Re-drafting anxieties

Hello all.

This is the first time I have talked to/asked other writers for advice.

So I really enjoy it when I write short stories, but lose patience when I have written the first draft :neutral_face: . After that it feel like…almost like the excitement is over because I have written it and I know what happens lol. So what happens is that the first draft is done but I’m left with many errors and changes are needed. What I wanted to ask was what is your approach to second/third drafts when writing stories? Do you print the first draft of your story, and then sort of “mark it” with a red pen?! Or just write the whole story again? I have no idea how to go about this. Most of the time, I feel like “This story is ok. But something needs changing and I don’t know what it is.”

ANY advice about second plus drafts of stories is valued! Thanks

Well, first of all there is likely to be a bunch of stuff you can cut from the draft. I set up a set of different coloured markers for my revisions, as follows:

Screen shot 2010-11-07 at 02.40.15.png

With these colours I highlight the sections of text that I feel need further examination. From my research into various sources I’ve set the highlights to represent the main things that I seem to do wrong.

I look out for past participles / passive verbs, ie: anything that looks along the lines of:
Passing the door, he looked to his left, dialling his contact as he did so
and change them into something more like:
He passed the door. He looked to his left and dialled his contact.

Then I look for things like:

“Are you going out?” she asked quizzically
and change them into things like:
“Are you going out?”, she said

The idea is that ‘quizzically’ is completely redundant. As is ‘asked’.

Taking the old “show, don’t tell” guideline into consideration (there are mixed views on this), I find that there are usually places where I’ve stated cold facts which would be better incorporated into the actions of characters. For example (and this is a bit contrived but you get the idea):

George was tall and was dressed in an expensive suit. He sat down.
might be turned into
George carefully folded his lanky frame into a chair, taking pains not to crease his immaculate suit

In fact I’d then probably remove the word ‘carefully’ from the re-write. And… oh… stuff like that. I’m still working on this myself, so my examples may be a bit crude. But essentially you can strip out a lot of material. Often adverbs can be cut, words here and there, but also whole sentences that are unnecessary to further the story.

I got some good wider tips by looking at many sources. One nice collection is here:
gabrielleluthy.com/art_plotting.htm

And this may be useful too:
caroclarke.com/rewriting.html

Another page from Caro Clarke’s site (caroclarke.com/fourfaults.html) gives more examples of ‘beginner mistakes’:

[i]Adjectives, adverbs and prepositions are furry dice hanging from a car’s mirror. They don’t do anything for the car’s performance, they simply clutter the place. I once stripped a fifth of a novel by removing words and phrases such as ‘very’ ‘up’ ‘down’ ‘over’ ‘about’ ‘some’ ‘a little’ ‘a bit’ ‘somewhat’ ‘whole’ ‘just’ and other modifiers. For instance:

    She picked up the gun and aimed it straight at him. His smile disappeared as he lifted up his hands into the air. She waved him over to the wall, saying, "Spread 'em out, and no funny business, you hear?" She checked all of his pockets for the money, then stepped back. "Okay, I'm convinced. You haven't got it."

This would be better without the modifiers, and with the tighter language you’ll have to write to replace them:

    She snatched the gun and aimed. His smile disappeared as his hands climbed. She waved him to the wall, saying, "Spread 'em, and no funny business, you hear?" She checked his pockets for the money, then retreated. "Okay, I'm convinced. You don't have it."

59 words have become 44, and even then the passage could be trimmed. But the first, necessary action, before you seriously begin to rewrite, is to grab that swimming pool net and remove clogging, unnecessary modifiers that muddy the water. Hemingway didn’t need them; you don’t need them.[/i]

There are loads more sites. I would recommend reading through a lot of them and gauging for yourself what feels right to apply to your story. I always believed myself to have an excellent grasp of written English, but when I started looking into the process of serious writing, I found I had a heck of a lot to learn. I’m still on that curve and I expect to be for some time.

After I’ve done the ‘first draft’ of any given scene, by the time I’ve finished butchering it down to the raw content, after the second pass or so it’s often lost 50% or more of its original length.

I hear what you’re saying about reaching out to other authors. Many times I’d like to bounce ideas, get advice etc. from people but I don’t trust many of the forums out there (seems like a lot of people like to give advice for the sake of it) and ultimately it’s something we all have to learn to do ourselves so in the main I tend to just get googling and gather more input, unless I have something specific to ask (and I’ve gotten some real gems from this very forum).

I’d also suggest that you search for, and read, articles on the things I’ve written in this post, rather than take them at face value. This is just my current interpretation of the process and as I said before, I’m on a learning curve too :slight_smile:

(Both the sample scenes I’ve posted in this forum have subsequently been overhauled, re-written and are going to go through further mangling. I like to refer back them now and again to measure my subsequent progress!)

The snapshot feature in Scrivener is an invaluable tool for assisting with this kind of process. Always take a snapshot before hacking away at the text. You can always roll back if it doesn’t work out.

Eddy

Eddy - thank you so much!!! This is really helpful. I’m going to print this. Also, will have just bought Scrivener so will do that technique. Still learning how to use it :stuck_out_tongue:
Thanks again

You’re welcome, I’m glad you found it useful input. Scrivener is packed with really cool and useful things that can help a great deal once you discover them. The really good thing about it though is that you can write first, while you are getting to learn the features and then use them afterwards.

As an example, I knew about keywords but I never used them. I knew about highlighting but I never used it etc. When I discovered how to give custom names to colours (it’s in the manual, incidentally) I suddenly realised how fantastically useful that would be for me (as described in the post above). I also spent a couple of hours last night setting up a comprehensive set of keywords which I’ve painstakingly applied to my entire project. Not only was it geeky fun to do, but now having done it I can instantly pull up every scene containing character X, or every scene pertaining to my love-story subplot, every scene that’s drafted to completion but needs tweaking, and so on.

It’s all jolly spiffing!

Eddy

[/quote]
You’re welcome, I’m glad you found it useful input. Scrivener is packed with really cool and useful things that can help a great deal once you discover them. The really good thing about it though is that you can write first, while you are getting to learn the features and then use them afterwards.

As an example, I knew about keywords but I never used them. I knew about highlighting but I never used it etc. When I discovered how to give custom names to colours (it’s in the manual, incidentally) I suddenly realised how fantastically useful that would be for me (as described in the post above). I also spent a couple of hours last night setting up a comprehensive set of keywords which I’ve painstakingly applied to my entire project. Not only was it geeky fun to do, but now having done it I can instantly pull up every scene containing character X, or every scene pertaining to my love-story subplot, every scene that’s drafted to completion but needs tweaking, and so on.

It’s all jolly spiffing!

Eddy
[/quote]
Yeah scrivener is really good, I love how you can “Zoom out” when your writing, so it looks like you’re writing on a page of a book! I’m not sure I understand how Keywords works? Pressed the Tab but didn’t really understand it lol. Hopefully I’ll get the hang of it. Great you spent a few hours setting up a comprehensive set of keywords and applying them to your project. Thats dedication! It does sound like the geeky fun you need when your trying to sort through writing - otherwise it can seem overwhelming to plan/organize it. You working on a novel at the moment/ short story? What’s your favorite genre to write? Just to be nosey.
Spiffing indeed :mrgreen: