Finishing that first draft is a big deal. It is a piece of writing. Something that is now a whole, even if the parts don't necessarily run smoothly. And because it's not perfect it's so easy to get down on yourself when you start looking at it. Therefore, when rewriting, it's good to follow a few simple rules that will help you structure your rewrite and stave off self-loathing:
After printing out your project, take some time to celebrate your first draft. You finished! Hey! Hot Damn! Not everyone can say they have a first draft of ANYTHING. For me, when I used to finish something, I'd celebrate by drinking and eating cheese. Now? I still eat the cheese but I lost the drinking portion so I've folded in shoes. Once that celebration is over, take a couple of days off if possible. But not much more than that. A couple = 2 from what I recall from elementary school.
2. GET YOUR PEN OUT
After you've taken your teensy break, have a pen ready and read one way through off of the hard copy. Don't start rewriting as you're reading. Go to sleep.
On the second pass, start categorizing your rewrite. Sample categories could be: Plot Issues, Character Issues, Scenes to Delete, Structural, Formatting...
Come up with a strategy. Though that sounds simple that may mean rebreaking an entire story or A Plot. You may rebreak many threads and that could have domino effects. That's okay. Take the time to thoroughly decide on the approach of rewriting and thoroughly examine if you change x how will y be effected? Will it be better? As long as you think through the approach both within the document and what your approach as the writer will be (ie.: I'll work for 7 days on this part and then see where we're at and maybe switch gears) then you will have a strategy. (By the way, I've had to rebreak outlines more times than I can count. There's no shame in that. It though might not be necessary. Take it all one problem at a time and you may find big sweeping approaches aren't what's best. This whole section could be called DON'T PANIC).
5. PICK YOUR POISON
A little adjunct to Number 4: While you're thinking of your rewrite, you may want to think about what to attack first. There's a saying which is "Go in the order that is killing you." I recommend rewriting the most challenging area(s) of your project first then go towards the easiest.
6. TIME MANAGE
Time and schedule your sessions so when you're rewriting, if you say work at 90 minute timed sessions, your chances of ending on a high note are greater than if you work for hours on end with no real cut off point. Danger there is basically getting sunk into the depths of despair.
THE DEPTHS OF DESPAIR by Cynthia Greenburg Dunlop
online shop, look at a scene, read about politics, look at a scene, call an institution I have a long-standing gripe with, glance at manuscript sitting by coffee maker, lie in bed and think about what I didn't accomplish today, look at phone, remember before bed looking at my phone is supposed to be bad for me, go to sleep.
Time Management is something every creative person must incorporate into their process so the slog-feeling of rewriting doesn't thwart effort and self-esteem.
Bounce ideas. Don't be afraid to call fellow scribes feedback. You can easily ask a trusted soul to read a scene, a chapter, or the whole thing. Be ready for feedback you hadn't anticipated and come prepared with specific questions like "Is this part working?" "Did you get that so-in-so was trying to do this or that?' "Did these lines land for you or feel funny?" Caution though - if you want compliments ask buddies, if you want truth, ask peers.
Good luck and when you sell it, buy me the pair of shoes that are in my cart on Amazon with the other things in my cart that I never bought.
Writing when you don't want to is what separates the women from the girls, the men from the boys -- just had to do that. Always wanted to make it women but I love men too so I wanted it equal opportunity. Speaking of equality, women and men can be equally lazy. Lazy, avoidy, etc. And with writing, that doesn't work so well. The whole point is consistency.
It's REALLY annoying that to be a writer you have to write. I mean my God, how messed up is that? But yeah, that's what it takes.
So what I'm saying is you kind of gotta do your job. Doesn't matter if you feel sick, doesn't matter if you feel tired, doesn't matter if you think you're out of ideas, doesn't matter if you have friends in town or are away. Gotta keep at it.
Because that way you:
•Stay connected to your idea
•Allow your brain to think of your idea when you're not writing
•Have integrity and don't just pay lip service to your craft/profession when you tell yourself and others you're a writer
and... you... get to...
So remember, you don't have to write for one billion hours at a time. You don't even have to write for 5 hours at a time. But you do have to consider if you're not writing every day or on most days, think about what's in your way? While I'm a big believer in a daydreamy kind of break where you let art, culture and the world envelope you in terms of nourishment, a break is not a month.
Writers write. That's your mantra, daughter. Son. Did it again, couldn't help myself.
And if you're not going to write today after reading this then immediately go out, support your local bookstore and buy:
The War of Art.
One thing that I've done that has helped my writing immensely is to take risks. I think being uncomfortable is an important facet to being a good writer (hey man, I'm kind of uncomfortable right now writing this blog!). Risk taking of course sometimes takes the form of an action, like jumping out of an airplane which I'm never doing because i want to live, but it's a good example. I do remember though traveling to Europe by myself when I was 20 or 21. I didn't want anyone to know but I was terrified.
Terrified is good.
Writing about something you're scared to write about or that isn't a guaranteed hit, is the ultimate goal. Revealing a hidden or anonymous truth about yourself or relationship to the world is brave, real, and authentic.
Because if you've read this blog at all, I'm all about you and I as writers getting to the truth. The truth of our voice comes through and always wins out over trying to impress or fit in with what we think would sell. And often, it's the risk of being honest that makes something more attractive to the world - in terms of buying it.
