Monday, December 26, 2011

Tip of the week: How to do major rewrites

Major rewrites was something alien to me. I must admit having had the huge task before me for the first time, I had my struggles in the beginnings. I get easily confused if you give me three sheets of paper, let alone doing it on screen. Everyone has a different system and I received some advice which, frankly, didn't help me. I never edit on paper, for it doesn't have a better effect than on screen, at least not for me. I'm talking major edits: deleting huge chunks, moving/rewriting/adding scenes or characters. That's nothing you could do on paper, at least I can't.

Since I'm an editor myself, I often make my clients do the same, but they have an advantage: I tell them where or what to cut or add or even how. So they have guidance. Something I didn't have. Okay, that's not entirely true; I had a few wonderful people reading the book and giving feedback. They confirmed where I thought the book might need work. And I can officially say that, at some point, the book bored me stiff. And I couldn't even blame someone else for it, no, it was all my fault. Luckily, I followed my own advice and didn't touch the book for several months, which results in me reading with (almost) fresh eyes and that again resulted in my deleting an impressive 9k. 

Here's how I tackled the massive undertaking:
First, I copied the complete book into a new document and saved it
Then I read through it and made comments on what to add along the way (highlighted them in yellow) and deleted all the boring bit and bobs.
A few things I wanted to keep to use later, I copied into another document named miscellaneous
When I had finished reading the whole book, I started to rearrange scenes; I had one in the end that I wanted to place smack bang in the middle of the book and did exactly that.
That drastic move meant I needed to iron out the seams so it wouldn't confuse the reader later.
After that I went to find the yellow highlighted comments and added a scene, character or prose, depending on what the comment said. I wrote those in a new document to make corrections easier.

This concept seems to work for me and I will use it in future, if I ever need to do a heavy rewrite again. I'm not finished yet, but I refilled 2k of the 9k I lost. I might not make the 76k I had before, but it doesn't matter. 72k is a good size, too. As long as it's a tight and enjoyable read.

How do you go about it? The same? Completely different? What's your secret weapon?

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