"God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform..." William Cowper

Monday, November 7, 2011

Reading It Through

As I sit to write this, my house is in shambles. This weekend, my living room had no wall. I could sit on the couch and wave to the passerby on the street. Fun. Nevertheless, I've plunged ahead with my rewrites. Ignoring the dust and the total disorganization of my house, I focused on organizing my work-in-progress.

In his book, Plot and Structure, James Scott Bell recommends reading your manuscript through as quickly as you can. So after letting my WIP cool for almost two weeks, I pushed aside my fears and read the entire thing through in a few hours."Do not get bogged down in details at this point, " Bell writes. "What you want is the big picture."

Likewise, in her workshop, The Art of Self-Editing, Barbara Scott says to take a 50,000-foot view. Look for major structural weaknesses and check that every page is moving the story forward.

I was a little afraid as I sat down with my newest manuscript. I'd written the first draft fairly quickly and hadn't stopped to do a lot of editing along the way. I knew I'd find any glaring inconsistencies and even horrible storytelling on the read-through.

And so I did. But it could have been worse. I took tons of notes after I read it through. Put it through the wringer. I'm still evaluating how to make it better.

But now I'm excited instead of scared. I know what has to be done, and my story will be better for it in the long run.

What is your initial reaction to rewriting? Do you look forward to the challenge or shy away from the hard work?


  1. James Scott Bell's book is next on my list. I'm dreading the hard work of rewriting, but I know I just need to do it, and I'll probably enjoy it more than I realize. I just have to start. :)


  2. High-level edits are so intimidating for me. I tend to get distracted by the details and want to fix little typos 'til I'm red in the face. I like the advice to read it quickly...maybe that would force me to keep my hands off those periods and question marks. :)

  3. It's a great book Melanie. I found it fun to read too.

    Hi Sarah--thanks for stopping by! It was hard for me not to get bogged down with the details, too. When I found something I knew needed work, I marked it and that was it. Kind of freeing actually! :)

  4. I'm glad you're excited about your editing and rewriting. I love editing for the most part, but only when I don't have huge chunks, plot holes, etc. to rework. That's why I plot so extensively these days because I hate rewriting :)

  5. Excellent point, Cindy. I never thought of it that way...a great reason to do a lot of pre-plotting!

  6. Can't wait to read it, Heidi.

    When you went through it and found something you wanted to change, did you simply highlight it on the computer or did you stop right then and make notes?

    Speaking as an "edit as I go" person, I would think the latter would defeat the purpose, but I might tend to forget what I wanted to change if I just marked it.

  7. Sandy,
    I printed out the whole book--all 360 pages. I made a check mark in the margins for places I felt it dragged, a circle for places I felt needed to be added to, and parenthesis around sentences that needed to be reworked. A few notes here and there and that was it. I got this method from James Scott Bell.