular weaknesses (like a tendency for talking heads or lack of setting, etc.) Note opportunities to fine tune scenes, along with suggestions. Again, I highly recommend doing a read-through and only making notes in this phase. If you start making changes, you’ll get caught up and not be able to enjoy the “read” as hopefully your readers will.
  2. Assess. Are there still big problems? Loose ends? Stray plot threads? If so, go back to phase 1 and start again. (I’m sorry, I know that hurts!) If not, then proceed.
  3. Correct and Implement. Using your notes, make the minor corrections like deleting extra words, tightening up sentences, and making scenes as strong as possible. Consider heightening description, the use of the five senses and imagery. If your gut says something still isn’t working, go back and correct it. BUT, don’t get caught up in the need for absolute perfection; it’s a losing battle.
  4. Celebrate! You’ve completed rewrites. Now you can go on and do things like marketing material, send it out, etc.
  5. Get to work on your next book. You’re a writer. That’s what you do. 🙂

So, you’ve survived the four phases of rewrites.

I love hearing from you. How did you do? Any sections you suffered through? Any tweaks or suggestions for improving the method? What’s your next plan?

Thanks for reading, and hope you have a terrific week. Oh, and if you liked the series, why not follow the blog? There’s sure to be more. 🙂

Rewrites in 4 Easy Phases: Phase 3: Implementation of Macro Changes

Hello, and welcome back. Hope you’re full of energy and enthusiasm, because today we look at Phase 3: Implementation of Macro Changes which is probably the hardest bit. Today we enter the real meat of rewrites. You know, the actual “rewriting” bit.

Okay, so get ready. Get yourself psyched, remind yourself that you know what you’re doing (yes, do it anyway, even if you don’t feel like it), and get your materials in order. You will need your chapter by chapter outline with the initial notes you made on the manuscript. Your “new order” outline / summary. And lots and lots of energy. 🙂

These steps can vary a bit in the order you address them (for example, you may want to create new scenes before messing around with the order of the old, etc.) The point here, though, is to try and work non-linearly so you put off re-reading the entirety of the manuscript as long as possible, thereby trying to avoid the “I hate this stupid thing in a horrible bad way” feeling.

So, off we go on the 5 steps of Phase 3: Implementation of Macro Changes:

  1. Start by re-saving you manuscript under a new draft. This is a personal thing, since I like to keep track of the changes. Skip if you don’t care about old versions.
  2. Go through and add your titles to each of the actual chapters / scenes. This will help you identify them after you start moving things around.
  3. Move the chapters in the manuscript to reflect your “new order” outline. Add space for new chapters (if applicable). At this point you may also want to write the scene cards for each scene, ensuring you have an idea what your purpose for the scene is, what the protagonist goal is for the scene, if they achieve it or not, and how this leads to greater conflict and furthers the story goal.
  4. Start working through the chapters and changes with “biggest changes” down to the “smallest.” For example, perhaps start with the creation of fresh, new scenes if you’re adding any. Then amalgamation of chapters. Then partial scene re-writes and weaving / peppering objects / details.
  5. Check off / address your initial notes from your read-through so hopefully you’ve caught those problems. Then yay! You’ve made it through this phase. Another treat is in order. 🙂

 

You did it! Yay you! You have made it through the hardest part thus far, and hopefully, it will be smooth sailing from here.

Next week, the final phase: Phase 4: Micro Assessment and Changes.

But before we go: what do you find hardest about rewrites? How do you keep your enthusiasm for a piece? What methods have you found worked to get through the rewrites – especially the really extensive ones?

Thanks for reading, and hope your week is merry! Oh, and hey, liked the post? Why not sign up for the blog?

Rewrites in 4 Easy Phases: Phase 2: Macro Assessment and Changes

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6.  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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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. 🙂

Rewrites in 4 Easy Phases: Phase 1: Assessment

Hey! Welcome back to my rewrite method. This week we examine Phase 1: Assessment.

At its most basic, this phase means you need to go through your completed draft and make an honest assessment of what’s working, and inevitably, what’s not. I’ll pause with the caveat that different people recommend different amounts of time to let the piece “rest” before you dive into rewrites since it allows you a certain amount of distance. For myself, I’m often too impatient, so only sometimes do this. Most of the time, I find it was at least a month since I’ve written or re-read the opening chapters, so it already provides some distance.

Here’s the phase broken down into 5 easy steps:

1. Read through the draft and make notes. You’ll be making notes on scenes, general impressions, suggested changes / ideas. NO ACTUAL CHANGES YET. Consider this similar to a critique you’d do for others. Recently, I’ve found that reading through a .pdf file on my tablet was fabulous because I couldn’t make changes, only notes. Whatever works for you. Remember to write down what you really enjoyed as you read too – you don’t want to end up deleting that chapter accidentally (unless you have to.)

