Editing Notes: Another Rewriting Option

In my efforts to rewrite #rockstarnovel, I’ve stumbled across a new method that I might like better than side-by-side drafting–using different font colors!

Either make a copy of the original all at once, or paste in chapters as you go, then select all the text and change it to red.

This is the original draft. Red means it’s “wrong” until I’ve assessed it. Does it need changes? Time to read it and find out.

This is a section I’ve rewritten. It’s pretty now. It’s how I want it (at least for the moment) so I can consider it “done”. It may still have typos or need small fixes—this isn’t the line-editing stage—but the story content is solid.

It’s okay if you highlight long sections of your original draft and switch them from red to black without making changes. Maybe you worked hard on it the first time and you got it right. Maybe you’ve got significant changes coming elsewhere, but this bit still works.

Starting with red and black is the basic idea, but if you need more colors to signify different issues, you’ve got them. Here I’m using blue to mean “note to self,” basically. Reminders about what changing this, here, will mean for something down the line—I could even jump ahead to that point where I know a new change will be and leave myself a note, which will stand out nicely in the sea of red.

And speaking of red, leaving something in red isn’t a bad thing. If you’re not sure what changes you need yet, how you want to word something, whatever, it can stay red. Come back to it later!

Now that I’ve tried it for the first few chapter of #rockstarnovel, it seems like an obvious system, a great visual shorthand for what I’ve worked on and what I haven’t. And I’m not constantly switching between two documents, because the original text is all there for me to see in the rewrite–at least until I fix it and delete whatever I don’t need, which is fine, because it’s still in the first draft document.

Will it work for everyone? No. Colorblind writers won’t get anything from this method, and I’m sure plenty of other people prefer more complex or robust rewriting systems–this is a quick, bare-bones approach. But for fast drafters (or writers who would like to be) and people who hate to print out their drafts for revising and editing, this could be the solution you’re looking for.

Let Me Tell You a Story #24: Another Running Analogy


When I started this blog last summer, I wrote about my running. A lot. More than I probably needed to.

But I’m heading out later today to go on my second run of the new year. The first was on an unseasonably warm day back at the end of February, when spring peeked its pretty head out for a day then retreated again for six weeks.

I know I’m going to get blisters. I always do when I haven’t been running for months–I don’t run in winter for two major reasons:

  1. I work on my feet at my day job and don’t want to risk a slip-and-crash on ice;
  2. I run barefoot-style, and look at those shoes! I’d get frostbite!

So it takes my body a few runs to adjust to the running routine again.

And apparently, the same thing has happened to my brain.

Remember how I said I loved that new rewriting method I tried out?

Apparently, it made my brain forget for a while how to write entirely new bits of story. Over the past week and a half, I’ve been struggling through the space left by five chapters I had to cut 90% of, to rewrite that entire plot arc from the foundations up. And in some cases, the foundations, too.

It might be the hardest slog I’ve done on this book thus far. I felt slow and stupid and sluggish.

And then, yesterday, I was presented with the cherry on top, figuring out how to transition back into the original draft, picking up (mostly) where I left off after the cuts. It wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped, and this morning, I toughed it out, writing the bridging chapter to bring my new storyline back to where it needed to be.

I was hoping I’d be done with this rewrite by now, so I could go back to the beginning of the new draft and work on the technical edit–spelling, filler words, repetition, all that fiddly stuff.

I’m not. And it’s frustrating.

Now, I need this run. Even though I know I’ll be slow and sluggish, and my body will ache like hell tomorrow. Especially because I know that.

If I can retrain my brain, then I can retrain my body, and in a few weeks when I’m back in the running habit, it will be something I look forward to instead of The Dreaded Exercise.

Struggle is good for us.

But so is taking a break from rewriting, when the words go fuzzy in my brain and I need music and the feel of concrete under my feet.

Work hard, my fellow writers, but not too hard. Go enjoy the sunshine!

Let Me Tell You a Story #22: Trying Something New

rewrite process

With my first novel under my belt, I’ve been through the rewriting process before. Last time around things got complicated, but this time, hopefully, I can keep myself more streamlined.

That doesn’t mean I’m not open to trying new methods, though. I’ve been reading up a little on other authors’ rewriting styles, and I stumbled upon one that gave me a light-bulb moment.

I’m typing up an entirely new draft, side-by-side with the old one.

It sounds like a lot of work. And it is. But I drafted this novel so fast during NaNo. I’ve always been stronger at dialogue and character interaction the first time around, and weaker on setting and description. I don’t always “see” where my characters are, just what they’re doing. So the story, as it stands, has a lot of talking-heads passages where nothing much happens except dialogue.

I feel like this process is tailor-made for my weaknesses. Armed with my notes from the re-read, I can zoom through, adding whatever I need along the way.

My first revisions always end up longer than the original draft anyway, because I realize I need extra scenes I didn’t envision during the outline phase, or I have to shore up weak settings, or I have to expand on something that seemed obvious in my head the first time around, but doesn’t make sense when I re-read. (And if I don’t remember what I meant, how is the reader supposed to figure it out?)

In the last five days, I’ve plowed through the first six chapters, taking 12K and turning it into almost 17K.

But, Elena, I hear you saying, isn’t that going to bloat your draft? Wasn’t it long enough in the first place?

Well, yes, and no. I wrote everything I thought it needed at the time, though by the end I already knew there were some flaws that needed fixing. It came up about 8K shorter than my target (WWNTS clocks in at about 98K, I was aiming for roughly the same length) but I didn’t mind if it ended up a little shorter, because book length isn’t a hard and fast rule.

And I’m not cutting words at this stage, not with intent. Some sentences get rewritten to be shorter as I go, if I see blatant issues that I can correct on the fly, but I’m not doing the nuts-and-bolts editing yet. That’ll be the next pass. So here’s what this book’s life will hopefully look like:

  1. Rough draft – done!
  2. Additive rewrite draft – underway
  3. Subtractive, language-tightening edit draft
  4. Beta reading! (During which I will start rewriting #3)
  5. Fix-the-reader-issues draft
  6. Final proofing
  7. Ready to print!

See, I have a plan. It’s so comforting to have a plan.

And So It Begins…

It’s rewrite time. Today I have finished re-reading my first draft of novel #2, and the good parts are mostly as good as I remember, while the bad parts, they’re worse.

It’s going to be a lot of work, but I enjoy the rewriting process more than spitting out the original draft. For some reason, it’s easier for me to see flaws and figure out how to fix them, than it is to try to get everything right the first time.

Just remind me of that when I hit the five-chapter block in Act II that needs to be scrapped and replaced entirely.  I knew when I was writing it that I hadn’t put enough thought into the characters I was introducing, or their motivations…so it’s a big, garbled mess.