Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Agony and the Ecstasy -or- Rewriting the First Draft

Ahhh... the rewrite.

I hate the bleepin' rewrite.

No, actually that's not entirely true. I don't mind doing the first draft. And I don't mind when I've hit the sixth. Yes - that's right. The sixth. Ninety percent of my manuscripts are on the seventh or eight draft by the time they are ready for submission. And I could probably do eight, nine, or ten drafts - easily. There is just a point when every writer has to say - "ok - now it's ready." Otherwise we'd spend our entire lives rewriting and never get anything published.

But that first rewrite?

Ugh. I'd rather poke myself in the eye with my red pen.

That first one is the killer for me because that's when most of my biggest changes happen. I end up ripping apart and rewriting entire chapters. Changing characters. Killing off or bringing in new ones. Or I find POV changes (which is one of my biggest problems!) that need to be fixed. When that happens, I have no choice but to rewrite the entire chapter. I mean, you really can't know what the hero is thinking if you're looking through the heroine's eyes, right? And no, she doesn't have ESP. I don't do much in the paranormal genre. Yet. I am working on something - but it's so in the pre-pre-pre-pre-first draft stage that it's almost not worth mentioning.

But once I get that first rewrite done, things get a little easier. I do whatever research I need to fill in the backstory of time and place (i.e. double check fashion facts or whether or not the fork was in use yet. I kid you not. Once I spent four hours hunting down whether or not cufflinks were used in the 1820s. And yes, they were.)

I suppose I work a little backwards. When I pick a time period, I generally know a little about it - what was going on politically, regionally, etc. Then I write my first draft. I know there will be major changes, so I wait until the second draft to find the details that give each story its scenery. Sometimes that changes in the third draft, but it's not usually anything major. Although - this pirate manuscript is in its sixth draft and I've completely rewritten the heroine. Then again, every rule has its exception and that is mine.

And from then on, smooth sailing (for the most part). I don't mind the other rewrites - unless I find something that makes me really go what the f-??? It does happen. Sometimes I forget to delete a scene or chapter during that first rewrite and I hit a huge pothole that jars me right out of the story.

I do a lot of research on the Internet and have a motley assortment of bookmarks. I also haunt my local library and the local college library. Unfortunately, I am horrible about returning things on time so I usually have an outstanding fine or six. It's embarrassing, but it's a habit I just can't seem to break. Right now, I've got Viking books that are so overdue I'm almost embarrassed to bring them back. I have to sneak them into the outside drop off. I know I'll have to face the librarian again in the coming months, but I can deal with that then.

To be continued....

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