Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Red pencil time?

In his book Plot & Structure James Scott Bell suggests we tell ourselves the following before we slash our first draft with a red pencil:
  • Rewriting strategically is only going to strengthen my book.
  • Rewriting strategically is fun because I know what to do for each step.
  • Rewriting is what separates the real pros from the wannabes.
  • I don't wannabe a wannabe. I wanna be a pro. (I love this one! Must be said while stomping your feet.)
Bell suggests we print the manuscript on paper, then find a quiet place to power through the book. He marks up his manuscripts using the following symbols:
  • A checkmark for pages where he feels the story is dragging.
  • Parentheses around incomprehensible sentences. (Huh? I have those? Yep.)
  • A circle in the margin where he thinks material needs to be added.
  • A question mark for material he thinks might need to be cut. (My poor darlings!)
My manuscript is still in cool-down mode, but I've sharpened my red pencil & I'm ready to make the book better.

How about you? What revision tips can you share?

photo credit: flickr

31 comments:

  1. If you haven't already, read your work aloud. You'll be surprised how many things you catch that way.

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  2. Sometimes it helps to do several passes, focusing on one or two issues each time. It can get overwhelming to try to do everything at once. Right now, I'm doing a pass to up the emotion.

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  3. Get a friend to help read the dialogue out loud.

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  4. I print it off like he suggests and then I read it out loud too like Alex does. It's amazing how much you catch that way:)

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  5. Yes, printing it off definitely makes a difference! I'm going to do a post on revisions soon so this one is such great motivation. I use different colored pens for subplots and make index cards for each chapter. Good luck!! So excited that your pencil is sharpened and ready to go:)

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  6. For me, letting the WIP sleep on its own for a while works wonders. I return with new eyes, ideas and lack of attachment that allows me to cut and make changes effectively.

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  7. You mean we have REVISE??? *gasps* He he he. Just kidding!! ;D

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  8. Change the font. It helps change your mindset when you go in to read it again.

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  9. I was just about to suggest changing the font when I saw JEFritz said it first. I love the idea of printing it out but I don't want to waste the paper or ink. I've found that changing the font works well for the first run-through, then I have my critique group look at it. They see things I'd never see.

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  10. Thank you for sharing these with us. Changing the font and reading the text -- especially the dialogue -- out loud definitely makes a difference.

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  11. Hemingway once said that the first draft of anyting is s***. Keep writing, you are going to make it!

    Jane

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  12. Glad you saw my post today:)

    Now relating to your post...
    -Always be patient and keep in mind that nothing can be done to perfection...especially the first time around.
    -Always print out chapters of your book and edit them over --yes, with your red pens.
    -Outline if you're able to because let's face it: Sometimes the right words don't come to you.
    -Remember you're not alone and you have lots of support. None of us want editing and whatnot to drive us totally insane. (I know you've got a great support system at home.)
    -Editing is necessary so you can hate it but remember to take it seriously and stay focused.

    Hope my suggestions here and there were helpful. Continue to write, Julie.
    --Lindsey

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  13. You know I've tried editing off paper and I just don't seem to be able to do it well unless I'm working in small chunks. But if I go a chapter at a time, I can stay focused. :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  14. Love the wannabe line!!! :)

    I've gone through mine with all kinds of red pens and am starting on the rewrite!

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  15. I LOVE my red pen. Editing is my happy place. But, I give my red pen a rest now and then and use different colored highlighters to highlight any time I mention a character, different colors for different characters. That way I can easily make sure I didn't screw up the details about them, make sure they are making an appearance enough or not too much, and can decide how necessary they are.

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  16. I've heard printing your ms in a different font than you wrote it in will give you new eyes for the story. I haven't tried it yet, tho. :)

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  17. Red freaks me out, so I have a special purple pen. Revising is also a great excuse to go to Office Max and buy multi-colored highlighters. I print and do a silent read first. For the next pass I flip on my "delusions of grandeur" switch and pretend I'm recording the audio book. So many mistakes, so little time.

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  18. Those are great tips!

    I agree with Melinda - I do it in stages looking for specific things each time. Right now I'm doing searches on my trouble words like "was", "were", "that", etc. Also checking for sensory details, setting details, and character voice.

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  19. Man, I've GOT to get this book! Everyone post excerpts and they all always feel like he's speaking directly to me. Thanks for sharing, Julie! I'm in the middle of revision and am hating it. Definitely bookmarking this post, friend!

    Cheers,
    Jackee

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  20. Good luck with your rewrite! They're tough, but I actually love them. :)

    One thing I do to help with the plot is to label each scene or chapter with a quick description of the scene (I do it during the first draft). Then, before I start rewriting, I take these descriptions out, put them in order in a separate document, and I've got a quick outline of exactly how my plot flows. When I have that outline in front of me, it's easy to see where my plot is lagging. I then rewrite my outline, indicating where I'm moving/removing/adding certain scenes, and my rewrite is made much easier!

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  21. Good luck with your revisions, Julie. Look out for repetitions, dialogues that do not move the scene (especially long dialogues). Search for long paragraphs of back story and lengthy descriptions.

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  22. I check each scene for a clear character goal, and an inner and outer turning point. This helps me make sure the scene really needs to be there.

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  23. These are all awesome suggestions. One thing I do while I'm working off a printed copy, when I get to a spot that needs major expanding or revising or rewriting, I mark it with a number and then write the new changes in a notebook - marked with the same number. When I'm ready to type it all into the computer and I get to that spot, I just go to the corresponding number in the notebook. =o)

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  24. Ouch- printing it! I change things so fast and wow- I'd go through a lot of paper. Sounds harsh and fun

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  25. I was traumatized as a kid with the red pen so I use a green pen. Ha.

    Printing out page and reading aloud catches a LOT of things for me.

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  26. I love all the tips everyone shares and these are great ones. I used to live in fear of red pencils....now, I'm looking forward to them!!!!

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  27. these are great tips...I also print it off and read outloud. And I ask a few writer friends to read and review too and to be as brutal as they can.

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  28. I used to dread revisions, but now I actually like them. Have a plan for each round--don't expect to get the whole book done in one pass--that's what I've learned.

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  29. I say that about woodworking, that the difference between amateurs and professionals is the amount of time they spend sanding and finishing their work.

    Anyone can slap it together, but it takes a pro to make it look ready for the showroom floor!

    Same for your books. It's the amount of finishing you give your product that makes it salesworthy.

    - Eric

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  30. Oooh, you've reminded me I need to read his book! I've had it for months now and the book list has kept climbing...

    I do love the editing process, but I'm not as solid on the pre-planning stages. I'm more of a pantser. Sigh.

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