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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

GrendelsMum Mon 01-Apr-13 20:43:57

Thanks TIAE!

I did think about the fight about being between others and the guards having to go and sort it out, but somehow it didnt feel true to the other characters and their situation.

My current plan is that she's so overwhelmed by seeing someone she knows in situation B that the guards restrain her easily. This means that when it gets onto situation C, they don't doubt that one person can deal with her.

TunipTheVegedude Thu 04-Apr-13 09:43:35

I think your solution sounds good, GrendelsMum. I think when one plot point can be made to cause another it's just so much.... better.

Maybe a general technique can be extracted from this: when you reach a plot problem it's a good idea to go back over earlier scenes to see if a solution can grow out of anything that goes wrong earlier.

TunipTheVegedude Thu 04-Apr-13 09:44:06

I mean, anything that happens earlier - don't know why I put 'goes wrong'.

TunipTheVegedude Fri 12-Apr-13 13:12:55

How's everyone getting on? I have a huge list of things to do in my third draft but my children have been sick and I had 2 hours yesterday when dh looked after them but no time for weeks apart from that sad
It's a bit frustrating.

Absy Mon 15-Apr-13 17:31:12

I'm back! I was looking for this thread in Adult Fiction, couldn't find it and freaked out, but now I found it.

So, DH has now read the book (after much pestering) and a) liked it and b) there were some edits that I'd done and Word hadn't saved, which he picked up, which is good, as it seems I'm on the right path OR we just think too much a like, but I'm looking for the positive. I just need to re-edit (AGAIN) the first three chapters and then .... send it off. [freaks out]. That is scaring me the most. Writing it is now looking like a piece of cake, sending it to agents etc. is scaring the life out of me. I am also reading a book which covers a similar theme and is AMAZING (but confusing) and I had another freak out, I just need to remind myself that this author won the Pulitzer and the Booker prize, so is kind of in a different league.

TunipTheVegedude Mon 15-Apr-13 21:19:40

Hey Absy!

Well done on being ready to submit. I am dreading that stage. The thought of getting anxiety symptoms every time I check my email....

I know it's easy to say but I wouldn't worry too much about the similarities - there are probably differences in all kinds of things. Is it even aimed at the same market as the other one?

Reading really good books often freaks me out at first, then 2 things happen: I read another book that is crap and it cheers me up, and the first book becomes incorporated into my sense of what a good book is and gives me more to aim for and lifts the one I am working on.

Absy Tue 16-Apr-13 13:36:50

I think reading other books is good - you just have to read critically which is tiring "do I like this? Why do I like this? What do I dislike about their style?", but then it is encouraging in a way as well. There's one book I read last year which so many people think is brilliant, and I agree, the first half is fabulous, but it loses pace towards the end. BUT it good published and won awards, so it can't be that bad. It's then applying that critical thinking to your own work, and finding the balance between thinking that everything you write is terrible, and everything is wonderful.

theoriginalandbestrookie Wed 17-Apr-13 20:20:01

Bum. I am well on my way to becoming an official writer - I received my first official rejection today for the romance I sent in for the Christmas Collection at Carina.

It's not a huge surprise but I was hoping to get some feedback as that at least would suggest that it was not altogether rubbish.

I'm about 20k into another book, but I'm now wondering if romance is my thing if I'm any good at it. Plus it's been a bit of a fallow period, I was planning on writing on holiday but we were in Florida and whilst good it was exhausting so I haven't done much for a bit.

I was thinking once I gathered myself together, if anyone was kind enough to read through the full draft ( it's only 33k as it's a short romance) and put some questions together, would anyone be able to look at it?

TunipTheVegedude Wed 17-Apr-13 21:18:24

I would be happy to read it - send it over.

Commiserations on the rejection. Can you send it to anyone else? It must be hard when you've targeted a specific publisher. At least with the normal thing of approaching lots of agents, a single rejection doesn't mean very much. Because honestly, you mustn't take one rejection too much to heart. You won't know if you're good at romance or not until you've tried a few and sent them out more than once.

donnasummer Wed 17-Apr-13 21:45:02

your first rejection? you're on the way smile. You grow a very thick skin if you want to publish!

theoriginalandbestrookie Wed 17-Apr-13 22:41:52

Thanks guys, I am very impatient. There is another publisher I can try with - they are looking for works under 30k - but then I think there is a lot to be edited grin.

