Revising and Rewriting Your Manuscript – the Last Checklist You’ll Ever Need (until you find a better one)

 

Yes, you have to revise your manuscript. Many, many, many times. You can either accept that fact of life now or you can:

A. Send out (or self-publish) your first badly written, error-filled, dreck of a first draft and watch the bad reviews/rejection letters pour in and/or listen to the sound of crickets when professionals in the industry won’t even bother to dignify your hack of a manuscript with a response.

B. Give up now, deciding that becoming a fry cook on Venus would probably be easier than this whole writing thing.

 

If you’re still reading, that means you’re willing to do what it takes to be a real writer.

REWRITING IS WHAT MAKES YOU A REAL WRITER.

Hear it, learn it, live it.

Though hashing out a first draft of a novel is hard work, rewriting is truly what makes you a REAL writer. It separates you from the hacks. Anybody can write down a story, slap on a title, and rush to try to sell it. You’re better than that. You’re serious about your craft.
First drafts are often awful. That goes for New York Times bestselling authors and people who are just starting out. Rewriting is what makes any piece of writing great. No exceptions.

On the plus side, if you love writing, rewriting really can be fun. Stop rolling your eyes and making snarky comments. I promise, it’s not like when your math teacher told you that math can be fun. I don’t care if she did bring a pizza into class that one day. Fractions still suck.

This is different.

It’s really very rewarding to see your work get better and better. If you love your characters, think of rewriting as getting a chance to spend more time with them. Though going over each sentence, each paragraph, and each word a bunch of times can be exhausting, it’s a great feeling when you finally get it right. Trimming paragraphs, carefully selecting the right word, and developing that perfect line of dialogue will tighten your work and turn a rough draft into a piece of really great writing.

Do the work. It’s worth the effort.

If this sounds like too much work, do it anyway. If you still hate it, you can always quit writing and do the fry cook thing. The one thing you CAN’T do is get out of rewriting and revising your manuscript numerous times if you want to make it as a writer. Lots of wannabe writers choose to stay in denial about this fact for years before they finally give in to the truth and realize that, no matter how carefully they outline their story and characters ahead of time, rewriting is crucial to success as a writer.

Lots of writers waste years of their precious time denying the necessity of rewriting their work. You’ll be way ahead of the curve if you skip those years and get right to work.

I said GET TO WORK!!

Checklist for Revising

** Wait at least two weeks after you finish a draft before you start revising.

** Read the whole novel from start to finish and record your gut reaction. Don’t censor yourself and try to be as honest as possible. Were there parts that bored you? Did a character get on your nerves or not seem fully fleshed out? Note what you think needs to be fixed but don’t try to fix it yet. Just jot down notes and keep reading.

** The next step is macro edits. You need to fix the big things. This can include fixing things in the plot that don’t make sense or are just not believable, strengthening the characters, and cutting parts of the novel that are redundant or just unnecessary. It helps to have a specific goal in mind for each rewrite. For example, for this first rewrite the goal is to strengthen the main character’s motivation. The next draft might be to fortify a specific relationship between two friends or maybe the goal is to add more suspense. The final revisions should be the ones where you really focus in on specific details like grammar and punctuation.

Beginnings

** Did you jump into the story right away or did you begin with lengthy description or boring exposition?

** Does your opening scene begin with a problem for the protagonist? Does it open *with* the protagonist? The story should almost always begin with the main character.

** Do we know what your characters are after and why? Remember that the more a character wants something, the more compelling the story will be.

** If at all possible, provide at least a hint of what is to come in the opening even if you can’t reveal the whole problem just yet.

** Cut out anything that doesn’t move the story forward or reveal character.

** Be sure to clearly describe your characters so your reader can see what you see. A few concrete details are better than a lengthy description.

** Remember that action can usually reveal character better than a physical description. When the phone rings, does the character rush to answer it or does he roll his eyes and ignore it? Little actions can say a lot about a person.

** Did you set the scene so the reader knows where the action is taking place?

** Reveal setting through the character’s eyes and viewpoint (whoever’s POV you are writing in).

** Be sure that important events in the story are revealed in a scene. A scene means people in action. You don’t want to gloss over the good stuff by simply telling us about it. Conflict is the heart of a good story and scenes are the only way to elicit an emotional response from the reader.

