Monday, October 28, 2013

Getting down in the mud of rewriting and wrestling with the words.

I'm finally knuckling down in an attempt to rewrite my existing manuscripts on a systematic basis.

As an experiment, I took the first 5 pages of one of my books and added a sentence to every paragraph.

Sounds arbitrary.  But damn if it didn't improve it.  It improves the pacing and the depth and the overall sense of reality.

I've always felt that my biggest problem is that I rush my books a little.  I get into the story and just take off.  Nothing wrong with that, in fact, I think its a good technique to get a fast moving story down.

But I need to go back and fill in holes -- flesh out the story.  I'm not one of those writers who needs to go back and cut extra wordage.  I'm the opposite.

So this extra sentence idea (which in practice sometimes turns out to be a word here or there, or a word cut here or there, or two sentences or three) gives me a chance to look at how to improve the writing.  It's an excuse, really, a motivator to take a closer look.

I discovered this trick because there were times when I was just one or two sentences from adding another page to my manuscript and since my books are kind of on the short side, it doesn't hurt to add a page here and there.  (This is a stupid writer trick, since it is digital anyway and might not turn into another page on someone's ereader.)  So I'd look for a paragraph that was just a few letters from a new line and I'd look for something to add.

But what started out as a stupid writer's trick, actually seemed to improve the paragraph I worked on.  It added some telling detail that was implicit in the story but which I hadn't brought out.

I work first on characterization.  Is there something I can say that will strengthen the character?

Then I look at description.  Is there some telling detail I can add to story?

Finally, I look at explicating -- is there something that needs to be explained?  Or that will make the story clearer?

What happens in practice, actually, is that sometimes the extra sentence isn't really necessary and when I'm done I go back and take it out or move it.  But most often, I'm finding, it adds heft to the story.

I hate just staring at a page and trying to figure out how to improve it.  I just can't see it that way.  I sense that something isn't right, but I can't always figure out what it is.

So this technique allows me to get down in the mud of rewriting and actually wrestle with the words.


Duncan McGeary said...

Who knows, maybe when I'm finished I'll go back and look for a sentence that can be shortened, or a word taken out....

Just get in there among the words and make them better.

Duncan McGeary said...

I just need a reason to get down there in the mud.

There is this assumption about rewriting -- you know, you take your manuscript and rewrite it.

What does that mean?

It means, implicitly, make it better. But HOW?

I mean, if it was obvious, I would have done it in the first place.

It's like you're doing your best at a job and someone comes along and says, "Do it better!"

But HOW?

So I need an excuse, a reason, to start wrestling with the words -- something I can grab hold of in the slippery mud.