Tunip that is a super offer I was hoping you would say that. I am going to take another look at it over the next few days to see if there are any drastic revisions I need to do before anyone else looks at it.

TunipTheVegedude Thu 18-Apr-13 09:14:31

I was thinking some more about this, and what you could do if getting a few people to read it fails to shed any light. I came up with a few things, apologies if you've already done them:
1. See if there are any 'how to write romance' books out there that show you something obvious you're missing
2. Join, which is a big writers' forum with a section on romance. This would be good for getting to know the market and also it has a 'share your work' section for mutual critiquing, so you would find people who write romance and thus know the genre much better to critique you
3. Absolutely do not even consider the possibility that you're not capable of writing romance but change your mindset to 'how do I become good at it?'

With romance, I've known several people over the years who think it's going to be a piece of cake to write a Mills and Boon and they don't take it seriously and give up when they don't immediately succeed. I don't get the impression you're in this category at all - the thing of yours I read was sincere, it absolutely wasn't writing by numbers.
Joining a forum and taking part in romance authors' chat will help you get to know the market and give you a better chance of understanding why you were rejected. It might be something that has nothing to do with the quality at all (maybe they published a cake shop one last year!)

Look forward to reading the rest!

TunipTheVegedude Thu 18-Apr-13 09:50:09

Absy, the balance between confidence/self-criticism is interesting. There's a book called 'Bounce' by Matthew Syed, which is about how people succeed in sport, but something that applies to writing as well is the discussion of how, in order to succeed against the odds, you have to have a combination of enormous self-belief and the capacity to constantly take on board criticism and never stop trying to improve.
I've found that switching to a multiple revisions mindset has made the whole thing less stressful. Looking back, a lot of my enjoyment of writing in the past was undermined by my constant anxiety about whether it was any good. Now I have decided it's all about revising and revising, I don't have to worry for any given draft about whether it's good, because if it's crap I can make the next one better. Even getting feedback from readers was relatively stress-free, because I wasn't that bothered about any judgements they would make about whether it was good or bad, I just wanted to know how to make it better.
Of course when I come to submission the anxiety will kick in, but at least the majority of the writing time will have been about enjoying the process of improvement rather than worrying about whether it's any good.

theoriginalandbestrookie Thu 18-Apr-13 20:21:32

Thank you so much Tunip for taking the time to come up with such detailed ideas. I'm absolutely going to follow through on the second one within the next couple of days.

I also agree with your other post. Writing has stopped being as much fun for me. I'm too focused on the outcome rather than the process, then I get disheartened as there is so much more work to do and luck to be had if I am ever to reach my dream goal of being a successful author.

I have decided to take a step back and do something completely different for a bit. I've decided to enter one of the short story competitions in my writing magazine as I can revise a story I have written before where the story is actually ok (I can say this with confidence as it's been critiqued through my wrtiting class) but it could do with a bit of revision.

I have plenty of time before it needs to be submitted - 14th June, so I can hopefully get some feedback on it before then.

BsshBossh Tue 23-Apr-13 13:12:35


<dashes in>

Sorry for not participating in this lovely thread. I feel quite selfish about it.

But I have been working hard on my book. Have begun draft 6. DH printed it out so it looked like a book and it's amazing how that's helped envision the book. Looks like there are not that many changes to make. I'm re-reading 3 chapters a day in between my normal work so am aiming to be finished in a fortnight.

</dashes out>


TunipTheVegedude Wed 24-Apr-13 13:43:17

Bssh - hurrah for actually focusing on the writing instead of wasting time on the internet!

Good luck. Very exciting that you're so close to finishing!

theoriginalandbestrookie Sat 27-Apr-13 18:04:15

Hello all.
Tunip has kindly and wonderfully read through my draft - I'm calling it a draft now rather than a book as it needs rather more work than I had anticipated grin but it's all good as it will make it stronger in the end.

Any thoughts about how to get people to read and provide constructive criticism?

I am strangely reluctant to give it to DH because he believes in calling a spade a spade and also his idea of a good read is an Andy McNab novel which from the long and detailed verbal summaries he thoughtfully provides on holiday when we have a quiet moment or ten, doesn't seem to be quite the genre I'm aiming for. He might be quite good on the grammar though.

theoriginalandbestrookie Sun 05-May-13 09:27:12

Hi there,
Thought I would check in and say hello and see how people are getting on.
I have been doing an exam this week so no time for writing, but I dusted off my short story last night and came up with a better ending and I'm now reasonably happy with the bones of it, so feeling quite positive.