2. Create your chapter by chapter summary. As you read, write down just enough information to understand what the chapter is about, usually the major action and significance. Or, if you prefer, after the re-through, go back and do the chapter by chapter, but make sure you do it. This will be an important tool later on.

3. Consider your general impressions and major concerns. Especially when you reached the end of the book, were there plot threads and details that hadn’t been woven into earlier sections? Were there overall issues / problems? At least make note of these, though you don’t have to solve them just yet.

4. Consolidate onto chapter by chapter summary. Go through and make the major notes and impressions from step 1 and from step 3 into your chapter by chapter summary. This will give you a pretty good idea of what’s going on. I format this using the chapter summary followed by the notes / impressions for that chapter. Usually, the more notes, the more problems, which can act like a red flag in later phases.

5. Finally, perhaps most importantly, remember that not all (any?) books started out super-awesome-perfect in their early drafts. Yours is no different. It will get better. You don’t suck. I promise.

So, that was hopefully fairly painless. Yes, it will probably be disappointing that some things aren’t as polished / ready as you’d hoped. But, at least now you have some idea of the issues at hand.

Next week: Phase 2: Macro Assessment and Changes, where we make use of that chapter by chapter outline, and the notes from Phase 1.

But first, what do you think? Is this similar to you rewrite process in early phases? I’m also experimenting and trying to get more efficient, like most of us are. Any ideas you’d like to share? Come on,  you know you want to. 🙂

Thanks for reading, and happy writing. Oh, and make sure you sign up for the blog. You don’t want to miss the next post. 🙂

Rewrites in 4 Easy Phases: Yes, seriously

So, if you’ve been reading, you know I’m in rewrites. Yep, still. But I think I see the light ahead (then again, I always say that. Makes me happy, true or not.)

Anyhoo, I thought I’d share my method and what I’ve learned about rewrites and their 4 phases. Because as much as I hear refer to it as Rewrite Hell, it doesn’t have to be. (Yes, really-really, I pinky-swear.) In the coming weeks I’ll go over each phase in greater detail, broken down into easily digested steps and lists (ooh, pretty lists!).

This week, I’ll go over a broad-picture of the plan.

Phase 1: Assessment. This is where you have to go through your completed manuscript and make an honest of assessment of what’s working, and what’s not.

Phase 2: Macro assessment and changes. This is where you determine if the structure and “big deal” items of the plot are working. Here a “revised vision” may come into play to help structure your rewrites.

Phase 3: Implementation of macro changes and the revised vision. Actual rewrites taking place.

Phase 4: Micro assessment and changes. Here you get to finally go through and make the polish, cleaning up excess wordiness, adverbs, overused words, etc.

See? Totally easy. Didn’t I promise? 😉

What about you: do you have a rewrite plan or method? Does it sound completely different than this? Is it super efficient (if it is, you MUST share for the good of the world and happiness of baby kittens everywhere … and the sanity of fellow writers). 😉

Otherwise, thanks for reading, have a great week. And hey, why not sign up to follow the blog while you’re here?

Rewriting like a fiend!

So, in an update, my last methods for improving my success rewriting seem to have worked. I beat the wall – actually, I discovered that I just needed to back up, and there was no wall. Therefore, I’m trying to fly through rewrites, and have very little additional time for anything else (there’s also that whole Christmas thing coming up, and since I make most of my gifts, I’m swamped.)

Consequently, a short post today.

I wanted to actually pose a question and share: what makes your rewrites go well? How to you avoid hitting the wall / stalling out, or what do you do when it happens anyway?

For me, this rewrite I’ve done 5 different things:

  1. I have a revision plan (took notes, have a map of the document as it stood, and how it needs to be – mostly chapter by chapter summaries with red-pen scribbled all over them for my planned suggestions).
  2. I’ve found critique partners. Having someone who’s waiting for new chapters all the time helps me keep moving, even (and especially) when I don’t want to.
  3. When I hit the wall, or things stall, I back up and delete what wasn’t working. In most cases, it’s usually a chapter / scene preceding where I ran into trouble that things went wrong, and when I redo that, things loosen up and I can write again.
  4. Have a deadline. Self-imposed or otherwise, this keeps you pushing hard – and will get you onto something else sooner.
  5. Have patience for my method. I understand that like when I’m writing earlier drafts, I often have full steam for the first 1/4, start getting lost around the midpoint, and then gather steam again near the end. My writing and my methods reflect this, so I need to have some acceptance and understanding of this – as well as a plan for how I’ll overcome.

Okay, so speaking of those rewrites? Have to get back to them. What about you? What’s working for you? What’s not?

Thanks for reading. Have a great week, and happy writing.