** The characters should enter the scene with a goal, struggle for it, and then end up either achieving little or none of it. Otherwise, why should we keep reading?

** Save most of the backstory, exposition, and character thought for the “sequel”, which follows the scene.

** Are you going too easy on your characters? Make it difficult for them to get anything they want.

** Make sure each chapter ends with something to keep the reader turning the pages.

POV

** The POV you chose should be clear and consistent throughout.

** With first person, try to sneak in some kind of physical description, though it can be tricky.

** If you chose Third Person POV, where you pick one character’s viewpoint, be sure you only show what this character sees, hears, feels, and knows.

** Multiple POV allows you to reveal action that doesn’t always take place within sight of the main character and enables the reader to experience the emotions of more than just one character. Be sure to make it clear when you are switching to another character’s POV, either by adding multiple spaces or starting a new chapter.

** Omniscient POV is when the writer sees and knows all and therefore can show the thoughts and feelings of all the characters. Be sure to be clear about whose consciousness you are in at any given time. Be wary of too much “head-hopping” when the POV changes too rapidly, which can be annoying and difficult to follow for the reader.

** With the Objective POV, you can only show what can be observed from the outside. Instead of she felt angry and bitter when her Cheetos got stolen, it would be she looked angry or she grabbed her Cheetos back and slammed the door . Objective POV is extremely limiting, but can be useful for stories in which revealing a lot of thought and emotion would give away the plot.

Dialogue

** Read dialogue out loud to make sure it sounds authentic and true to the character. Omit boring pleasantries and unnecessary chatter. Get to the good stuff, the conflict.

** Use said as your dialogue tag about 95% of the time, preferably before the character’s name. People rarely say things like said she in real life and words like grunted, hollered, and muttered can be distracting and unnecessary. Also, people can’t laugh and talk at the same time. Instead of she laughed, write she said, laughing.

** Be sure to use dialogue tags frequently enough so the reader is clear on who is talking.

Style and Language

** Limit adjectives – one is usually stronger than two or three. Sometimes none is the right number.

** Watch for adverbs, especially those ending in “ly”. She angrily and forcefully grabbed the umpire is not as strong as she grabbed the umpire or she grabbed the umpire with great force. Use adverbs sparsely.

**Choose a strong, specific noun or verb instead of several weaker ones. Consider the difference between the word ran and the words sprinted,dashed, darted, and fled. Make each word count.

** Active voice is usually best.  Watch for passive voice words like was,were, here, there, and that. There were two drunk guys building a pillow fort vs. Two drunk guys built a pillow fort.

** Keep an eye out for words that you tend to overuse. Do a search to find them and weed them out.

** Omit redundancies like screamed out loud or quickly dashed.

**Watch for “weasel” words that are unnecessary. These include words like about, actually, almost, basically, just, here, there, really, practically, simply, suddenly, utterly. Consider the difference between:When they finally arrived there, it was already too late. She had already gotten a tattoo of a unicorn vomiting a rainbow is not as good as When they arrived, it was too late. She had gotten the tattoo of a unicorn vomiting a rainbow.

** Avoid “filter” words that seek only to distance your reader from your character’s experiences. These include words like: see, hear, think, wonder, realize, watch, seem, feel or feel like, decide, sound or sound like. He felt hot and looked down. He realized his underwear was on fire.  Heat burned his face and he looked down. His underwear was on fire.

** Seek and destroy long passages of boring description.

** Don’t overuse the past perfect verb tense, as in would  or had. When writing a paragraph in this tense, begin in the past perfect : Right before his father had become a drag queen in Vegas, Robert would have long talks with him  when they would go to the mall to buy high heels, then switch to past tense – They mainly talked about makeup and glitter instead of continuing in the past perfect: They had talked mainly about makeup and glitter…

** Make each sentence as strong as possible, keeping in mind that the end is the most powerful part. “I’m leaving you for my chemistry professor,” he said as he put down his rapidly melting lab beaker is not as powerful as He put down his rapidly melting lab beaker and said, “I’m leaving you for my chemistry professor.”

**  Avoid overwriting. Trust that the reader is at least as intelligent as you are.  They will be able to figure out what you are trying to say without hitting them over the head with it.

