Blogger: Michelle Ule
Sitting in for the traveling Mary Keeley.
You don’t have to be a writer very long before you discover the need to rewrite your work.
The realization may come from a beta reader, a friend, your own fresh eyes or maybe even an editor.
It can be humiliating.
How do you even start?
Here are four tips on how to start rewriting a novel:
1. Accept the manuscript needs work.
For many of us writers operating on just a margin of ego that frequently slips away as easily as the sun, it’s hard to admit your project isn’t perfect.
People use a variety of ways to write a novel: the meticulous plotter (essential for thriller and mystery writers), the general planner who waves her hands and says “something will happen here,” and the seat-of-the-pants writers who miraculous find their story as they write.
All the methods have advantages and probably are linked to the author’s personality, but one thing remains–
We all need help at some point and our manuscript often will show it.
So, don’t be embarrassed, accept the fact and move forward.
You can’t fix a problem if you refuse to recognize it.
2. Step away from the manuscript for awhile and then read it quickly
This is always helpful advice, whether you know you need to rewrite or not. Time gives us distance–we forget what’s in the story, both the good and the bad.
Often, it’s that read after time has passed that enables us to recognize it may not be the great American novel afterall.
We read “fresher,” more like a “real” reader. Zipping through the manuscript–reading it for pleasure not to find problems–enables us to get a better feel for what works and what doesn’t work.
Look for the following and mark them, as you read:
*out of character
* rabbit trail
and so forth.
3. Find a reader/ pay someone who understands writing technique to critique for you.
When friends, spouses and other readers have been kind but not enthusiastic and, worse, don’t look us in the eye, we know we have a problem.
“Normal” people often lack the technical skill to explain what they think the issues are. In a case like that, we need to find either writer friends or possibly a professional editor to help us.
Critique groups can help, too.
Sometimes paying a professional to read through the manuscript, or even the first few chapters, can clarify things for us and can be well worth the money–but, they also can be painful.
4. Beg your readers for their negative reactions and listen to them.
My father-in-law used to famously say an articulate enemy can be better than a loving friend.
As an aerospace engineer, he needed someone to criticize his WORK but who was not afraid of jeopardizing their relationship.
We need to know where the problems are in our baby, er, manuscript, so we can improve it.
Of course it will hurt, but we can’t fix the problem if we don’t know what it is.
Indeed, we should always ask for what our readers specifically didn’t like–that can be a clue to what the real problems are.
We all need feedback.
5. Bonus! Realize all the great writers write more than one draft. Here are a few reminders:
Ernest Hemingway–who rewrote The Old Man and the Sea umpteen times, in long-hand!
Anne Lamott–everyone knows how she describes first drafts! 🙂
Madeleine L’Engle–who famously said, “I can only write so far and then I need an editor to help me.”
Have you ever needed to rewrite a manuscript?
(Ha! Just checking)
How do you determine what needs to be changed to make a manuscript work?
4 Tips to start rewriting a manuscript. Click to Tweet
Get me rewrite! 4 ways to get going. Click to Tweet