Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Countdown to a Self-Published Book 3 : Rewrite!

Available on Kindle from 1st May 2014
Following the input of my editors, I went back over my book with the fine-tooth comb of their comments. I found that I’d begun with a fairly simple premise, but had complicated it in the main by not allowing my protagonist to know what was going on. I’d made her work far too hard, and I’d let her get it very, very wrong. Thus her convoluted discoveries of even the simplest information took dozens of pages, sent her on multiple wild-goose-chases, and bred walk-on characters.

My first step was to let Maddie in on the family secrets that she’d originally spent most of the book uncovering. There were already a lot of puzzles and mysteries to solve relating to her current predicament; stating some of the backstory mysteries upfront would not spoil much of the rest of the story. Secondly I decided to bring some of the final revelations right in to the beginning, by promoting a relatively minor character to co-protagonist and giving her alternating point-of-view scenes. Thus, instead of the reader having to remember the mistakes Maddie made early on, and finding out at the end what the consequences were, the reader is now aware that Maddie is making mistakes as she makes them.

Next came the hardest part: I wrote a cull list of characters who could potentially be cut, and sketched out how the removal would affect the plot. I decided to delete four chapters straight off in order to keep the action moving in the right direction. My editor, Debby Harris, recommended maintaining a linear journey, rather than allowing Maddie to constantly retrace her steps. This suggestion gave me another means to organise and co-ordinate my rewrite: as much as possible, I grouped the events occurring at each location, eliminating whatever no longer served a purpose plot-wise. And, lastly, I cut every scene where I’d attempted to rein in my plot by allowing my supposedly intelligent and strong characters to behave like morons. Luckily Debby was not shy about pointing these out!

All that remained was to fill in the blanks I’d created with forty thousand new words. I said it was a simple solution; I didn’t say it was an easy, or a quick, one.

Previous posts counting down to a self-published book:
1 : Making the Decision
2 : Putting Together My Editing Team

Elsa Neal
Elle Carter Neal is the author of Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin, which is now available on Kindle. She is based in Melbourne, Australia. To keep in the loop about “Maddie”, join her mailing list here, or find her at ElleCarterNeal.com or HearWriteNow.com

13 comments :

  1. This series has been so helpful, and it shows how much planning and work goes into creating the best possible indie book. Good advice for a new writer - don't skip the planning and work.

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    1. Thanks, Maryann! It may be a lot of work, but it's worth it.

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  2. Good developmental editors are worth their weight in gold. Luckily for me, my Ladyscribes challenge every action, reaction, and deep motivation. Even though I am good at editing others' work, I still need them to look at my stories with a sharp eye.

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    1. Writing may be a solitary profession, but we really do need to get other brains involved to polish the story up to a professional level.

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  3. Yep ... a good editor is like a wake up call ... 'hello, McFly ... are you home?' By the way, love the cover.

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  4. Boy, do I hate cutting scenes/characters I love. Kills me. But surgery is sometimes necessary. One of my critique partners always says, Do you really need this. Most of the time she's right. I don't. It still hurts taking that scalpel though. Every writer needs that objective eye.

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  5. Funny, isn't it, that the real work begins not with the writing of the book, but with the rewrite(s) to incorporate editor-inspired changes. I've worked with writers (often but not always newbies) who balked at every suggested fix and change. It wasn't a fun experience for either the writer or me. On the other hand, you're a listener, Elle, and you obviously want your story to be the best it can be. This is a most desirable quality in any writer.

    Love this post! It's great grist for any author's writing mill—regardless of whether it's a first book or one in a long line of stories.

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    1. Yes, writing the story is fun! Turning it into an actual book? Hard work.

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  6. I enjoy the first stage of rewriting, but after that it does get tedious. Still, it's very necessary, like housecleaning!

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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