** Reading out loud is the best way to hear the rhythm of the sentences.“The Phelps family sounded like bigoted idiots” might look okay but try saying it out loud. “The Phelps family sounded like ignorant bigots”sounds much better. At any rate, both sentences are true…

Grammar and Punctuation

** Carefully proofreading for typos and grammatical errors should usually be one of the final steps in revision. There’s no sense in spending a long time perfecting a paragraph only to cut the whole thing out later.

** Use a Comma:
– To separate items in a series: She gathered her baseball,her glove, and her dose of steroids.
– With a small conjunction, such as and, but, for, nor, yet, so, to connect two independent clauses, as in She liked the guy, but she kicked him in the head with her cleats.
– For introductory elements, such as Before joining the circus, he worked as a stock broker.
– With parentheticals (a parenthetical could be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence) He put on his floppy shoes, which were completely unnecessary, for his prostate exam.
– When both the city and the state name are mentioned together, it is considered a parenthetical element. We saw the Orioles kick some major Yankee posterior in Baltimore, Maryland, last summer.

** Use a Semicolon:
– To separate two main clauses that are not joined by a coordinating conjunction.  Those in glass houses who throw stones don’t need windows; those in stone houses who throw glass do need shoes.
– To separate main clauses joined by a conjunctive adverb, such ashowever, consequently, otherwise, moreover, nevertheless. Many people think it is necessary to go to college; however, it’s not so if your dream is work at Chuck E. Cheese.

** Use a Colon:
– For a summary or a series after a complete main clause: They were a ragtag team of misfits: a circus clown, a stock broker, an angry female baseball player, and a guy from Chuck E. Cheese.

** Use a Dash (–)
– For a short summary after a complete main clause: At the bottom of the backpack was a surprise—used chewing gum.
– In place of a pair of commas to set off words, phrases, or clauses that interrupt a sentence with additional–but not vital–information: Of all the well-known Muppets—Miss Piggy, Scooter, Rowlf, Fozzie—great as they were, Kermit made the most money.

Fine, Have It Your Own Way.

This revision list was compiled from a bunch of different books and websites and I find it helpful for my revisions. If you’ve got a better way that works for you – go for it! Just make sure you rewrite and revise as many times as it takes to make your writing as good as it can be. Otherwise, brush up on your short order cook skills.

-Linda Fausnet

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**Readers:

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What To Do If Your Book Sucks

 

mryucksalmon

We’ve all been there as writers. You write a bunch of chapters or maybe even the whole damn book, only to be struck by the sudden realization that you think the entire thing sucks. You get that awful, sinking feeling that the story is terrible and predictable and the characters are one-dimensional and boring.

Now what?

You may just need a little distance from the work. Your story may actually be pretty good but you just can’t see it anymore. Step away from it for a bit. Take a breather, and then go back and reread it to see what you really think of it as a whole. You’ll never be able to be totally objective, but it helps to get a little perspective when you walk away for a while.

So, say you’ve already done that. You still think it sucks. Or worse, your beta readers tell you it sucks. Now, you’ve got a problem. Just like your mom told you about your dinner choices – take it or leave it — you’ve got two choices for your book. Fix it or trash it.

Both options are difficult. If you trash it, you’ve wasted all that time with nothing to show for it but lessons learned. There is something to be said for a lesson learned, but trashing a full-length novel is a painful way to learn it. After all that work, you’re not going to have a book to self-publish or to market to agents or publishers. If you choose to fix it, you’ve got a long road ahead of you. You may need to start completely over from scratch. In a sense, you’re trashing it to fix it, which is kind of the worst of both worlds.

Kind of a bummer, huh?

Hang on. I’m going somewhere with this.

Though it sucks to trash your work or to start over, it really is much, much preferable to publishing or marketing something that’s just no good. You won’t feel good about it and it won’t be successful, thus you’ve wasted even more time. The question you have to ask yourself is – am I still interested in this story? Do I even want it to work anymore, or am I just so damn sick to death of it that I’m ready to move on? It can definitely be a relief to decide to let go of a story that’s just not working, thus allowing yourself to move on to a fresh story and new characters that you can get excited about. However, if you find that you still want to make the story work, you must resolve to do whatever it takes to get the story right. If that means trashing the book and doing a page-one rewrite, then that’s what you’ve got to do.

