Tag Archives: rewrites

Editing (Rewriting) the First Draft

3 Jul

This month, I’m covering my editing process, so if you haven’t checked out the first part— My Editing Process Starts in My Writing Process—check it out. Today, I’m continuing the writing journey by explaining what happens after I finish writing a first draft.

1. Review Your Notes & Plans

Hopefully, you took a break between finishing your first draft and this step. Why? Because you’ve been really close to this manuscript for a while now, and you need to clear your mind in order to see issues you couldn’t see before. Think of writing a book like creating a painting. You were painting one bit, inch by inch, but now you need to step back to take a look at the whole picture. Once you step back—and reevaluate—make sure your notes are in order, so you can create a clear plan for moving forward. (Caveat: It’s okay if you don’t have a clear plan yet; you can rewrite your draft as much as you need to.)

2. Start with Sweeping Changes

I always start with my biggest changes. Is Chapter Three now Chapter Fourteen? I move it and make sure everything else is in chronological order. That way, as I move through the manuscript, I can take new notes on what is revealed and in what way. After that, I move through each chapter, along with those chapter notes, and tighten everything, including my prose. I’ll keep grammar in mind, but the focus here isn’t to nitpick every little thing but rather solidify my story. This is also where I’ll make big decisions—decisions that, I hope, will be final. Maybe I’ve been on the fence about that one side character being five or eight. This is where I’ll choose. That doesn’t mean it won’t change again, but I’ll try to stick with a decision throughout the final manuscript to see how it flows. If it doesn’t, I’ll try again. If I cut out whole scenes, I put them in an “Unused” folder, in case I decide to add them back later.

Much like you’d create a writing plan, create an editing plan and a deadline goal.

3. Address Weaknesses—Big & Small

Maybe you’re cringing at your kissing scenes. (Like I do, every time.) Or maybe you use the same word way too often. (We all have a crutch list, whether we know it or not.) Personally, I keep a small list of elements I know that I will have to look out for, no matter what. Example? I have a note to take my time on romantic scenes, because I often brush over them during first drafts. I go back and make sure to give each scene added attention to detail. I also keep a vocabulary sheet. This helps me track words I overuse and also reminds me of words I typically forget but are perfect words for certain situations. In some cases, I keep whole vocabulary sheets for sections of books, because the demanded vocabulary might not come as naturally at first. (I even keep notes on gestures, descriptions, etc., because it’s easy to fall back on the same notion over and over again.) Examples?

Crutch words to avoid: though, worse, curious, all the while, eyed

Gestures/Description Example:

  • Brow Action: pinched brow, lifted brow, raise one brow, a frown etched between her eyes, regarded her with a crease between his eyebrows, her brow narrowed, wiped his brow
  • Brow description: sparse, plucked, trim, thick, bushy, caterpillar.

Words about Light/Bright:

  • Prismatic: of, relating to, or having the form of a prism or prisms
  • Effulgent: shining brightly; radiant.
  • Phosphorescent: light emitted by a substance without combustion or perceptible heat
  • Scintillation: a flash or sparkle of light.
  • Refraction: the fact or phenomenon of light, radio waves, etc., being deflected in passing obliquely through the interface between one medium and another or through a medium of varying density.
  • Luster: a gentle sheen or soft glow, especially that of a partly reflective surface:
  • Lambent: (of light or fire) glowing, gleaming, or flickering with a soft radiance: lambent torchlight

Words relating to the ocean: Aquatic, briny, breeze, barrier reef, bays, beach, birds, body of water, breaking, breakwater, buoy, climate, coastline, crustacean, coral, current, depth, dock, diving, froth, tides, waves, sand.

This method isn’t for everyone, but I love having lists of words that I can reference for fun—and helpful—reminders. It both challenges me and aids me when I have that word on the tip of my tongue but can’t remember it.

Once I finish polishing up my drafts into something I absolutely love, I know I’m ready for a “final” edit. However, there’s one more step. When I get that polished draft in my hands, I send it to a few trusted beta readers. Why? Because what’s the point in perfecting the grammar if my beta readers point out half of it needs to be rewritten? Granted, this is going to differ for everyone. Some beta readers, for instance, are going to want grammar to be as perfect as possible before they read, because they are also looking for grammatical errors, but I tend to have different types of beta readers: ones who help me with the basic story and ones who will read later and help me polish the technical stuff (and ones who do both). The key is to communicate with your beta readers about what you’re looking for and when they want to participate in your writing process.

So send off the manuscript to your beta readers, get some feedback, write/edit some more, and soon, you’ll be on your way to the next and final step: the final draft.

Next week, I’ll cover editing your “final” draft.

Stay tuned,

~SAT

#MondayBlogs What Changes From First Draft to Publication?

16 May

What changes from first draft to publication? So much. In fact, nearly everything. But if the answer was that simple, an entire article (or even whole books on the topic) wouldn’t be necessary, so there’s more to this answer than it seems. Despite that, I insist you take my article with a grain of salt. In the end, everyone’s writing method is different, so everyone’s editing process will be fine-tuned to fit that particular project. Figuring out what works for you and what needs to be done is key, but I wanted to discuss a few topics that almost always change for everyone, so you can prepare yourself for the battle ahead. (It’s a fun battle, I promise.)

1. Word Count

Please, please, please be open to changing your word count. This is especially true for those writers pursuing traditional publication. For every genre, for every age group, there is a “perfect” word count range you’re basically expected to fall into when querying or pitching. Yes, there are exceptions. You might even become the exception during an editing process, but knowing how long or short your story should be shows your knowledge for the market and for what’s appropriate for your audience. That being said, I’m going to contradict myself and say it’s better to be true to the story than to fit a standard, but keep an open mind when rereading your work to see if you can fit the standard. Maybe a scene isn’t necessary. Maybe two scenes can be combined. You might even find yourself contemplating a cut of your favorite scenes or characters, and sometimes, that’s necessary. Keep it in a folder. Share it as an extra on Wattpad later. But making sure everything is vital is one of those tricky but true things a writer must overcome. I struggle with this myself! Almost all of my novels’ first drafts are 130,000 words, but I quickly figure out a lot of it was repetitive information or information not needed for a storyline. I might save it for a sequel or condense it somewhere else, but I tend to find reaching those ideal word counts isn’t that hard as long as I allow myself to let things go and move on. Letting go can be difficult though, so to help you with that, I suggest you read The Disposability of Ideas by Maggie Stiefvater. She is the author of The Raven Cycle and a mad genius when it comes to letting things go, even when you don’t want to.

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2. Characters

Names. Descriptions. Backgrounds. Even their existence might change. Oftentimes, writers will find that two characters in a draft can be combined to serve one purpose, or visa versa (one character could become two). Publishers are notorious for changing names—especially of protagonists—but I always suggest writers face this problem themselves before submitting. Don’t count on publishers choosing the perfect name, and try not to get attached in case they do change it in the end. I personally like to take notes of a characters’ background while also keeping a list of other names used in the story. This way, I make sure I’m using different types of names, including the first letter, the syllable count, the sound, etc.—all while staying true to their background as a person. As an editor, I receive a lot of manuscripts where all 20-some characters have similar sounding names, and unless that serves a purpose (like twins named closely together), it can get really confusing really fast. Of course, names is a shallow example of what can be changed, but I think it’s a good one since many writers get very attached to names quickly…and I’m about to expand on characters a little more in my last topic.

3. Major Changes and Rewrites

In the end, your plot, purpose, genre, or even cast could change completely. I, for one, just finished a manuscript that started off as a 62,000-word draft and ended up being a 92,000-word novel. Why? Because I was missing that much information the first time around. I wasn’t sure about my setting, I didn’t know my characters THAT well, and the secrets didn’t reveal themselves until the end. On top of that, I’m a plotter, not a pantser, so this was a painful book for me, but I followed my gut and did what I could and then, I faced my rewrites head-on. Let me use characters as an example for how much could change overall. A character’s gender, sexual orientation, secrets, lifestyle, background, and mindset could change simply because you didn’t TRULY know that character when you first set out to write the book (even though you thought you did). I recall Cassandra Clare discussing this at a panel I attended recently. For those of who are familiar with The Mortal Instrument series, she actually didn’t plan the big twist about Jace at the end, and she simply couldn’t understand why he acted the way he did for over 700 pages of the first draft. It wasn’t until she got there that she learned that vital aspect about his life, and so, naturally, she had to go back and rewrite the entire story to make his character real again. Don’t shy away from the right change, even if that change demands an entire rewrite. That change could be what makes your book.

The first draft is only the beginning, but that fact doesn’t have to be a scary thing. It can be an amazing thing. All writers go through it, and all writers come out of each stage happier than they were in the previous stages. Rewriting that 62,000-word draft I discussed above, for instance, was one of the best projects I’ve ever worked on. When it finally began to take shape, I was satisfied and proud of the work. Before I rewrote it, it simply sat on my computer collecting technology dust. Think of editing and rewriting as another writing adventure—one that will take you one step closer to publication—and what could be better than that?

Original posted March 20, 2014.

(On a side note, the original is VERY different than this article. I actually focused on a real novel of mine, so if you want to see a detailed account of what I went through with one novel, this is a great article to read.)

~SAT

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November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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What Changes From the First Draft to Publication?

20 Mar

With the release of Seconds Before Sunrise only one week away, I have been thinking about how much The Timely Death Trilogy has changed from the original version to the published novels. Since the second book isn’t released yet (but is available on Amazon) I thought it would be neat to share some of the major changes that happened in Minutes Before Sunset from the original version to the final publication. That way, when the second novel is out for a little while, I can share those changes, too.

Now, as many of you know, there are many drafts of one novel – sometimes a lot more than what writers want to be reminded of. The changes you are about to read about happened over a series of rewrites and edits, so that’s why there are so many changes. If I had to guess, there was one absolute rewrite and an uncountable number of edits. I had about six beta readers on the original versions of the trilogy, but I had three on the version read today. This isn’t my norm. This just happened because I wrote the novels between 2005 and 2009, so Minutes Before Sunset had seven years between writing and publication. I had many opportunities to refine it both as I was writing the last two novels and when I went back the last time before its second version was published. But – alas – here we are:

Length: Be open to cutting it down (or even expanding it!) 

