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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 22-Jan-13 15:08:14

FiveHoursSleep - I would probably leave the photos till you need a break from the hard work.

Hello Camgirl and Absy. smile

Absy Tue 22-Jan-13 15:24:57

For this one, I have to finish it. I have to. I think it has the potential to be a good story, it's just I've been writing it for 10 years for a while. I work full time now, and for a lot of the time between starting and now I've been working FT + studying PT, so had no spare headspace or time. Now I do. there's one chapter I wrote a few years ago, in an afternoon, which I love. I wish I could get into the mindset again and write another chapter like that.

Absy Tue 22-Jan-13 15:26:23

Though, having written it over that long helps me to be more objective (I can get emotionally attached to some writing) and happier to cut stuff which is rubbish

TunipTheVegedude Tue 22-Jan-13 21:51:14

Yes you must definitely finish it Absy!
It's funny looking back at good stuff you wrote that came out easily. If only it could always be like that....

I think I am back on track after my tantrum. I've gone through the stuff I had rewritten over the last painful fortnight and cut most of it again. There were lots of paragraphs of description. It speeds up nicely when I reduce each one to a sentence or less. And plenty of adjectives have gone too and I feel more like myself again.
I think one thing I have realised is that although the first draft was crap in most ways, I was writing very fast and therefore instinctively and at a chapter level my instincts about rhythm and pace were quite ok. Hence when I rewrote it felt worse than my first version. But ultimately, if I can keep the rhythm and pace of the first version while chucking in a very small amount of descriptive writing (and doing stuff like using more interesting verbs rather than adverbs and shit) I can come up with something that is more alive than my rather thin first draft but moves along at a decent pace.

Grendel, thank you for offering to look at my problematic paras for me. I was on the verge of sending them to you this morning when I realised I could actually see what I needed to do and it was really quite straightforward so I didn't need to after all!
Hope yours is going well.

camgirl Tue 22-Jan-13 22:23:06

Hello TunipTheVegedude Thank you for the welcome.

I'm plugging away .. I'm hoping to reach 70,000 before editing and nearly there. Exhausted though and not looking forward to school run in the ice tomorrow!

Absy Wed 23-Jan-13 09:27:26

"If only it could always be like that...."

I hear you. I was trying to write last night and it was hideous. It was "the cat sat on the mat" level of literature. It sucked.

TunipTheVegedude Wed 23-Jan-13 10:43:14

Absy have you seen this?

Absy Wed 23-Jan-13 16:16:41


For the one awesome chapter, I wrote it just after a bad break up. I don't think I can do that again, just to get another good chapter. <sigh>

some of the later chapters as well, there's some really good bits, and Iwonder how much of that is down to less interference from me now (I've edited the first chapter around 10 times. I think I should leave it alone).

TunipTheVegedude Wed 23-Jan-13 21:01:34

LOL, I used to write my best stuff after break-ups too. Perhaps it's a sort of writing equivalent of getting a great haircut and buying some nice clothes.

theoriginalandbestrookie Wed 23-Jan-13 22:19:05

Absy I find that my first few chapters have been edited loads of times but the later chapters not so much - I decided to submit because I'm not sure how much more I could do to the first three. I'll have rather a lot of work to do if they want to see the rest.

It's really hard because from a linear perspective it has to make sense from the start therefore naturally that takes up time.

I'm going to try to be disciplined and dip in from the middle.

Absy Thu 24-Jan-13 09:31:52

Well, I had a good writing night last night. DH decided to go to bed early (another reason why I can't do a break up to get some good chapters - it would involve divorce, and I like him, it so wouldn't be worth it) so I had a good 2 hours (apart from word losing my edits first time around angry) of solid writing/editing time, and it was amazing. I went for the end chapters, and they're looking really good now. I need another night like that to sort out the beginning.

TunipTheVegedude Thu 24-Jan-13 10:06:08

Great stuff Absy!
My evening was pretty good too. I realised a connection between a key scene and something that happened in the heroine's past that she is going to need to flashback to. So I was able to 1. prefigure the flashback and make the reader curious about it, and 2. add some more emotional tension to the scene itself.

I think beginnings are always going to need more editing than middles because they have to do so much work in grabbing you and setting things up. You can't get away with a line out of place. Whereas later on you have more flexibility in when things get mentioned.

theoriginalandbestrookie Fri 25-Jan-13 12:25:36

Good news Absy and Tunip sound like both of your books are shaping up well. I'd love to see anyone elses writing if you would like any feedback.

I must admit to doing a bit of cheating. I have put my manuscript to one side and am starting to write something new. It's so wonderful to be at the start of the journey again but with hopefully a wee bit more experience from the previous time.

I plan to spend 6-8 weeks on a first draft for this - due the shorter length of the romance novels they take less time to write. Then I'm going to go back to the other one and start doing a proper edit.

Probably not the prescripted way of doing things, but I was losing the joy of writing with the initial one so hopefully a bit of time and distance will help me to get back into the editing.

Either that or I will end up with a lot of first draft novels grin and we all know how useful those are!

TunipTheVegedude Fri 25-Jan-13 14:12:57

I don't know that it's cheating. Several of the things I have read about editing say that starting something new is one way to get some distance between you and the initial piece of writing, so you can come back to it fresh.

theoriginalandbestrookie Fri 25-Jan-13 15:22:30

Indeed Tunip - I'm hoping that's the case for me. Having fun with the new one in any case. I feel I have more idea now about how much plot I need to sustain the length although I suspect this time it might be too long rather than too short.

theoriginalandbestrookie Fri 25-Jan-13 15:24:39

I went to another good workshop this week - Voice and Viewpoint by Nicola Morgan. So lucky to have a resource near by that offers these evening sessions - although it does get rather pricey.