Believe me. I know. I’ve been there.

(forgive me, regular readers. I know you’ve heard this story before. Probably more than once…)

I got the worst reviews of my life on my absolute favorite story. QUEEN HENRY started life as a screenplay. A bad, bad screenplay. It started with a fun, unique idea. Homophobic guy becomes gay and learns an important lesson. That is the story I really wanted to tell, but I executed the tale badly on the first try. Then the second, then the third. I loved the story and the characters so much, but it just wasn’t working. People hated it. HATED IT. People called it boring, said it had no stakes and contained “ham-fisted stereotypes”. One guy said it was “okay I guess for a first screenplay.”
It was my ninth….

I think the lowest point came when I had the stomach flu, was completely nauseated, and opened my inbox to another bad review. I never ever wanted to give up on writing, but I specifically remember thinking If I wasn’t a writer, I wouldn’t be in this pain right now.

Even in my darkest moment, I recognized that moment for what it was. A crossroads. A turning point in my so-called writing career. I really had three choices that day. Give up writing altogether (no chance. I never even considered that option. Never.), market the screenplay the way it was, or trash the whole damn thing and start over. I knew then what I was going to do. I literally put the whole damn script in the recycle bin, sat at my computer and typed “FADE IN.”

I was gonna fix that goddamn story if it was the last thing I did.

I wrote and rewrote and rewrote. I paid a very nice script analyst who charged a very reasonable rate to help me (I found out later that he used to be the head script reader at Miramax. He charged only $60 for notes. The man was a saint..). He supported me through draft and after draft after draft. He kept saying things like “it’s getting there” and “you’ve almost got it”. I finally got the story to a point where I thought it was really, really good.

I submitted QUEEN HENRY to a screenplay contest, which was terrifying. It was one of those contests that provided feedback. For better or worse, they were going to tell me what they thought of it. The pain from all those bad reviews fresh in my mind, it was horrible to have to wait for their critique. I kept getting messages from them saying that they got more entries than they expected, thus the delay in providing feedback. The wait was excruciating When, I FINALLY heard back from them, I got word that QUEEN HENRY was a Finalist.

It was a small contest to be sure, but I was a Finalist nonetheless. I’ll never forget how exhilarated that made me feel. I just couldn’t believe it.

Years later when I decided to try novel writing, I knew QUEEN HENRY had to be a book! It wasn’t difficult to write the novel version, since I’d worked so hard to perfect the screenplay. It’s amazing to me to think of all the changes that took place in the story during all those rewrites. The core story remained the same – Straight homophobe turns gay and learns a lesson – but just about EVERYTHING else was radically altered. At first, Henry was an ordinary guy who was engaged to a woman and had become gay through supernatural means and simply learns how it feels to be treated badly when he was gay. BLEH. AWFUL. In the final version, Henry is a womanizing, major league baseball player who becomes gay due to an experimental asthma drug and falls desperately in love with a wonderful man named Thomas. MUCH BETTER.

As of this writing, the book has been out for two months. Though bad reviews are absolutely inevitable, I haven’t gotten one yet. (YET.) To date, I have 14 good reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. A blogger from Baltimore OUTLoud reviewed QUEEN HENRY. The review was featured on the front page of the newspaper, and included the following statements:

“Glorious, deliciously-written work of fiction…

Fausnet’s writing is extraordinary in this fluid, fast-paced tale…

Queen Henry is a truly well-written novel with potent drama and campy humor laced throughout. Though it contains messages to LGBT folks and others, it is also a gorgeous love story and one that should not be missed. Fausnet swung and hit a home run.”

– Steve Charing, Baltimore OUTloud

In addition, I was recently invited by a local chapter of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) to do a book reading. The idea of sharing my words, my story, out loud thrills me behind measure.

The great reviews I’m getting now are so powerful and mean so much more because of what I went through on the earlier drafts. I can hardly believe how something that was once so terrible ended up turning out so good. I can’t tell you what it means to me to finally have people know and love Henry Vaughn, Jr. the way I have loved him from the beginning.

If I can do it, I know you can, too.

Does your book suck? Do you still love it? Then FIX it, and DON”T STOP UNTIL YOU GET IT RIGHT.

