My fourth novel, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, is due to my editor on August 1. Yes, I am aware that is a mere 29 days away. No, I am not counting hours or minutes — yet.
With my fast draft in hand … well, spread all over my desk and sometimes all over the coffee table in the family room … I am ready for rewrites.
Yes, yes, I am.
First things first: there are certain things I don’t do when I am this close to deadline and deep into rewriting.
- I do not clean my house.
- I do not cook.
Hmmm. Reality is, I don’t clean my house or cook that much when I’m off deadline. I’m just being honest here. When I’m off deadline, I’m plotting a new novel or I’m dealing with second round edits or galleys . . . or something! I’m thankful my husband loves me.
What do I do when I rewrite? I embrace all that I love about my story — all that I’ve discovered as I wrote my fast draft — and I take very specific steps to make it better. Here are 4 steps to improve your story as you rewrite:
1. Remember your Story Question. The Story Question for Crazy Little Thing Called Love is: What if you discovered that what you thought was your biggest mistake was actually the right choice? This question fuels my story, and I am weaving it through my novel and applying it to every chapter, scene by scene. I am also answering the Story Question through the actions and decisions of my main characters and subplot characters.
2. Determine the main emotion for every scene. As I’ve judged contest entries, I’ve found that I’m sometimes unsure what the point of view (POV) character is feeling. There’s either no clear emotion — or too many emotions — in the scene. As I rewrite, I am taking each scene and layering in on one emotion for my POV character. I like to keep a chart that lists various emotions close at hand to help me do this.
3. Establish a strong Storyworld. My fast draft is two-thirds dialogue. Okay, maybe three-quarters dialogue. Maybe … more. When I rewrite, I go back and build in a sense of where they are and who my characters are. If I’m smart, I do this in the fast draft stage, taking the time to jot down what my POV character might hear, see, taste, smell, touch during every given scene. This time, I didn’t do that, but that’s no excuse to skip crafting Storyworld. In my last post, I talked about using the FOCUS technique to create vivid scenes.
4. Hook your reader all the way through your book! We like to talk about hooking readers with the first line(s) of our novels. The reality is, we need to hook readers over and over again with the first line(s) of every scene so that they keep turning pages, staying up late into the night reading our books. As I rewrite, I’m evaluating every opening line in every scene. I’ve dogeared page 104 in From the Inside … Out reviewing Susie’s SHARP technique to build a strong Hook.
Rewrites are hard work, yes. But they are good hard work — our chance to take our story in the raw and mold it and shape it into the best it can be.
Until we send it off to our editors — or our craft partners — and they get a chance to reshape and remold it.
But that’s another blog post.
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