Thursday, March 06, 2008


Last week I talked about the WIP--Work in Progress. But what do you do when you've finally finished sweating over the keyboard and pounding out that rough draft of your book?Why simple.

You rewrite it!

I can hear you all screaming now--WHAT?

It's true...and I'll let you in on a little secret--you have to rewrite it more than once.

No one writes a perfect book in the first draft. Okay, maybe someone out there can, but it's not me. What you're left with in the rough draft is hopefully the bones of a really great story.

All while I'm writing the rough draft I'm making notes on things I need to add or change or think about. I don't go back and fix them while I'm writing. You can drive yourself crazy doing that. And what if you go back and spend days changing something only to realize when you're finished that it no longer suits the vision of the book. All that work for nothing, and then there is the fact that it took you a lot longer to finish your rough draft.

By the time the rough draft is finished you'll have a better of who your character are--because at least one of them will probably surprise you--and you'll have the bare bones of your story, your conflict and your resolution.

Now is the time to go back and begin to rewrite with those factors in mind. It's time to work the magic!

I love to rewrite because it is now that you can add depth to the scenes. Ususally when I'm doing the rough draft, I want to get it all down before I forget what I want to say. *g* Sometimes, the details suffer. But I don't worry about it because I know I can fix it on the rewrite. This is where you stop, look and listen, adding details that will allow you to expand the world you are creating and make it more real.

This is also when you check for consistencies in the book--pesky little details that the reader will catch if you don't. Things like the placement of furniture, eye color, clothing details, etc... Do you need to add something earlier to make a later scene make sense? Example: I mentioned a collection of antique swords hanging over the fireplace in a room so when a character grabs one later in the book the reader won't ask, "Where the heck did that come from?"

As an author, I know my problem is sometimes not putting down on the page everything that's in my head. I know the swords are there, but if I don't write it down the reader won't know.

Grammer comes into play now. Word choice as well. I have a habit of using a particular word three or four times in the same paragraph. This is the time to rewrite, change the sentence structure and the wording.

When I'm done and finally have the manuscript as good as I can make it, I hand it off to my reader. When it comes back, it's full of red marks and questions. What about this? What about that?

Then it's back to the computer, taking into consideration all the questions and suggestions my reader has. Your reader has to be someone you trust, someone whose only goal is to make the book stronger and better.

Working through the manuscript, page by page, I fix things, checking every detail. When I'm finished and finally satisfied, then I'll send it off to my editor. Some books require another go round with my reader, sometimes two. Each book is different.

And if I'm fortunate enough for my editor to love the book enough to contract it, I know it's going to come back again with another load of edits to be done, sometimes several rounds, as well as final line edits.

So writing the first draft is only the beginning.

But it's worth the hard work when the book is finally released and it's the best that I can make it!


Kathy said...

I know what you mean, though on a much smaller scale. Years ago, I wrote a story. I have never tried to publish it and don't really intend to even though I think it's a good story. I only wrote it because the idea kept hounding me until I did. But, to this day I keep making changes here and there to make it better. And I'm the only one who'll ever read it. LOL

Tempest Knight said...

Great article, chica! You know, I'm such an obsessive compulsive person, I edit as I write.

Mechele Armstrong said...

You sound so much like me in writing! I do a lot of the thing.

Rachel.C said...

Hey NJ,

Got a question for you. Cast your mind back and think about your first book. Did you do the same things? Is this process one you formed from the beginning or after you were published?
What do you recommend to the writer who's almost at the point of submitting?
Do you have a CP or just the reader?
Okay, I'll stop with the twenty questions. LOL
Thanks for stopping by my blog and cheering me on. I'm hoping to have it finished by next week, it's flowing so well at the moment.
Catch ya around the playground.

LA Day said...

My last submission I rewrote about 5 times. Such fun:)

N.J.Walters said...

Rewriting is a necessary part of the process, Kathy, but there comes a time when you have to let go. You really should consider giving it one more look and then sending it somewhere. Who knows what could happen.

N.J.Walters said...

Thanks, Tempest. Every author has to find what works best for them.

But for myself, I can't edit while I write. It gets me too bogged down. I just jot notes to myself on a file card, or in the manuscript itself to remind me of what I need to change on the rewrite.

I have a fear of not finishing manuscripts. For me, it's always a race to the finish. When the rough draft is done, I relax and enjoy the process of turning it into something I'm really proud of.

N.J.Walters said...

Hey, Mechele. I'm all about getting through the rough draft and then relaxing and enjoying the rewriting process. I find the pressure is off me then and I can concentrate on the details.

N.J.Walters said...