To this day, people tell me QUEEN HENRY would make a great movie…

 

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Revising and Rewriting Your Manuscript: The Last Checklist You’ll Ever Need (until you find a better one…)

Do you really have to revise your manuscript?

Yes, you have to revise your manuscript. Many, many, many times. You can either accept that fact of life now or you can:

A. Send out your first badly written, error-filled, dreck of a first draft and watch the rejections pour in and/or listen to the sound of crickets when professionals in the industry won’t even bother to dignify your hack of a manuscript with a response.

B. Give up now, deciding that becoming a fry cook on Venus would probably be easier than this whole writing thing.

 

If you’re still reading, that means you’re willing to do what it takes to be a real writer.

REWRITING IS WHAT MAKES YOU A REAL WRITER.

Hear it, learn it, live it.

Though hashing out a first draft of a novel is hard work, rewriting is truly what makes you a REAL writer. It separates you from the hacks. Anybody can write down a story, slap on a title, and rush to try to sell it. You’re better than that. You’re serious about your craft.

First drafts are often awful. That goes for New York Times bestselling authors and people who are just starting out. Rewriting is what makes any piece of writing great. No exceptions.

On the plus side, if you love writing, rewriting really can be fun. Stop rolling your eyes and making snarky comments. I promise, it’s not like when your math teacher told you that math can be fun. I don’t care if she did bring a pizza into class that one day. Fractions still suck. This is different. It’s really very rewarding to see your work get better and better. If you love your characters, think of rewriting as getting a chance to spend more time with them. Though going over each sentence, each paragraph, and each word a bunch of times can be exhausting, it’s a great feeling when you finally get it right. Trimming paragraphs, carefully selecting the right word, and developing that perfect line of dialogue will tighten your work and turn a rough draft into a piece of really great writing.

Do the work. It’s worth the effort.

If this sounds like too much work, do it anyway. If you still hate it, you can always quit writing and do the fry cook thing. The one thing you CAN’T do is get out of rewriting and revising your manuscript numerous times if you want to make it as a writer. Lots of wannabe writers choose to stay in denial about this fact for years before they finally give in to the truth and realize that, no matter how carefully they outline their story and characters ahead of time, rewriting is crucial to success as a writer. Lots of writers waste years of their precious time denying the necessity of rewriting their work. You’ll be way ahead of the curve if you skip those years and get right to work.

I said GET TO WORK!!

Checklist for Revising

** Wait at least two weeks after you finish a draft before you start revising.

** Read the whole novel from start to finish and record your gut reaction. Don’t censor yourself and try to be as honest as possible. Were there parts that bored you? Did a character get on your nerves or not seem fully fleshed out? Note what you think needs to be fixed but don’t try to fix it yet. Just jot down notes and keep reading.

** The next step is macro edits. You need to fix the big things. This can include fixing things in the plot that don’t make sense or are just not believable, strengthening the characters, and cutting parts of the novel that are redundant or just unnecessary. It helps to have a specific goal in mind for each rewrite. For example, for this first rewrite the goal is to strengthen the main character’s motivation. The next draft might be to fortify a specific relationship between two friends or maybe the goal is to add more suspense. The final revisions should be the ones where you really focus in on specific details like grammar and punctuation.

Beginnings

** Did you jump into the story right away or did you begin with lengthy description or boring exposition?

** Does your opening scene begin with a problem for the protagonist? Does it open *with* the protagonist? The story should almost always begin with the main character.

** Do we know what your characters are after and why? Remember that the more a character wants something, the more compelling the story will be.

** If at all possible, provide at least a hint of what is to come in the opening even if you can’t reveal the whole problem just yet.

** Cut out anything that doesn’t move the story forward or reveal character.

** Be sure to clearly describe your characters so your reader can see what you see. A few concrete details are better than a lengthy description.

** Remember that action can usually reveal character better than a physical description. When the phone rings, does the character rush to answer it or does he roll his eyes and ignore it? Little actions can say a lot about a person.

** Did you set the scene so the reader knows where the action is taking place?

** Reveal setting through the character’s eyes and viewpoint (whoever’s POV you are writing in).

** Be sure that important events in the story are revealed in a scene. A scene means people in action. You don’t want to gloss over the good stuff by simply telling us about it. Conflict is the heart of a good story and scenes are the only way to elicit an emotional response from the reader.

