The Dreaded Rewrite

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As I’m finalizing chapter 17 part 2 for Clash of Tides, I needed to go back and reread old chapters.

Like most writers who reread their first drafts, the cringe-worthy errors got to me. There is so much editing that needs to be done, I just want to crawl in a hole and die. Of course, I know that most, if not all, writers go through the same thing. However, since I put my first drafts online to get feedback, it bothers me a lot. I know, I know, it’s part of the writing process but still, ugh.

Not only did I see all the errors that needed to be fixed, I also started analyzing why it didn’t do so well on Wattpad as I hoped. I made a mental list and narrowed it down to the following:

  1. The grammar, word usage, and minor spelling errors – I know this can’t be helped, but gah, it still sucks.
  2. Having a black protagonist – I don’t think a lot of readers on Wattpad are interested in reading about a black female protagonist. Then again, I don’t know for sure.
  3. Mature scenes – While Clash of Tides isn’t all sex, it does have some mature scenes and I know that can turn readers off. Another one of my books, 9/Nine Realms, will have torture scenes, graphic, but not like GOT graphic.
  4. Repetitive dialogue and thoughts – yeahhhh, I know my writing suffered from this. I do plan to edit Elena’s internal thoughts for the second draft.
  5. The belief that stories about merman are bad –  Yes, I’ve heard that books with merman have a bad reputation. I wish they would give my book a chance, though. It’s not that bad =)

I’ve considered changing some of these things, but I won’t change my protagonist. The fact Elena is a black woman is central to the story. I’m hoping that didn’t affect Clash of Tides readership, but I can only wonder. Lastly, there are the graphic scenes. Many of the scenes further Elena’s character development, so yeah; I can’t really get rid of them. The graphic scenes show what that time period was like for women in Elena’s occupation, so I don’t want to betray my vision.

Yes, the dreaded rewrite is almost coming, so I need to prepare for it. In one of my writing books, a famous author said she rewrote the story as she finished up various chapters. I don’t know how she did it because thinking of the rewrite is already scaring me. I can make the story better, or worse.

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11 thoughts on “The Dreaded Rewrite

  1. Editing is a part of the process. It’s inevitable, and first drafts are always awful. But after some editing, the story starts to shine. And don’t worry about having a black protagonist. As I said before, if wattpad isn’t the place for your story, it will be just fine elsewhere. My third novel, told from the main protagonist’s best friend, has a black woman as the heroine. Not only does she enter into a relationship with a Hispanic man, but the guy is also a werewolf, and she’s only a human, at least she thinks she is. I’ve never once heard anything bad about her status as a black woman or her interracial relationship. And the downloads and ratings back that up. ❤

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  2. Here are some tips I live by when editing/rewriting:

    Number 1, start with easy fixes, typos, cutting adverbs, etc. This is called running your spell check. Running spell check is not what revision is. Spell check is only the first step in your 21 step revision process, so don’t confuse the two.

    Number 2, omit needless words. Look at your sentences. Is every single word necessary? The word single wasn’t needed in that last sentence. Look for any opportunity to cut out words you don’t need.

    Number 3, cut places where you’re doing the reader’s thinking for them. This falls under telling and not showing. If a reader needs to understand a particular point they should be shown it in the scene so they can draw there own conclusions. If you need to tell them something, write it again, and again, until you’ve shown them instead.

    Number 4, cut stage direction, belaboring the obvious, clumsy back story etc. Stage direction are lines that focus on where a character’s standing or how many physical movements they need to take to get to the kitchen. Don’t walk me through every single step a character takes. Get me inside their head.

    Number 5, insure consistent character motivation. If a character does something that’s out of character, it should be because your character has evolved in your story, not because you forgot what that character acts like.

    Number 6, has something happened? An action, a concrete action by the end of the first paragraph of your story.

    Number 7, is my story coherent? Are my details both physical and emotional, consistent throughout my story?

    Number 8, are there scenes? Are they clear? Are they complete scenes? Did I hit all five points on my scene checklist? Am I showing and not telling in these scenes?

    Number 9, do I start each chapter in each scene with something and that’s not an effective way to tell a story.

    Number 10, am I writing in active voice? Have I avoided passive voice and parallel construction, using the same words over and over? Check out Strunk and White’s Elements of Style for a more detailed description of passive voice, but if you’re using any of the following phrases, there is, there are, it is, made his way, you’re probably writing in passive voice.

    Number 11, is setting working? Setting should be an integral part of your story and contribute to our understanding of it. If it isn’t, then your story could be set anywhere

    Number 12, are my characters acting believably? Do they each want something? Do each of my characters have believable flaws? Your characters need to do things that a reader believes they are both physically and emotionally capable of doing. They should also be flawed, because flawed characters usually desire something. Perfect characters don’t want anything because they have everything they need already.

    Number 13, are the transitions between my paragraphs and sections clear? Sloppy transitions kick the reader out of your story by reminding us where the scenes in your story are.

    Number 14, does my story fit together the right way? Does it follow the five act structure? Action, background, development, conflict and end. If your story doesn’t have the right structure, your story won’t make sense to a reader.

    Number 15, did I explain to the reader every risk involved for each of my characters? Characters that don’t risk anything stay at home on the couch. Characters that take risks give us a story.

    Number 16, did I explain to the reader the consequences of these risks? The better we understand what a character risks, the better we can empathize with that character, and want to follow them along.

    Number 17, does every story of my sentence deepen our understanding of character or advance the plot? Every sentence of your novel has to do this. Any sentence that fails this simple test, should be cut.

    Number 18, is my second draft 10% shorter than my first draft?

    Number 19, am I ready to discard pages or entire drafts that are simply not working instead of trying to find endless ways to jerry rig them? Just because you worked on something for a year, or five years, or 15 years, doesn’t mean it’s good. I say this as someone who worked off and on, on my second book for close to 18 years. Don’t hold onto something and patch it together with duct tape just because you’ve been working on it a long time. If you aren’t doing significant revisions each year you’re working on your book, it’s not getting better. If it’s not getting better, it’s time to toss those pages away.

    Number 20, in Stephen King’s craft book On Writing, when he revises he says I’m looking for what I meant. Is what you meant in your head as clear as it can be on the page? When you’re writing you have a picture in your head that you’re trying to capture. Have you translated that picture in your head onto the page?

    AND NUMBER #21, ARE READER’S NO LONGER CONFUSED?

    I hope this helps when the time comes for the rewrite!

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    • Thanks so much! This is awesome advice! You have a good process for doing your rewrites; I really need to get a process, too. Clash of Tides will be my first rewrite for a story, so I’m kind of scared to do it. I loved Stephen King’s book on writing, it was so helpful. Thanks for responding to my post and offering your wonderful words of wisdom^^

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      • Honestly, it’s borrowed knowledge from a writer friend who borrowed it from her instructor. Like you, my first rewrite is in the works. But I make sure to follow some of this checklist when doing basic editing. :3

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  3. If I could offer you this encouragement….I remember seeing iconic actor, Sidney Poitier, on Oprah (if memory serves)–and he got choked up talking about his early days in acting. He was supporting a family and turned down an acting role because he refused to be complicit in perpetuating racial stereotypes of black people. Now, that is integrity. And, the fact that, decades later, the memory moved him to tears, speaks to the profound and powerful courage needed to buck the system and to stay true to yourself. Your gift transcends the superficiality of limited minds…keep going….trust your heart and your truth 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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