I was reminded of this reading an article in the LA Times by a former client. www.latimes.com/style/laaffairs/la-hm-la-affairs-rebecca-cullen-20180224-story.html. As I told Rebecca, I can't imagine writing about my sexcapades. Very bold and my hat is off to her.
Different things I've done to sort of encourage my own truth-telling and risk-taking include creating a podcast, doing I think like 3 blogs before this one, and shooting an online commercial. All of these things were risky. The podcast was because I had no idea what I was doing and felt nervous every time. It was my voice and our literal voice does not lie. I was shaky-mcshakerson at times, trust me. But I learned to use that nervous energy to hopefully sound enthusiastic. In fact, I learned a lot doing that podcast. The blogs? I love writing so that might not seem like a big deal but I wasn't writing about writing I was writing about LA and hidden treasures I loved. I didn't really know what I was doing. Who cared what I thought? But I did it anyway. What the hell, right? http://opinela.blogspot.com.
And the commercial, which I created, co-produced and directed - I mean that was A BLAST! But again, I was scared. I wanted to do a good job. The buck stopped at me. And it was for a sex product. I mean talk about embarrassing convos with my elders and some of the more conservative Hollywood peeps I know. In addition, this was only the second time I would be directing something. Could I do it? That certainly was something I wondered. Something I prayed for. I really wanted it to be fantastic for everyone - the client, my talent, crew, and me - so you know, no pressure. Despite my fears, I think we did pretty well and it did open some doors for me, doors I didn't even know were there:
So it doesn't have to be every day but I implore you to stretch. Look outside of your comfort zone creatively. And not quietly. It builds a far bigger wrinkle in your brain to just, as they say, put it all out there. Imperfection gives us the strength to, when say we're doing our chosen art (the screenplay, the TV spec, the novel) operate that muscle of courage we need to write more truthfully and to represent our finished pieces more effectively. We're able to go where we haven't gone before. You know, we grow a pair.
Because otherwise, you're small, you're writing and creating for an audience of one, and if that's what you want to do, fabulous! But if you're reading this blog, I don't think that's the case.
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far it is possible to go.” — T.S. Eliot
...your characters are a great way to cure loneliness. I was listening to a review about the new novel "Mr. Dickens and his Carol" and it's said Dickens would hole up in his room and BE all the characters. He'd talk in their voices as he wrote. So out loud he would say their lines, dialogue, whatever you wish to call it. People would fight, talk back to one another, profess desires, cry... they would be real.
That's about the only way I can legitimately say I have something in common with Charles Dickens. I've always said my dialogue out loud while I write. And I notice if what people say whether in a novel, in a play or on a screen sounds false. I wonder if the writer is really in touch with his or her characters. I feel like the writer is using the characters but those characters are two dimensional mouth pieces for his or her ego and it drives me nuts. "People don't talk that way!" is what I tend to think and it takes me out of the story.
Your style may not incorporate natural dialogue and that's fine. There's room for a lot of voices in the world. But your character's voices should be real to you. If they're real to you that will come across in what you create. And it makes writing a hell of a lot less boring.
Say it out loud. It's kind of fun. Personally I think that's why I love my catty characters. I get to be a dick without being a dick in the real world. It's very satisfying.
Hope this helps and good luck with your writing!
All I'm saying is when you have a good idea WRITE IT DOWN! I can't tell you how many times throughout the day my husband will go, "Go write that down right now. That's a good idea." And I do so. But you know, he's not always around.
ALWAYS HAVE SOMETHING WITH YOU SO YOU CAN WRITE DOWN YOUR IDEAS! You can use Notes in your phone but I find that to be a little eh-eh. I don't remember what's in my phone. I don’t even think to look there. It's not tangible and my phone is not dedicated to my writing pursuits.
Personally I find going to Staples or Office Depot to be the CVS For Writers. The way I love candy and medicine in the aisles of chain drugstores, I love the paper, notebooks and pens in big box office supply stores. They have all the tools I need to keep track of my divine inspiration PINGS - brilliant thoughts about whatever I'm currently writing or hits about a new book, play, children's story, screenplay, etc., etc.
To that end, when I do my writing session, I have my document open dedicated to the facet of my project I'm currently working on as well as my diary. In my diary, I write down all my incredibly important feelings about the world and my anxieties and sometimes I throw in an impromptu gratitude list, but I also at times have an idea. I believe ideas are precious. So I always type IDEA and then write that idea down just like that, in upper case. That way I can do Control Find, type in IDEA and locate my brilliance in between my mixed up feelings about Whole Foods and why I’m not able to go to yoga again.
That simple tool makes it easy for me to shine; to never be grasping and feel like I have writer's block. Same with having a small notebook I bought at the candy store for writers. My small notebook follows me everywhere – it’s in my bag, on the passenger seat of my car, it sits on my bedside table so when I’m falling asleep and think of something just before I go to unconsciousness, I can turn on the light (sorry, husband) and jot it down. That one little trick simply gives me another opportunity to find what I need to shine when I’m afraid I don’t have any good ideas.
The point of all of this is a) writer's write and b) you do have good ideas but one bad idea is believing you'll remember them all.
More about b...
You're not a superhuman weirdo with ironclad memory as your superpower. Or if you are, tell me more about it. Seems like a great IDEA. (hacky hardy har har follows here).
Okay, writer people. I hope this helps.
Writer, Writing Coach, Writer Supporter.