** The characters should enter the scene with a goal, struggle for it, and then end up either achieving little or none of it. Otherwise, why should we keep reading?

** Save most of the backstory, exposition, and character thought for the “sequel”, which follows the scene.

** Are you going too easy on your characters? Make it difficult for them to get anything they want.

** Make sure each chapter ends with something to keep the reader turning the pages.

POV

** The POV you chose should be clear and consistent throughout.

** With first person, try to sneak in some kind of physical description, though it can be tricky.

** If you chose Third Person POV, where you pick one character’s viewpoint, be sure you only show what this character sees, hears, feels, and knows.

** Multiple POV allows you to reveal action that doesn’t always take place within sight of the main character and enables the reader to experience the emotions of more than just one character. Be sure to make it clear when you are switching to another character’s POV, either by adding multiple spaces or starting a new chapter.

** Omniscient POV is when the writer sees and knows all and therefore can show the thoughts and feelings of all the characters. Be sure to be clear about whose consciousness you are in at any given time. Be wary of too much “head-hopping” when the POV changes too rapidly, which can be annoying and difficult to follow for the reader.

** With the Objective POV, you can only show what can be observed from the outside. Instead of she felt angry and bitter when her Cheetos got stolen, it would be she looked angry or she grabbed her Cheetos back and slammed the door . Objective POV is extremely limiting, but can be useful for stories in which revealing a lot of thought and emotion would give away the plot.

Dialogue

** Read dialogue out loud to make sure it sounds authentic and true to the character. Omit boring pleasantries and unnecessary chatter. Get to the good stuff, the conflict.

** Use said as your dialogue tag about 95% of the time, preferably before the character’s name. People rarely say things like said she in real life and words like grunted, hollered, and muttered can be distracting and unnecessary. Also, people can’t laugh and talk at the same time. Instead of she laughed, write she said, laughing.

** Be sure to use dialogue tags frequently enough so the reader is clear on who is talking.

Style and Language

** Limit adjectives – one is usually stronger than two or three. Sometimes none is the right number.

** Watch for adverbs, especially those ending in “ly”. She angrily and forcefully grabbed the umpire is not as strong as she grabbed the umpire or she grabbed the umpire with great force. Use adverbs sparsely.

**Choose a strong, specific noun or verb instead of several weaker ones. Consider the difference between the word ran and the words sprinted, dashed, darted, and fled. Make each word count.

** Active voice is usually best.  Watch for passive voice words like was, were, here, there, and that. There were two drunk guys building a pillow fort vs. Two drunk guys built a pillow fort.

** Keep an eye out for words that you tend to overuse. Do a search to find them and weed them out.

** Omit redundancies like screamed out loud or quickly dashed.

**Watch for “weasel” words that are unnecessary. These include words like about, actually, almost, basically, just, here, there, really, practically, simply, suddenly, utterly. Consider the difference between: When they finally arrived there, it was already too late. She had already gotten a tattoo of a unicorn vomiting a rainbow is not as good as When they arrived, it was too late. She had gotten the tattoo of a unicorn vomiting a rainbow.

** Avoid “filter” words that seek only to distance your reader from your character’s experiences. These include words like: see, hear, think, wonder, realize, watch, seem, feel or feel like, decide, sound or sound like. He felt hot and looked down. He realized his underwear was on fire vs.  Heat burned his face and he looked down. His underwear was on fire.

** Seek and destroy long passages of boring description.

** Don’t overuse the past perfect verb tense, as in would  or had. When writing a paragraph in this tense, begin in the past perfect : Right before his father had become a drag queen in Vegas, Robert would have long talks with him  when they would go to the mall to buy high heels, then switch to past tense – They mainly talked about makeup and glitter instead of continuing in the past perfect: They had talked mainly about makeup and glitter

** Make each sentence as strong as possible, keeping in mind that the end is the most powerful part. “I’m leaving you for my chemistry professor,” he said as he put down his rapidly melting lab beaker is not as powerful as He put down his rapidly melting lab beaker and said, “I’m leaving you for my chemistry professor.”

**  Avoid overwriting. Trust that the reader is at least as intelligent as you are.  They will be able to figure out what you are trying to say without hitting them over the head with it.