For me, most of my novels are 136,000 words, but I almost always cut it down to 80,000 by often combining scenes and characters or by cutting them out completely. Minutes Before Sunset was my first instance where this happened, and maybe I’ll share cut scenes one of these days, but they might not even work anymore with the current storyline. I actually love cutting down the word count. It challenges me to create more meaningful scenes, and it definitely forces me to push the plot forward with numerous reasons (like action and detail) rather than having separate chapters for everything.

Character names: (It’s okay to change names. Just have a purpose)

Jonathon isn’t sure how he feels about this.

Pierce (shade form of Jonathon) isn’t sure how he feels about this.

I’m sure why this one stuck out the most to me, although my guess would probably stem from the fact that I still see them as their original character names. So why change them? I’ll get to that in a second. Below you’ll see a small list of original character names followed by their publication name.

Colton changed to Noah. Brent to Jonathon. Jonathon to Pierce. Brethan original had both a dark and a human name, but now he is only referred to by his Dark name. Jessica had a Dark name as well. And Eric’s previously girlfriend is almost impossible to remember how many changes she went through.

These changes happened for many reasons, but they mainly happened to keep a character distinct from one another. I couldn’t have a “Brent” related to a “Brenthan.” I mean, I could…at first, I wanted it that way because they were brothers, but I realized I could play on identities in a more psychological way rather than physical name. In the future, I will write more tips on naming characters, since I’ve done it before. Fun fact: a lot of editors/publishers changes character names to be more memorable. My publisher didn’t do anything like that, and I’m really happy I got to keep my “common” names for my human characters, like Eric, Jessica, and Teresa – because the normalcy of their names was intentional, allowing their paranormal names to be more effective, like “Shoman” “Bracke” or “Eu.”

A lot changes in editing, but it mainly happens during rewrites.

A lot changes in editing, but it mainly happens during rewrites.

Location: It can be really hard to change this, but it can also be worth it. 

Kansas – Originally, I wasn’t going to have a town at all. (Of course, there would be one, but it wouldn’t have a name, and I definitely didn’t want to mention the state.) At first, I wanted this town to seem like it could be anywhere, but then I realized it could seem that way while still being physically located somewhere, so after much consideration, I went with Kansas for many reasons, mainly because I don’t feel like many novels take place in the Midwest, especially paranormal or YA books.

Events: Don’t be afraid to add or take scenes away.

The Naming – the ceremony at the beginning of Minutes Before Sunset was actually added last minute. It was in the trilogy, but it was shown much later. I decided to show it in the beginning because I realized it could help ground the rituals of the Dark while also showing where the identities happen.

The ending – I actually don’t want to spoil too much, but the actions Jessica took in the final scenes with Darthon originally didn’t exist. The way to kill him wasn’t in it either. But she’s a fighter – more than most characters actually – and I knew in the editing that I had to include her in the fight. Plus, it allowed a foreshadowing for the third novel I’ve been dying to add without changing the story too much.

Other than that, a lot of dialogue changed and a few character appearances weren’t originally there. I even flipped a few chapters around and cut out other chapters completely. But it all ended up being the same story – I just needed to edit it to find out where certain scenes actually took place.

Perspective: Another difficult area to change.

At first, I showed Jessica’s shade side, but in the rewrite, I choose not to show her paranormal perspective in the first novel. She originally was named at the end of the first novel, too, but it didn’t feel right for reasons that will be explained in the third novel, Death Before Daylight. (Dun. Dun. Dun.) I also wanted to show a few scenes from Darthon’s perspective, but I never wrote one, because he’s a loud mouth. His identity would’ve been revealed in seconds. That doesn’t mean I didn’t consider it during rewrites, though. It just didn’t work out.

Other: Have fun with the small stuff, but it can shape a character.

I already wrote about cars, but Eric originally drove a 2009 Charger instead of an older version. Mindy had a more important role (I even considered having her completely aware of the Dark and the Light) in the first novel. And some of the characters’ descriptions changed. Surprisingly, the attitudes of the characters didn’t change a lot through the first novel, but they do later on! In my other novels, I have found that my characters have chanced dramatically from one version to the next, but this trilogy is an exception, probably because I wrote the second book first.

My changes in the first novel actually heavily impacted the changes in the second novel, and I am looking forward to being able to share that with everyone once the second novel has been released for some time. In fact, I think most manuscripts change a lot from the first draft to the final piece. I actually had to look a lot of my changes up in my notes from the first draft because it becomes difficult to remember everything that you discard or morph into something new.

What about you? What has changed from your first draft to your published work? I feel like this has an endless array of possibilities, but these are just a few of mine. I would love to hear about your novels and manuscripts. Share below!

~SAT

Minutes Before Sunset is on sale until book 2 releases March 27!

Minutes Before Sunset is on sale until book 2 releases March 27!

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