Here is where thoughts turn into a real story. When writing, I stop myself from that trap of considering how good or bad something is. The goal is to get something down. However, there is a long journey between having something down and having something that I would like people to read.
This phase can take months to years. Rarely can it take weeks.
On first read through, everything is on the table to change, cut, rewrite or any other way to bend, spindle and mutilate. I will focus on a piece of the story at a time. I rarely do re-outline the book at this point, but if the flow isn’t there, I will. Note that I mostly focus on books now, but the process is the same for writing a paragraph or two.
- There is an idea.
- You introduce it.
- You expand on it.
- Something happens.
- This creates a change in people or situations or both.
- You tie it all up, perhaps with an eye back to the where we started.
I will often go through a couple of rewrites before I feel secure with the basic structure. Note that this is not editing. I’m not looking at grammar, spelling, punctuation. I am focused on the story. The flow and feeling.
Caution. Every single time I go into a beta, there is a nagging voice in my head that tells me this is not necessary. The piece is good and solid and there are no mistakes. Of course this is a lie. There are several changes nearly every page. Yet, every time I pick up the
Read Aloud. After I feel pretty good about the work, I will do a read through edit. It is shocking to me how often I am sure the story and all the sentences make sense. Then I read it out loud and am horrified, often several times per page. You can record this if you wish. The important thing is to read it out loud. I find it helpful to use a pen as a pointer under each word. This helps catch those double words or missing words and incomplete sentences that my mind fixes without noticing.
Beta Readers. I usually go through at least three rewrites before I send copies out to beta readers. These are valiant souls who volunteer to read works in progress. This is essential, because I know how the story flows and fill in understandings as needed. However, when someone who is a virgin – has no context for the work – reads it, they lose interest or get confused. This is the feedback I seek from my beta readers. When do you want to put it down? When are you confused?
It is really hard to get people who will do this. Friends tend to want to only say nice things. Essential to building good feedback is to never defend. If someone gives you feedback and you are tempted to explain or defend STOP! The only time you should question is if you don’t understand what they have said. You can ask for clarification. Other than that, say thank you. You are free to accept or ignore their take, but what you want and need is their first read through impressions.
Gather those impressions. During that time, give yourself a bit of time away from the story.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about editing. But let me end with an essential part of editing. HIRE AN EDITOR!