TunipTheVegedude Fri 25-Jan-13 20:14:46

Nicola Morgan's blog and her 'Write to be published' book are very good.

I'm glad you're having fun with the new one. Sometimes I wonder how I will handle the whole submitting/rejection process when I get to it, having worked so much harder at this than at anything else I have ever submitted anywhere, but hopefully I'll be enjoying writing the next one, having learnt what I've learnt from the process of doing this one, and will be able to focus on that.

theoriginalandbestrookie Fri 25-Jan-13 21:45:18

Tunip at the end of our creative writing course, on the last week our tutor asked about our publishing ambitions.

There was one young man on our course who was truly brilliant. Some of his work was overly experimental for my run of the mill tastes, but he wrote a number of remarkably moving pieces. When asked about being published he said that he felt he wasn't a great writer and wanted to wait for a number of years before he had the experience to produce something great. That made me sad because I could tell that it was unlikely that he would ever get to that level in his own mind.

I guess what I'm trying to say probably quite cack handedly is that we will always be our own worst critics and I suspect that sometimes the authors that end up being published may not always be the most talented, but will be the most tenacious.

Starting the next one does seem to help with the level of detachment. Although I'm kind of wishing now that I had let the first one simmer for a bit rather than rushing it in.

BsshBossh Fri 25-Jan-13 22:31:25

Marking place. On draft 5 of novel. Momentum flagging still from the long holidays but need to keep going! Will be back on Monday...

TunipTheVegedude Sat 26-Jan-13 12:39:55

Nice to see you BsshBossh!

Rookie, that's interesting about the talented writer in your class. Imagine thinking you had to write something 'truly great' for it to be worth doing! I have known people whose talent I envied but who never wrote anything substantial because either they chucked things away as not good enough, or they sat around 'waiting for inspiration' hmm
Hilary Mantel said in an interview (which I have pinned to my wall) that for her, the thing to do is not to worry about critics or posterity but just solve the day's problems - 'you just try to make it work for ten minutes and then build on that'.

I'm sure you're right about tenacity. When I was an undergraduate dreaming of being an academic and worrying about not being clever enough a woman academic who was a few years further down the line than me said that it was interesting to see who out of her contemporaries had landed the academic jobs: it wasn't the ones who had seemed most brilliant, or the ones who had won particular prizes or got the highest firsts, it was the ones who had stuck around, doing bits and pieces of work while keeping applying for things rather than chucking it in and going off to be a civil servant. Same must apply to writing. Hilary Mantel again: she wrote that massive book about the French Revolution but was told by publishers that people didn't want to read historical romance. So she went away and wrote a contemporary novel.

BsshBossh Sun 27-Jan-13 21:28:17

Oh I love that "you just try to make it work for ten minutes and then build on" quote. Because I have no deadline to complete this (or any) draft of my novel, I find it easier to not sit down at my desk and resume editing. But if I tell myself that I just have to make it work for ten minutes then this might be enough to get cracking! Will try it tomorrow and report back here. I haven't touched this (5th) draft since before Christmas...

BsshBossh Sun 27-Jan-13 21:45:04

"Anyone well and truly fed up with their characters?" - Sorry am late in responding to this theoriginal. Only just discovered this thread! I'm finding the opposite of this, luckily. 5th draft in and with each re-write I discover new layers to each of my three main characters. They intensify, somehow. I admit, this is a good place to be so far along... I've been working, on and off, on my book for 2 years.

theoriginalandbestrookie Sun 27-Jan-13 22:26:44

Good news BsshBossh your characters clearly have a lot more inner depth than mine !

My new heroine is shaping up nicely though as there's a bit more of me in her. It's fun being young again even if it's only through a character.

Would it work bb to give yourself a deadline? Perhaps by Easter to get the draft finished. I find that I need to work in half hour spurts. If I have full days with no DS, which I had a few of at Christmas time I don't really achieve much more than if I time block out two half hours.

My most productive times were one day when it was rainy on holiday and I sat with a mug of tea in the soft play and managed to churn out about 3000 words over the space of an afternoon as no internet. Also for some reason I always seem quite inspired at the gym cafe after a workout. Sadly typing it up later is the time consuming and tedious bit.

BsshBossh Mon 28-Jan-13 13:49:14

Hello. Well, using Hilary Mantel's 10 minute rule, I actually managed 2 hours editing work today. I told myself that I only need to sit down for 10 minutes and this was all it took to get lost in my book again. So a massie thank you to Hilary and to Tunip grin.

As I've mentioned, this is my 5th draft. Previous drafts have been edited sequentially or chronologically but I'm doing it a bit differently with this draft and editing per character. All my scenes are separated out in Scrivener and tagged according to character name (3 main characters) so it's pretty easy to jump to a single character's scenes in each chapter. Consistency of character personality, backstory, motivations, way of speaking etc are key for this edit.

I'm two characters down. Today I started editing for the third and final character. She has 59 scenes in total (it's a 100K word novel) and I'm hoping to take 3 weeks.

Accountability is my major motivation at the moment so, if you don't mind, I'll check in here after each day's work with scene count.

BsshBossh Mon 28-Jan-13 13:50:18


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