Monday, March 21, 2011

Rewrites and Edits Step by Step

Completing a first draft to a novel is a huge relief. By the time an author has reached this milestone, she's spent quite a bit of effort on research, character and plot development and tons of little things which go into completing a novel. She may have spent weeks, months or even years on her first draft.

Unfortunately, the relief of first draft completion is often short lived because the savvy author knows rewrites and edits to a manuscript can take as long as it took to put together the first draft.

In order to minimize the time necessary to make a manuscript just right, it sometimes helps to follow a few organizational steps which can make rewrites and edits a bit less overwhelming.

1. Let the manuscript set for at least a month. Two months would be even better. Putting time between the completion of the first draft and the beginning of first rewrites can give an author better perspective toward his project.

2. When picking up the manuscript to give it a good read through, it can be helpful for the author to look at it as though it were the work of someone else. The more objective and critical he is of the book, the better he'll do in finding flaws and areas which need further work.

3. To keep things as simple as possible it helps to examine scenes one at a time. Does each scene have a goal? Does each scene drive the plot forward? Does each scene end in a way which compels the reader to want to read more?

4. It is important to notice the way characters behave in each and every scene. Are they being true to whom they are?

5. Do turning points, the dark moment and the climax come at appropriate points in the plot?

These are a few suggestions which may help in the initial read through and rewrites.

Later, after the rewrites of plot/character are finished, come the edits. Here the writer notices such things as:

1. Character inconsistencies (Joe's blue eyes on p. 25 and green ones on p. 152).

2. Poorly written sentences or paragraphs.

3. Redundancies--overusing a word.

4. Repetition of circumstances, words, phrases.

5. Any overlooked English errors (their for they're, two for too, etc)

It's a good idea to let time lapse between rewrites and edits so the author can maintain a high level of objectivity each time she reviews her project.

Completing a first draft does have its moment of bliss, but it is soon followed by the reality of the hard work it takes to get a novel into first-rate condition.

And nothing short of our best book is owed to our readers.

Happy spring!


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author

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