Rewriting is the key to good writing

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The beautiful thing about writing is, unlike brain surgery, you don't have to get it right the first time. You can always do it better. The best writing is rewriting. That’s why you didn’t show your secret draft to anyone.

Time for a little R and R for novelists.

I don't mean rest and relaxation. (There's plenty of time for rest and relaxation after your book is published.)

Rewriting and revising your book are two of the most important things you can do to your writing. The major difference between a novel and a good novel is rewriting and revision of your manuscript. Revision is part of the process of writing. By revising, we learn what we have to say while we figure out the best possible way to say it. Any writing is made better by revising and rewriting.

Beginning writers often think their writing is good, simply because they wrote it. Professional writers know not everything we write is perfect. Writing should be rewritten. No writers alive should permit their work to be published without rewriting.

The beautiful thing about writing is, unlike brain surgery, you don't have to get it right the first time. You can always do it better. The best writing is rewriting. That’s why you didn’t show your secret draft to anyone.

Respect for the writing profession demands you strive for excellence. Your writing becomes publishable by being revised and rewritten. It takes guts and persistence for beginning writers to turn revision into an organic part of their working equipment. It can be done and once you begin, you're going to see immediate payoffs.

Revision is far easier than inventing something in the first place.

It goes faster than creation and it makes your work better. Revision and rewriting isn't difficult. There’s no right or wrong way to rewrite or revise fiction. As writers, we've been involved with the book on a day-to-day basis for so damned long we're too close to our work to be able to see it clearly. We need some distance. One of the best things you can do, once you've finished your book, is to put it away for a while. The good thing about putting it away for a while is you get some distance. By the time you return to the work you were so proud of, the first flush of romance will have given way to the clearer light of reality. Faults will be easier to spot.

Gaps and missing links will be more apparent. Things you knew but failed to tell readers are going to show up because you'll be more likely to read the book as a reader and not as a writer. The blush of inspiration gives way to the harsh light of a critical reading. You may find yourself saying, "I can't believe I did that."

“When you do find your mistakes,” Stephen King says, "you are forbidden to feel depressed about them or to beat up on yourself. Screw-ups happen to the best of us."

When revising, some writers have a difficult time letting go of their words. However, as King advises, "Kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler's heart."

If you can't stand to put it away at all, then at least read it aloud, which gives you another kind of distance from what you've written. Clunky prose and untrue dialogue, which doesn’t sound like real people talking, become especially apparent in this kind of reading. If you choose to read it aloud to someone else, you'll become painfully aware of tedious, boring stretches, dramatic moments that don't work, missing links or gaps in narrative.

Rewriting is the most important thing you can do if you want to become a published, professional novelist and be paid for your work.

In his excellent book, Dare to Be a Great Writer, Leonard Bishop wrote: “Writing must be rewritten. No writer alive should ever permit his or her work to be considered for publication without rewriting.”

As author Robert Cormier points out, “The beautiful thing about writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, brain surgery. You can always do it better.” And E. B. White said, “The best writing is rewriting. You can always write better than you write.”

Rewriting is essential. Professional writers know this.

Amateur writers often think their writing is good, simply because they wrote it. Professional writers know that everything we write is not perfect and that anything can be made better through rewriting. Revision is far easier than inventing something in the first place. It goes much faster than creation and it makes your work better. Rewriting is even more fun than writing.

Once you have finished the secret draft, you can start the fun.

As writers, we've been involved with the book on a day-to-day basis for so damned long that we're like actors with a script who have only learned our own lines. We're too close to our work to be able to see it clearly. We need some distance. One of the best things you can do once you've finished your book is to put it away for a while.

The good thing about putting it away for a while is that you get some distance. By the time you return to that work, you were so proud of you'll see it in the clear light of reality. Faults will be easier to spot. Gaps and missing links will be more apparent. (You may even find yourself saying, “I can’t believe I wrote that.".)

The problem with the “put it away for a while” method is that most of us don't like to lose the time. If you're too impatient to put it away, then read it aloud. Reading it aloud (to yourself, to a friend, or to a recorder) gives you another kind of distance from what you've written. Clunky prose and untrue dialog which doesn't sound like people talking become especially apparent in this kind of reading.

If you choose to read it aloud to someone else, you will become painfully aware of boring stretches (things which go on too long for what they do), dramatic moments that don't work, missing links or gaps in narrative.

To answer questions about your own work honestly and accurately, you need some basis for comparison, a sense of what the competition is like, and what the winners (and for that matter, the losers) have done. You need to read other books similar to the one you're writing. In other words, you need to know how to tell when your book finally reads like a book.

I can still remember after my agent read the manuscript of my first novel, my first question was: “Does it read like a book?” That was more important to me than anything else at that early stage in my career because I had tried to write a mystery novel and I wanted it to read like a mystery novel; a book which read like a book.

While revising and rewriting your novel here are 20 Make Sures to think about.

Make Sure....

You have a good balance of showing versus telling. Do you use narrative instead of dialogue?

There aren't too many similar scenes, too many dialogue scenes over dinner, for example.

You haven't violated the rules of viewpoint, and slipped out of the tense in which you chose to write. If there are multiple points of view, are the shifts clear to readers?

You haven’t messed up time. The sun set twice in one day in a chapter of my first book, Kill Cue. Luckily, I caught the mistake while rewriting.

You have your facts straight. For example, the eye colors of your characters should not change from chapter to chapter.

Your chapters don't all start the same way, with dialogue, description or narration. Vary your chapter beginnings.

Your chapters don't all end the same way. They should end with some sort of a cliffhanger, something to interest readers enough to keep them reading, but not all chapters should end the same.

You have used enough detail to set the scene and given readers a sense of what’s going on without using too much detail and boring them.

Your major characters are believable, with logical motives and real emotions. Would they really behave the way they do in your book? Do we know enough about them? Do they seem real to you?

Your story unfolds logically. Be sure the chronology of events is clear. If you've made multiple time shifts, such as flashbacks, are they necessary?

There is a legitimate reason for your protagonist to want what they want. Is it clear why they have selected their specific goals?

Your protagonist’s motives to reach the goal are realistic and the conflicts facing them are not so over the top as to be impossible to overcome.

Coincidental good luck does not play a part in working things out. The use of coincidence, the chance meeting on the street, the lucky timing of a phone call, is usually a sign of bad writing.

Your supporting characters are well developed. Do we know enough background on all of them? Are they reasonably attractive and interesting? Do they seem real to you?

Make sure your novel begins effectively. Will readers know and care about what’s going on here? Has the beginning grabbed their attention?

The dialogue is convincing and sounds like real people talking. Is the dialogue convincing and characteristic? Does the dialogue need revision?

You have the proper balance between showing and telling. Are you giving your readers enough scenes or are you describing too much?

Your narrative tone is correct. Whether your novel is tragic, a mystery, a romance or historical, does it sound like what it’s supposed to be.

The novel has dramatic unity. Does a central story question pull your readers through the novel? Individual chapters should have dramatic unity.

The joyride of the novel leads to a successful payoff. Readers want a satisfying resolution of the story. The stronger the ending, the more likely your readers will recommend the book.

Doing the Make Sure check may seem silly but these are important items you do need to check, based on the knowledge and wisdom of thousands of writers who became before you.

(From NOVEL SECRETS (paperback or Kindle)

http://smarturl.it/novsec

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