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'Books are not written, they are rewritten' - the 2013 revising and editing thread

(381 Posts)
TunipTheVegedude Thu 10-Jan-13 09:17:45

Anyone who already has a draft (NaNo veterans and others?) want to join me for a rewriting thread?

I am working on my draft from NaNoWriMo 2012.

I've never successfully edited a novel before - I've written first drafts and attempted to edit them but never managed to either be ruthless enough, or to really understand what I had to do. This time is different because it's clear that it needs very major work at all levels; the NaNo draft feels like a zero draft rather than a first draft. I've been reading 'how to write' stuff manically over the last month (something I've never really done before) and have a lot to go on. Starting by plotting it again from the ground up, then will work through scene by scene using relevant bits from my first draft but basically starting with a blank page, which I hope means I will not be too attached to any of my previous words. My target for Easter is to get it to a stage where other people can read it and tell me how to change it so I can write it all over again smile

TunipTheVegedude Tue 21-May-13 10:31:15

And congratulations on finishing your first draft! 106k is a big achievement!

ElfOnTheTopShelf Tue 21-May-13 10:32:57

I write romance / chick lit.
It's massively competitive, isn't it!
This is the third one I have "finished", I have two more (both around the 77k word mark) but this is the one I think is better/stronger and the others I do mean to get back to and edit. I just started a 4th and am 20k words in.
I think my plan needs to be to focus on one :D

TunipTheVegedude Tue 21-May-13 13:40:43

LOL yes, that sounds like a plan!

InMySpareTime Wed 22-May-13 17:44:05

I'm not on here much, but I wanted to pop on here to tell people who understand, that the first draft of my first book is finishedgrin.
25k words, it's a fiction Novella (I think, there's debate over what that length is called) in the Grimm fairy tale style, for older children upwards. I have Beta readers checking for plot holes and grammar, and have registered with Smashwords, and read the formatting guide. What else do I need to do?

TunipTheVegedude Wed 22-May-13 18:54:53

This is a good summary of the self-editing process: Self-Editing by Annette Fix

Someone on another site just linked to this nifty little tool for analysing YA writing: YA story analyzer.

It might be useful for you despite being aimed at people writing for a slightly older age group than yours.

InMySpareTime Wed 22-May-13 18:59:19

Thanks, I'll check them out tomorrow. I'm glad to have the story down "on paper" at last, it's been rattling round my head for months now, occupying my thoughts. Beta readers are very positive so far, they've found errors but love the story in general.

GrendelsMum Wed 22-May-13 19:48:15

In my experience, having finished the first draft, you now re-write, and re-write, and re-write, and continually realise the whole thing is full of holes and you don't know what to do.

If I wasn't so stubborn I'd stop now and just have a nice life of reading other people's books, not bothering about my own.

Huge congratulations on the first draft, anyway!

InMySpareTime Wed 22-May-13 19:57:01

I've been rewriting the earlier bits as I've gone along, only one plot hole has been found by a beta reader (so far), I found and plugged loads of holes before releasing it. I'm hoping the rewrites won't be that drastic, the book began as several short stories, which are now inextricably linked by many tangled narrative threads.

TunipTheVegedude Wed 22-May-13 20:47:49

'A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit'.

There you are GrendelsMum, that's today's inspirational quote for you smile

Just think of the sense of achievement when you finally get there....

GrendelsMum Wed 22-May-13 20:53:54

Thank you, Tunip smile

I'm just plotting out the new strand with the trial and the execution now...

theoriginalandbestrookie Wed 22-May-13 21:11:47

That's a really helpful self editing link Tunip.

InMySpareTime Wed 22-May-13 21:43:22

Ran the book through the YA story analyser, it came out pretty well. Overuse of "and", and too many passive sentences but otherwise fine. I like that tool, thanks.

TunipTheVegedude Thu 23-May-13 10:02:11

My writing is too passive, too. I did notice that the scenes I'd rewritten more times came out with a better score on that than the newer ones, so I think it's something I'm gradually improving through the rewrites even though I hadn't consciously addressed it.

InMySpareTime, how good are your betas? Do they have writing experience themselves? For my draft, I had 3 readers who write fiction (one is mainly a playwright who also teaches creative writing) and 4 who write non-fiction. (I'm writing historical, hence the usefulness for me of having so many.)
In general, as well as the major points that everybody picked up (the boringness of my love interest being the main one) it was the creative writers who gave me the really fundamental craft-related feedback (the others were ace at plotholes and language issues).
While I don't buy the idea that feedback from friends is worthless as some people will tell you, I am beginning to learn more about the value of feedback from people who understand the craft of writing at a structural level and have a vocabulary to express it all in.

InMySpareTime Thu 23-May-13 14:31:20

My Beta readers are:
A town planner
A TV copy editor
A contract lawyer
A commercial lawyer
A fiction writer
A friend who reads widely in my genre
A professional proofreader

Some are looking mainly for grammatical errors, others for plot holes or continuity. I have asked them all to be brutal and not nice. Initial feedback is good, I know the end is still a bit rough round the edges, I'll see what others make of it.

InMySpareTime Thu 23-May-13 14:54:42

Oh, I also have a fair few children reading for me, to help me work out the best age group to target the book.

