A week ago, I decided to do something about the pile of unedited novel manuscripts slumped on my hard drive, staring up at at me with their sad puppy-dog eyes. I publicly proclaimed that I would take one of these neglected beauties out, give it solid re-write, and try to find it a good home.
The first step to rewriting is to do nothing. Just let the text lie fallow for a while so you can gain some distance and come at it as a reader, not as the person who just poured blood into every word on the page.
Since the printout of the manuscript I chose has literally been sitting in a box in the basement for the past year, I think it’s safe to say, in regards to the first step, “Check.”
The second step (for me, at least) is to do pass on the general writing. Yes, we’ll fix a few typos and spelling mistakes here, but it’s mostly about sentence structure and word choice — steps 3 & 4 from the guide I posted last week.
When I pulled the manuscript from its temporary tomb, I was surprised to see that it was already covered in pen marks. Had I already started this step? I thumbed through the whole thing: there was blue ink all the way to the end. Thank you, Past Me!
But when I got to the computer, I realized that Past Me was a lazy editor who had marked up the hard copy, but never actually implemented any of the changes. As it turns out, this is actually a good thing. Instead of moving on to the next step, I have to carefully re-read the manuscript for the first time in a year in order to insert the edits from the printout. This has led to finding things to fix that Past Me overlooked (that incompetent buffoon!), but this time I’m putting them straight into the soft copy.
That’s where I am at the moment. I’m about a quarter of the way through the manuscript, and have been pleasantly surprised at how not-terrible it is. I do fear that I have too many characters (when the text literally says, “…and there were two others, but she couldn’t even get their names” you might have a problem), but that’s what the literary device is for: killing darlings.
But I’m nowhere done yet. Anyone have any good rewriting links? Tips from your own past self? Words of wisdom shared by ethereal beings that came to you in a dream? I’ll take it all!