Log Cabin - Quilt Block

Rewriting...Make It Easier

by Dawn L. Stewart

REWRITING...MAKE IT EASIER
by
Dawn L. Stewart


The first draft is done. Now comes the hard part — reworking the words into a tight, riveting manuscript. Sometimes rewrites are like constructing a jigsaw puzzle only to find a few pieces missing. Here are some ideas to make your editing easier.

SHOUT IT OUT
Read the manuscript aloud. Awkward dialogue and phrasing, missing words and wordiness become obvious when the words are spoken. Make notes on the manuscript as you read so that you can revisit the rough areas.

BEGINNING, MIDDLE, END
Does the first page grab the reader? Is the middle of the story interesting without losing momentum? Is the ending satisfying, answering all the reader’s questions? Are the characters well-developed and "real"?

RAINBOW
Now silently read the manuscript. Use colored highlighters and assign each color a task. For instance, to check grammar, highlight weak verbs in pink; adverbs in yellow; wordy phrases in green; clichés in orange; words to questionable words in blue. Or, review the story constructs by highlighting dialogue in pink; narrative in yellow; use of the five senses in green; descriptions in orange; flashbacks in blue. This will help determine if the writing is balanced, shows where weak words and wordy phrases are located, if narrative outweighs dialogue, or if more sensory detail is needed.

ACTIVE VOICE
Substitute weak verbs (is, was, are) and "to be" constructs with active verbs. An active verb will replace several words and increase story action. Weak: The dog was running after the car. Strong: The dog ran after the car.

BE SPECIFIC
Add detail to the manuscript by replacing general words with specific nouns. Weak: The dog leaped into the truck. Strong: The Dalmatian leaped into the fire engine. Also delete filler words (really, very, quite) to tighten sentences.

DON'T SAY IT AGAIN
Avoid repeating the same thing twice. Weak: In the event that the baby puppy wets the floor at 12 midnight, clean up the mess if he does. Strong: If the puppy wets the floor at midnight, clean the mess.

MANAGE ADVERBS
Adverbs drag the action rather than add to it. Prune unnecessary adverbs. Weak: He crept quietly down the stairs. Strong: He crept down the stairs.

CATCH THOSE CLICHÉS
Overworked phrases make writing sound trite. Strive for original descriptions and wording. Weak: Sam is sick as a dog. Strong: Sam thought he would incinerate the thermometer before he could read the temperature.

DETAILS AND MORE DETAILS
Double check the manuscript for consistency. Did you change a character’s hair color midway through the novel or rename someone in the story? Make sure character descriptions, traits and names are consistent throughout the manuscript. Verify any fact you are unsure about. Readers will catch errors.

KNOT LOOSE ENDS
Make sure all subplots and foreshadowing lead to conclusions. During the writing process, new subplots are introduced, characters either dropped or replaced, sometimes the location changes. Create a list of all the subplots and their resolutions and verify that the resolutions are apparent to the reader. Does a character removed from Chapter 2 suddenly reappear in Chapter 8? Don’t leave logic-holes in your manuscript.

When the corrections are finished, set aside the manuscript for a week. Then read the material again with fresh insight. Eventually all the puzzle pieces fit together and the writing flows. When finished, congratulate yourself, send the material to an editor, and begin the next story.


© 2001 Dawn L. Stewart

All rights reserved. No part of this work may be copied or used in any way without written permission from the author.

 
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