Hey, Rachel. My first book I was afraid of not finishing. I think most writers wonder if they can actually finish a least I did.

When I started I was more bare-bones too. Just the facts. LOL I had to go back and add all the details--sights, smells, sounds, etc...--the things that make a story real.

I'm much better now at adding details as I write and I don't make the same mistakes I did when I began. (POV was a huge problem for me in my very first book I wrote over ten years ago) Practice does make the process easier.

Now, I KNOW I can finish a manuscript, so that pressure is no longer there.

Each author has to find what process works for them. Everyone is different. My mind tends to be very organized and straight-forward, sometimes adding details I don't even know I need until later. LOL

Some authors need to edit as they go to be able to write. The only thing I have to say about that is don't get so bogged down in editing and rewriting what you've done that you don't finish the project.

My husband is my reader. He's the only one who sees the manuscript before I send it to my editor. He's brutal with a red pen, but that's fabulous. He'll question choices, ask me why I did certain things, tell me when he thinks I cut a section too short, etc... He's really helped my writing develop.

Giving your manuscript to a reader can be a tricky thing. You have to trust them, and know that they don't have any other agenda than making the book better. That's not always the case. Friends may be kind when they should be constructive, etc... There needs to be a level of trust. If someone is tearing apart your writing or story, but not in a constructive way, then you need to go elsewhere.

The only advice I have it that when your manuscript is as good as you can make it, send it. Some of the best advice I've gotten about my writing has been from rejection letters.

And I don't mind the questions. Good luck with your writing!

N.J.Walters said...

LOL I hear you!

Some books are more of a pain than others, Laura. I don't want to even think about how many times I rewrote my first two books. Every now and again, I'd haul them out of the closet, dust them off and give them another go. LOL

It did pay off eventually as they were my first two Samhain books.

As for my EC books--Capturing Carly was the worst one for me. That book started as a novella, became a category, and finally a novel. LOL I kept having to rework and add scenes, but it was worth it in the end.

Anny Cook said...

Every Monday morning I read my manuscript from beginning to end, editing as I go. Once that's finished, I start that week's writing. I find that the process allows me a fresh perspective each week and I can check the flow of the story as I'm moving along. Have to admit that there aren't a lot of rewrites at the end.

When the book's finished, I put it away for two weeks and work on something completely different. Then after the two weeks, I go back and read/edit the book one more time.

Except for minor bits and pieces I've never had the luxury of a reader.

Shelley Munro said...

Great post, NJ. Your process sounds similar to mine, apart from the reader. I've been thinking about recruiting a couple of beta readers.

The rewriting stage is fun, bringing words to life and coloring in the scenes. I enjoy it.

N.J.Walters said...

That's an interesting way of working, Anny. I usually go back each day and read the previous few pages or the previous chapter (if the layoff has been over a weekend) before starting to write again.

I'm incredibly lucky that my hubby is willing and able to read my manuscripts.

N.J.Walters said...

It's hard to give your book to a reader, Shelley. At least it is for me. I know it's hard for me to send it out to someone other than my hubby.

I have sent a book to fellow author to have a look at, but it was an author who I trusted to give me the kind of feedback I needed. Her advice was invaluable.

But having a reader or two you trust is a wonderful thing.

Nicole Austin said...

I do this plus go back and change things while I'm writing since I have impulse control issues and can't force myself to wait. LOL!

N.J.Walters said...

LOL I've been known to go back and change one or two small things, Nic, but I do try not to look back until I'm done. I'm so afraid I'll stall if I stop writing.

Daisy Dexter Dobbs said...

Loved this post, NJ. I spend a lot of time rewriting (been doing some of that this morning) and making myself crazy when I make changes--which I do a lot--and then have to go through the whole damn book to make sure the things I changed are consistent throughout. Like this morning I caught the fact that the hero who I said was an only child now happens to have a brother (sequel in mind). I hate when I do that.

My last EC release was a total rewrite of a book that had been published elsewhere a few years ago. The original version had some mild sex in it but wasn't erotic by any means. I thought doing a rewrite would be a breeze and would be completed in no time at all. Hah! I agonized over it. It took me longer and was more difficult than writing a new book from scratch. I think part of the problem was that my writing style and skill level have changed since I first wrote it.

While the process drove me completely insane, I was very happy with the end result. I have another two books that need rewrites but they’re on hold until I can face going through that hair-pulling, screaming-banshee kind of madness again. LOL

N.J.Walters said...

I feel your pain, Daisy. Rewriting an older book is much harder than writing a new one. Trying to mesh the old style with the new is a challenge. I've done that with two books and don't want to have to do it again. LOL