Monday, July 2, 2012

Writing . . . re-writing

I have heard it said "all writing is re-writing."  Rewriting is an essential part of writing.  I stress this with my students, and now, with myself.  I'm working on the third/fourth draft of my novel, and the rewriting is a bit painful.  My sister, a fellow writer, gave me a great book:  Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.  I have found it immensely helpful and am now busy incorporating the ideas into my rewrite.

Three ideas I have found most helpful refer to dialogue, how the book sounds, and use of adverbs.  To summarize, the authors suggest avoiding anything other than "he said" or "she said."  So cross out those "he exclaimed" or "she mumbled" or "he whispered" or even "she answered."  Why?  The reader should know by the diologue itself, and the action surrounding it (called the beat) how the words are being said.  Apparently, using these kinds of "tricks" surrounding dialogue is lazy; it's cheating.  Well!  So I'm fixing a lot of those.

Back in graduate school, in a fiction workshop, my professor hated adverbs.  Hated them . . . with a passion.  I like adverbs, but they should be limited in writing.  Why?  Again, because the prose and dialogue itself should convey what an adverb would convey.  So again, I'm going through my novel, spying out all the pesky adverbs, and eliminating most of them, but not all.

And finally, see how the book sounds.  So I sat in my backyard today, reading the book aloud.   It helped me to modify some of the dialogue.  Am I allowed to admit that I enjoyed hearing it read aloud?  


  1. Christina Victor- BandyopadhyayJuly 2, 2012 at 10:29 PM

    When I was little I read about a certain Cain, who was a tiller of the soil ( not a 'farmer') and his brother Abel, who was a keeper of the sheep ( not a ' sheperd') and I kept reading...then there was a murder, a denial and a confrontation.... And I kept on reading the best book I have ever read and possibly, the best book ever written.

    The point I was trying to make is to find inspiration from that book which you probably know the best...1. The language must fill you with wonder and 2 The content should pierce your heart.

    1. Wow! I love how you expressed what a good book does: language fills you with wonder and the content should pierce your heart. Beautifully put! I will keep these in mind as I finish my book.
      Your example with Cain and Abel is so true - the Good Book is indeed the Best book!

  2. What you are doing sounds like a wonderful step in the refining process. I compare it somewhat to using a program like Photoshop. Here is this image that one has captured, doing so with a certain something in mind-something that personally moves you. Later, once it is in Photoshop, it begins to open up more and more. You have the luxury of putting down layer upon layer of changes--editing, modifying, deleting and changing the original so that it beomes even more like what you first imagined. I sense the same will come for your book! All the best! Richard

  3. Hi Sis, Glad to know you are finding the book so useful. I'm having a little trouble with only putting "said" in when my characters speak...(at least I'm not using ellipses in my book). Renni Browne's book is excellent; I'm recommending it to everyone.

  4. Katie-
    Wow !! Theres alot involved in writing. I just hope that against the steady march of tecnology people in the future still have time to curl up in an easy chair with a good book...Dan