Rewrite, again.

My manuscript has worn a path through the grass. I try to go in a slightly different direction, and I find myself on the same little trail where I started. The path is pretty, but I must kill my darlings. (Nothing like a good mixed metaphor to start the morning, I find the little start of revulsion refreshing.)

Affirmative, Captain. Rewrite protocol 6778 initiating…wait. That’s what I’ve done before. It’s time to break protocols. And yet. The Fucker is about not being escape who I am. I cannot revise my book into something I’m not. I’ve done that before. Narrow it down to one storyline. Have you met me? (Most of you haven’t, but let’s just say my “free-ranging” storytelling style that you see here has been edited slightly for coherence.)

Here are some revision techniques I’ve been considering:

Read through the manuscript and take out the sentences/paragraphs that you can pry from my cold dead hands. What wouldn’t I take out if Betsy Lerner herself called me on the phone for the express purpose of having me deleted said line/sentence/paragraph? See what I have left, and build an arc from there.

[Insert Noah pun.]

Teri says have a question and answer it with the book. Although I’ve done this, I’ve never sat with the question printed out next to me and looked at every single fucking paragraph and said “You. Yeah, you, paragraph about paragliding in the Arctic, do you match the overall arc, which is ‘Why do I no longer believe in the Easter bunny?’ No? Cut.”

Read Anne Lamott (for the first time), and cry.

Become a mechanic.

I know where the book starts and where it ends. Write about 9 things that got me to the event at the end of the book. (Suggested by Lovely Beta Reader 3.)

What techniques do you use for a major revision? Help.

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18 responses to “Rewrite, again.

  1. I set it aside for a month and then go back and read it like someone else wrote it and I only know parts of the plot.

    Granted, I’m probably not the person with the best grasp of the process…

  2. You asked for help. This probably won’t, but you asked, so I’m sharing.
    We get so In Our Heads doing this, so busy trying to make magic, that we forget to actually make it.

    When having trouble, I spend a day building the book. Physically. This ritual begins with one object that has meaning — okay, this explanation is going nowhere. Restart:
    Last time, I tied a length of ribbon around my head, the colour of the dawn. It crossed over one eye, a symbol of all things being only half seen. To that I tied a piece of rusted metal, for age and wisdom, and the tiniest piece of a broken earring, which stood for the important things we hear that seem so tiny, of such slight consequence, that we ignore them — also, this piece was so tiny, and not very well attached, I knew it would fall off somewhere during the day, and I’d never see it again, but know it was there. And it did, and I never did find it. But it’s somewhere, and it’s doing its job.
    That was just the first few minutes. The process went on and on for several hours, and by then Ms iSkirt’s home looked like a crazy-person had been playing in it for, umm, several hours. Well, maybe one had. There were trails of photos, cards with a single word on them arranged in the shape of a flower, four pairs of glasses looking down various improvised noses, a metal box of almost-hundred year old pencils with a harmonica placed on edge on top of it, to turn all the words into music…
    Yes, I’m an ADHD-addled bipolar lunatic, but before that day I’d stared at a half-book, unable to work on it for weeks. The day after that I wrote 600 good words, the next day some more, and it all kept on working. Today I wrote another 2000, and I have a story that’s come to life.

    Ignore this if you’re sane and normal, call me all sorts of things that mean moron — or try it, remembering that sometimes, before you make magic, you have to make magic come alive first.

    • Short of murder, divorce, and downright meanness, whatever works, right? I’m not sure I want to do a physical costume collage (although maybe doing something I would otherwise not do would be useful?), but I very much hear you on making the magic come alive.

  3. When I’m stalled on a creative project, I set aside completely the thing I’ve been laboring over. Set it physically aside, and cover it up. Then I change where and how I’m sitting or standing (or work in a new room entirely), and try to make the thing in as different a way as I can.

    Same broad destination, completely different road, new vehicle, and fresh shoes. The more I can change my physical space and posture, and the more I can disrupt comfortable habits, the easier I find it to change my perspective.

    Take a bus to some neighborhood you’ve never been to, find a coffee shop, and write The Fucker as a sonnet.

    Or something.

    • Do not tempt me to write The Fucker as a sonnet, because I will.

      But your advice is good. I was thinking of writing it in a notebook rather than where I can easily cut and paste my old text into a new document. If only my handwriting were a little better.

  4. Recently, I went off to a hotel one night to work on my dissertation. Upon check in, I realized I forgot my charger for my computer. Knowing I couldn’t spend the whole time on the computer, I send the document (a chapter) to my kindle (which had plenty of juice). I sat on the couch and read the doc on the kindle, while I took notes in my spiral notebook. In a sense, I outlined what I had written–not as I imagined it, but as it was actually written. This process provided a breakthrough (of sorts).

  5. Pingback: Radical Rewrite, Day 1 | Fangs and Clause

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