Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Writing is in the Rewriting

          I rewrite things to death.  I fret over it, change it, lengthen it, shorten it, and then put it aside for a few months only to pull it out again and start the process all over.  Until recently I have been a hoarder with my words.  I know it’s fear.  I’ve already written about it in Out of the Nest, but it’s more than just being afraid of people liking my writing.  It’s a fear that it will look childish in its prose and grammar.
          When it comes to the English language, I know I have several weak spots.  For a writer this is a handicap to say the least.  I study grammar books and browse advice columns and blogs and even follow several people on Twitter who tweet nothing except grammar rules and examples.  I would love it if Word was perfect at catching all of this for me, but the software program and I still argue over fragment phrases and so I think it holds back on purpose.
          Still, eventually my tales go out and I only pray that I don’t embarrass those indie authors that are doing their best to prove that they are as talented as those with mainstream publishers.  It has taken a long time to get my manuscript there, but it has been worth it.
          I’ll share with you why I’m a little nervous going the route of ePublishing.  You see, it’s not because of what I’ve written, but because of what I’ve read.  A couple of years ago I bought the girls Nooks for Christmas.  At first, they each stuck with the authors they trusted and started buying and downloading left and right.  Once I put the halt on the outgoing money, though, they went to unknown authors that offered inexpensive books or even free ones.  The girls experimented and indeed found some great gems.  However, they also found some pretty rough first drafts that obviously had not even been read again by the author once the words were pecked into the computer.
          When I decided I was going to publish my writing through Smashwords, it surprised most of our family and friends.  I had actually never read a book electronically.  As I stated in Changedoesn’t Scare Me, I love the feel of a hard cover book in my hands.  To be honest, that has always been my vision for my writing.  I wanted to walk into a brick and mortar store and see my name on the spine and my face on the back cover.  I wanted to be invited to hold a book signing in my hometown and hold a reading in a local coffee house.
          It’s kind of hard to sign the screen of a Nook or Kindle.  I know because I pissed the girls off trying to practice on theirs.  It makes it hard to read the books after that.
         Still, friends were publishing through Smashwords and Amazon and having great results.  They were also earning more per book than traditional publishing, so I decided to look into it.  I purchased some as well as downloaded some free ones.  There were short stories, novellas and novels of every genre and some I didn’t know what to make of.
          There were several that gripped me and kept me captivated to the screen.  However, there were many more that I couldn’t even get past the first swipe of my thumb or click of the mouse.  My brain was assaulted with missing words, misspelled words and simply bad prose.  It was bad enough that it scared me and caused me to worry about my own writing.
          As I’ve already stated, I know that I stumble in some key grammatical issues, and while I am striving hard to overcome those obstacles, a few slip through now and then.  I’m also learning story structure, subplots and characterization, all of those things that make a novel worth reading.  Nothing is ever as good as we think it is the first time we put pen to paper.  However, we think it’s great.  Our moms tell us it’s great.  Our wives smile and pat us on the head with a “Well done, honey.  Now, take out the trash.”  However, stories only become great in the rewrite.  And the next.
          When I work a piece, I’ll write it out, type it out, and then mark it up with red ink, highlighters, and margin notes.  I’ll examine verbs adjectives, spellings, and look for contradictions, such as Faith having red hair in chapter one, but being a blond in chapter ten and there is no record of a dye job.  Once I’ve made sure that body parts aren’t doing their own thing and I have the correct “your” or “you’re,” I’ll print out one crisp clean copy and pass it on to the girls for their harshest criticism and careful eye.  Inevitably, they will notice key pitfalls that I leaped right over.  If something makes no sense to them or fails to generate emotions of some kind about the characters, they point it out and I get back to work.
          Someone besides yourself must read what you have written, or rather what you have rewritten.  If you cannot afford an editor, put it in the hands of a couple of people who won’t be afraid to be brutally honest with you.  Your goal is to sell books and people won’t buy the second if they never finish the first, and if you’re like me you want your stories to get into people’s hands.
           Therefore, I take my time.  I rewrite.  I beg for criticism.  I rewrite some more.  I don’t just worry about the impression of my books, but of those indie authors who are braving the challenge of going it alone.  I don’t want to give the reading public or mainstream publishers ammunition against us.  So, before clicking “submit” ask yourself if you’ve put in the honest sweat to make your writing a novel worth reading.
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  1. My Informal Essay professor also said to read your work out loud to catch things that you missed. She made us do that in small groups and it worked really well too.

    1. Our minds sometimes add words that aren't really there. I enjoy reading out loud to see how it flows and almost always catch something. Thanks for stopping by.