InMySpareTime Thu 23-May-13 16:25:17

Ironically, DD (aged 9) was the first of my Beta readers to spot a spelling error ("pieced" should read "pierced")

TunipTheVegedude Thu 23-May-13 16:27:56

Oh, that's brilliant. It will be really interesting to see what they say.

ElfOnTheTopShelf Sat 25-May-13 21:05:15

I love the story analyser!

InMySpareTime Sun 26-May-13 07:30:59

My "and" count is still way too high. It was 80%, though after removing superfluous "and"s I got it down to 60%.
Perhaps the style of language I am using for the story is too "and" heavy, it's a Grimm fairytale style, and necessarily quite descriptive.
How can I reduce my "and" count without detracting from the flow of the story?

GrendelsMum Mon 27-May-13 09:19:21

InMySpareTime - do you want to post a sample paragraph for us to have a look at? I don't think I could make any sugestions about changing the style without seeing what it looks like now and what the role of 'and' is at the moment.

Meanwhile - I'm running into a bit of a problem. My character repeatedly explains to other people things that they don't know, but that the reader does. My critiquer pointed this out as a problem, as it slows things down for the reader and is dull.

SO, how do I deal with this. Something like simply saying - "She explained what she'd seen at the circus, staring at her polished boots the whole time." It sounds very easy when I write it here, but somehow I have problems making it flow when it's actually within the novel.

InMySpareTime Tue 28-May-13 07:40:09

Will do this afternoon when I'm on the "big" computer, not the iPod.

TunipTheVegedude Wed 29-May-13 18:13:34

Grendelsmum - cut to after she's explained it?
Focus on the reaction of the person having it explained to them, which is probably more interesting than her explaining it?

InMySpareTime Fri 31-May-13 15:54:29

Here goes, a representative paragraph for you to pick apart (sorry it's long):
In Boravia there hung a tapestry woven by the famous tailor, depicting a famous battle. The work was so skilful that if viewed by moonlight, the battle cries could be heard resonating through the very threads. When sunbeams hit the surface of the tapestry, they reflected in myriad directions, revealing colours previously unseen. The horses appeared to rear up so realistically that some said they could hear their hoofbeats echo through the room. Once, when the Boravian army had emerged victorious from a hard-won battle, their battle standard was seen to unfurl within the tapestry. The image of the king seemed to turn his head to smile upon those viewing the marvellous work. As veterans from the battle eventually died, their tapestry counterparts appeared with closed eyes, even though previously their eyes had been open. This was all the more amazing given the cloth was not tampered with or altered in any way, as it hung beyond reach, and nobody was permitted within ten feet of it.
What do you think?

GrendelsMum Sat 01-Jun-13 11:13:36

Thanks very much, Tunip. I like the idea of focusing on the person's reaction - that should really work.

Writing has been going well the past few days (touch wood) - I've gone from feeling intimated by revising the novel to feeling really invigorated and excited by it.

Hope all is well with you! L and I met up the other day and spent most of it discussing who we would snog / marry / push off a cliff in your novel. Very much looking forward to reading it's next incarnation.

GrendelsMum Sat 01-Jun-13 11:31:46

InMySpareTime - here are my thoughts.

I like the idea very much, and I'd like to know more about the story and what's going to go on. Im guessing we're in a medieval, magical world, and something exciting is going to happen, and I like all of that.

I can also see what you mean about the word 'and', given your particular style.

However, I wonder whether, perhaps because you can picture the scene so clearly, you're at risk of being a vague about what the reader doesn't know, and telling the reader too much about what they do know.

So there are some things that I'm not told, and which make it difficult for me to imagine what's going on - most obviously, in what building in Boravia this magical tapesty is hanging. In a church hall? In a palace? In an art gallery?

I also think that the reader gets the message (because you're picking up on lots of collective fantasy understandings that we already share) that it's a magical tapestry a good deal quicker than you give us credit for. The result is that effectively we've got sentence after sentence, all telling us the same thing - it's magic because you hear things, it's magic because you hear things, its magic because it changes, it's magic because it changes, it's magic because it knows when people dies. Oh yes, and did you get that it does this magically, not because people are popping up and re-sewing it?

I think you could get the same effect on the reader from about half your current sentences - your reader's imagination will then have more time to do all the filling in. Plus, I think that the sentence with impact is the one about the dead soldiers closing their eyes, not the one about the tapestry being set up National Trust style with small ropes preventing people from getting too close to it.

There's also a repetition in one sentence, which I don't think works (famous tailor / famous battle).

So I think you could cut it down as follows:

e.g. "In the palace, there hung a tapestry, created by the famous tailor, and depicting a great battle. The work was so skilful that, viewed by moonlight, the clash of weapons and the cries of the soldiers could be heard, resonating from the very threads. Once, as the Boravian army rallied victorious in a hard-fought battle, their standard was seen to unfurl within the tapestry. And, as the veterans from the fight died, of injuries, disease, or mere old age, their tapestry counterparts closed their eyes."

Then you've saved yourself about half the sentences and you can get right on with telling us about the exciting thing that I know is going to happen next, because I think there's going to be magic and battles and heroines doing kick-ass stuff, and I like all of those, and I want to hear about them now, not find out about the Boravian Ministry of Culture's tapestry conservation policy.

Does this make sense to you?

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