TunipTheVegedude Tue 07-May-13 11:40:09

Hey Rookie.

Glad it's going well.

I'm finding this third draft damn hard work. I seem to be spending ages changing very little. Maybe that's how it is - diminishing returns as you get through more drafts?

In terms of getting other people to read things, I have a group of friends who read things for each other - blogposts, essays, conference papers, job applications (quite a few of them are academics or doing degrees). I'm the only fiction writer in the group but several of the others are historians or read in my genre, so I have had a lot of help from them despite them not writing their own fiction.

WRT other fiction writers, I confess I have offered to read things for people secretly hoping they would offer to do the same for me, and they have, and it turns out I've learnt a lot from reading their stuff anyway. There is one person I am FB friends with who reads in my genre and writes and I've never done anything for her but I am just going to message her and beg when the time comes - she can only say no!

My dh has not yet been allowed to read it. He's negative about too many books that I love, so I don't think we'll be on the same page.

ImperialBlether Sat 11-May-13 16:20:45

What kind of book is it, Tunip? I am really busy for the next few days but would be happy to read something after that. I've written three novels and am touting the agents at the moment. I've got an MA in Creative Writing, too (if that means a damn thing!)

TunipTheVegedude Sat 11-May-13 20:12:58

Oh wow, ImperialBlether, thank you.

I don't need any readers at the moment (RookieMum might though?) because I'm still soldiering through my third draft with a view to finishing around the end of the summer term. If you have any free time then I would be extremely grateful but I understand if you don't.

It's young adult historical (teenagers caught up in the rebellion of the north against Henry VIII).

I'm currently fixing some major issues to do with the main character's motivation not being clear to start with and the love interest not being developed enough. Once I've done that I'll see where I stand with the other major issue which is the beginning being too slow.

Apart from the slow beginning the pacing was good and I'm currently hoping I won't have messed it up by making the other changes! That's something it might be useful to have someone else comment on.

I would be happy to read yours if I can be of any use. I don't have any formal creative writing training but I have worked through a lot of books on craft.

ImperialBlether Sat 11-May-13 20:51:18

Sorry, I must have misunderstood! Just let me know though, but that's not the type of book I'm familiar with. I do read a lot, though, so send it to me if you want me to look at pace and plot etc.

I'm starting something new during the summer holidays and won't have anything ready for public consumption for a while. The other two books are finished and I don't want to change them for now - I've sent them to agents and we'll see what they have to say. It's a very stressful time!

theoriginalandbestrookie Sat 11-May-13 22:27:11

Tunip - I didn't think the beginning was too slow, I felt it was off to a rocking start.

Imperial, I would be delighted if you would look at my short story. I haven't heard from my friends, I was out with one of them tonight and she didn't mention it - perhaps it's so dreadful that she can't bear too !
If you pm me your email I would love to send it on - it's only 1500 words.
What type of genre do you write ? Also it's very impressive to hear you say you are done with two books. At what point did you decide that's it no more revisions?

TunipTheVegedude Tue 14-May-13 13:36:32

Thanks Rookie.
I think I'm going to sort out all my characters, and all the other stuff, and prune to within an inch of its life, and THEN try and make up my mind about the beginning. Most people who read it say it wasn't too slow, but there IS definitely a moment at which the pace picks up.

It's just such an important thing - if a slow start stops the agents I submit to from getting beyond the first three chapters they'll never find out how pacey the rest of it is shock

ImperialBlether - best of luck with your submissions and many congratulations on getting to that point with not one but two books - what an achievement.
(I am dreading that stage. I may just revise this one for the rest of my life rather than face it.)

theoriginalandbestrookie Tue 14-May-13 20:50:00

Doggone it, I'm stuck entirely.

No word back from my friends on my short story and I don't want to chase them and DH has done something to the computer so I started making some alterations to my novel and half way in ( ok fifteen minutes in) discovered it was in read only mode and then I couldn't be bothered going back to it.

I'm sorely tempted to jack it in and try and finish up the new one. I hate editing - mostly because I have now discovered I know no grammar and find it really hard jumping from cutting bits out to writing new bits in.

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