In this installment of Book Java I will be discussing my journey during the process of re-drafting my, not one, but two novels. (I don’t recommend writing two novels simultaneously-the universe just aligned itself that way for me, this time.)
I have come across three important points during my re-draft journey: 1. Re-drafting is not necessarily the same as editing. 2. Reference materials such as the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition and Stephen King’s On Writing are my very best friends. 3. The story I thought I was writing is actually working out to be something entirely different. (And I love that!)
So, my good friend, Natalie and I, were discussing the process of re-writes/re-drafts and how wonderful and horrible it all is. I mean, really, it has to be done because-let’s face it- that first draft was just the foundation work anyway. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are those of us who have what I call “the gift,” in which magical words align beautifully and succinctly on the page one at a time until the perfect manuscript is written in one fell swoop-or one attempt-and require minimal edits. I applaud you, but- that’s not me…yet.
To my first point-the re-draft is not necessarily the “editing.” What I’ve learned is that after the last keystroke on the first draft, the next thing to do is to make sense of everything that came before it. There’s the read-to actually see what you’ve written, the red pen-to make remarks, the highlighter-to accentuate the better parts and the black Sharpie-to X out all those darlings. This is not the same as an edit. To me, editing is the polish stage, the wrinkling out the little kinks, the act of fine-combing line by line. Which leads me to my second point:
As I mentioned above, I use the Chicago Manual of Style and frequently reference Stephen King’s On Writing. The “necessarily” part of my editing statement goes to the fact that the re-draft, and of course the first draft, should be as technically sound as possible. I study the manuals because the more sound you write technically and grammatically, the easier it will be to edit later. Consider all the worry you have with plot, character arc and world building; writing solid takes some of the editorial edge off.
My third point and probably the most important in my process thus far is that the story I thought I was writing, guess what? Er, it’s changed a bit. And that can be good…or it could be bad. But usually it’s great! Between the read, the red-pen marked up pages and the poor death of my darlings, I’d come to realize that, in one of my novels, chapter five was really…drumroll…chapter one. Yes, a whole four chapters down re-draft road was a detour leading me, miraculously, back to the beginning. This created a stronger beginning and set the pace for the rest of the story. Also, I found that, in both novels, only having one p.o.v. was not going to cut it. So, I changed it to 3rd person, alternating p.o.v. between the heroine and hero. It’s a little harder to achieve because I have to be careful not to swirl p.o.v’s, but the process has been rewarding.
As Natalie and I reigned in our ideas and volleyed our epiphanies to one another we realized that, yeah, re-drafting/re-writing is a laborious rite of passage for a writer but when it finally comes together and you have a finished, polished novel from a spark of your imagination: Euphoria!
I’m curious: What’s your re-draft journey like? How many re-drafts do you write? And are there any quirks to your process?
Also, if you haven’t already, please join the twitter monthly writing challenge. Right now we are at #aprwritingchallenge. And, if you’d like to start fresh next month, join us at #maywritingchallenge beginning May 1st. Hope to see you there. As always, Happy Writing!