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 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?

When to Rewrite, and When to Leave it Alone: Or, Is It Done Yet?

The question of when something needs further drafts, versions, and either heavy rewrites or light editing is a question that, I think, a lot of writers consider. Likewise, I haven’t met a lot who like revisions, even though to a greater or lesser extent, they’re still essential for every work in progress (WIP). Thus arises the question: continue rewrites, or leave it alone and move onto something else? Is this a piece that “is as it is,” or should it be something else, something more?

Everyone has their own answer, and while there are easy books and hard ones, revision is necessary.  You complete draft two … then three … and before you know it, with some pieces, you’re onto draft eight or nine.

This is where I interject my confession: the inspiration for this piece comes from the fact that I’m considering starting revisions on a piece that is already in draft eight at least (I sometimes fudge the numbers or forget to save new versions for the first two drafts or so … which makes the “d8” designation even more depressing). Yes, it has been literally years since I’ve worked on this piece, so I shouldn’t still be sick of it, but still, are the revisions necessary? Should I even try, or should I just leave it be and start on the “something new” that I really want?

I have to ask myself, is this honestly the best this piece can be? Have I polished it to what it should be? The best that I can do right now?

That latter part – the best right now – that’s the rub, because sometimes, what was good enough months ago – or even years ago – sometimes it doesn’t seem good enough when you go back with more distance from the piece provided by time and other writing. Other pieces have been rewritten, improved, overall concepts have changed. Your writing itself – along with some of your goals and central ideas about theme – have also probably changed. Thus what was as good as it could be at the time is now … well, lacking.

So, do you go back?

Personally, it isn’t usually something I do – which is perhaps part of my hesitation to do so now. Most of the time, I say keep moving forward, don’t look back too much. With every new work, every new novel, you continue to grow, evolve, and it continues to let you play with your writing – which likewise helps to improve your writing, increase your experience. Plus, when you’re asked about what you have completed, you have more than one novel to submit, and you can prove you’re more than just a “one book author.” Besides which, some books are what they are, and perhaps they should be allowed to remain as such – even if they never become the blockbusters you one dreamed they could be.

I’m as yet unpublished, though I have completed seven full length (100k) novels. At least three will never see the light of day, and probably shouldn’t, unless someday I’m inspired to go back and make use of what I did like about them and dispose of the rest. There are three more that I’m actively marketing … and then there’s the “problem child” – the WIP I think I probably have to go back and rewrite.

Why does this one get the exception to my rule of keep moving forward, onto the next book? Why might yours be the same?

  • It’s part of a series
  • There’s something about the story I still like – and many have said it’s their favorite story.
  • It comes between two other books that have been substantially rewritten, and may consequentially now lack continuity and the ability to “participate” in the series.

The final reason, though, is the reason that right after this I have to start going back and taking a look. The question I ask myself is: it may have been good enough before, but is it good enough now? Is this something you can say is the best you can write, a great showcase of your work and your ability as a writer? Do I still care about it enough to try?

I haven’t looked back yet, I haven’t analyzed the book. Maybe it too may stay and be accepted as it is … or maybe not. I guess I won’t know until I take a look.

So what about you, do you ever “look back,” or constantly keep moving forwards? Please do comment below.

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.