Rewrite, Revise, Repeat

As you can see from the progress bar on the right I had a pretty decent first week of final revisions on Surreality. For those who aren’t word count inclined I’m done with two chapters out of twenty.

It hadn’t really hit me until I was a couple of days in that it has been a little while since I’ve been dealing with fiction. A month or so prior I did a complete reread of the book, taking notes on every chapter on changes I’d like to make, and on what I’d like to keep mostly untouched. But actually getting going took some doing.

This rewrite has a number of subtasks that require varying degrees of rewrite, reworking, or just touching up scenes. For starters I’m changing the main setting of the book from one city to another. I’m making tweaks to the mystery aspects of the story to make certain motivations clearer and to hopefully throw the reader down a couple of rabbit holes. And I’m removing references to a certain noir detective movie of the 30s and 40s but trying to maintain a noir feel to the work.

Here’s my one piece of writing advice learned from the first week of revision (and countless hours before this):

Nothing is sacred.

Put another way, you can change anything, and should feel free to do so with the important caveat that the change needs to actually make the story better. Now I have definitely experienced the phenomenon of tweaking a work repeatedly to keep it fresh for myself, even if it is already working. Sometimes random new ideas need to be poured into the next book and not the one you’re working on.

But in general I think it’s a good idea in revision to be open to the idea of significant changes, even in what you think will be your final draft. Otherwise, the book would already be ready to send out.

And I’ve been trying reading the book out loud to myself as I work. This is more effective at correcting mistakes and flow of dialog than I’d care to admit, though I have not always been a big fan of it. I think the main reason is that I don’t do a very good job of differentiating characters and narrative with my voice and so everything sounds to me kind of robotic even if the prose is great. I need to work on that if I want to read stories to my children (or record any audio books). It might get a bit tricky to read passages back to myself while the wife’s around (not because of her but because of me being a little self-conscious), but I’ve got a few tech tips I might share for turning your book into an audio book you can listen to anywhere.

I do think the slower pace, 800-1000 words a night, is helping. Partially I’m not up to my fighting weight when it comes to punching out prose in a matter of minutes. But more importantly writing a little less each night gives me time to really think about what I’m doing, even to correct work from the night before.

Let’s see how week two goes.

What’s your revision process?

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2 Comments

Filed under Writing

2 responses to “Rewrite, Revise, Repeat

  1. “Nothing is sacred” is extremely good revision advice, and one that many writers (myself included) have trouble following. I’ve also heard this phrased as “murder your darlings.” If there’s anything in your book that you think is especially clever, take a hard look at whether it really helps the story, or just makes you feel smart. (I have a hard time with that one too.)

    Reading the story aloud is great too. As I write, I read aloud to Betsy, which is even better for identifying trouble spots. If I’m reading something to her and thinking “ugh I wish I could skip this” then maybe I need to fix it.

  2. Pingback: My (Current) Revision Process | [BTW] : Ben Trube, Writer

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