** Reading out loud is the best way to hear the rhythm of the sentences. “The Phelps family sounded like bigoted idiots” might look okay but try saying it out loud. “The Phelps family sounded like ignorant bigots” sounds much better. At any rate, both sentences are true…

Grammar and Punctuation

** Carefully proofreading for typos and grammatical errors should usually be one of the final steps in revision. There’s no sense in spending a long time perfecting a paragraph only to cut the whole thing out later.

** Use a Comma:

— To separate items in a series: She gathered her baseball,her glove, and her dose of steroids.

— With a small conjunction, such as and, but, for, nor, yet, so, to connect two independent clauses, as in She liked the guy, but she kicked him in the head with her cleats.

— For introductory elements, such as Before joining the circus, he worked as a stock broker.

— With parentheticals (a parenthetical could be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence) He put on his floppy shoes, which were completely unnecessary, for his prostate exam.

— When both the city and the state name are mentioned together, it is considered a parenthetical element. We saw the Orioles kick some major Yankee posterior in Baltimore, Maryland, last summer.

** Use a Semicolon:

— To separate two main clauses that are not joined by a coordinating conjunction.  Those in glass houses who throw stones don’t need windows; those in stone houses who throw glass do need shoes.

— To separate main clauses joined by a conjunctive adverb, such as however, consequently, otherwise, moreover, nevertheless. Many people think it is necessary to go to college; however, it’s not so if your dream is work at Chuck E. Cheese.

** Use a Colon:

— For a summary or a series after a complete main clause: They were a ragtag team of misfits: a circus clown, a stock broker, an angry female baseball player, and a guy from Chuck E. Cheese.

** Use a Dash (–)

— For a short summary after a complete main clause: At the bottom of the backpack was a surprise—used chewing gum.

— In place of a pair of commas to set off words, phrases, or clauses that interrupt a sentence with additional–but not vital–information: Of all the well-known Muppets—Miss Piggy, Scooter, Rowlf, Fozzie—great as they were, Kermit made the most money.

Fine, Have It Your Own Way

This revision list was compiled from a bunch of different books and websites and I find it helpful for my revisions. If you’ve got a better way that works for you – go for it! Just make sure you rewrite and revise as many times as it takes to make your writing as good as it can be. Otherwise, brush up on your short order cook skills.

Links

Revising Vs. Rewriting  

 Tips for Revising Your Manuscript

 Revising Your Manuscript

The Joy of Revisions

 How to Cut Thousands of Words Without Shedding a Tear 

Rewriting: Different Ways to Edit Your Manuscript

Five Traps to Avoid When Rewriting Your Manuscript

How to Edit and Rewrite Your Manuscript

How to Rewrite 

Why I Would Decline an Edit on  Manuscript 

The 13 Most Common Errors on a Novel’s First Page

What Does the Editing Process Look Like

 

Brief Script Update – Just in Case Anyone Cares

I have not yet reached that Eureka!!! moment where the whole script comes together, but it’s coming soon. I can feel it. The characters are now jostling for my attention – telling me little bits and pieces of their backstory and telling me why they do the things they do…

I was lucky to walk outside yesterday in the rare 70 degree February sunshine. As usual, I was listening to my individualized “soundtrack” to my script. I have successfully reclaimed the songs – they no longer belong to the last draft that was terrible. As a matter of fact, I found myself straining to remember what happened in the story in the last draft.

I abruptly stopped walking for moment. I swear, it took me a full 30 seconds to remember what the hell happened in the earlier draft – the one that took me more than a year to write, but was blasted to oblivion in a review.

 I literally could not remember the original story. 

It just shows how much I’ve really let go of that draft. All the scenes and characters I loved as well as the heartbreak of the bad review.

 I’m totally over it. It’s all about the new, exciting draft.

 It was a nice moment.

Have a great Friday, everyone.

Sometimes You Just Have to Kill People

It’s tough, but if you’re a writer, you gotta do it sometimes.

I’m working on a page one rewrite of my latest script. We’re talking total rehaul here. I did the same thing with the last two scripts I wrote: page one rewrite, kept the basic premise and a main character or two, trashed the rest, and started over. One of those scripts was a Finalist in a national contest. The other is currently under option with Runaway Productions. You can’t argue with results…

MACRO NOTES (or why you probably need a page one rewrite….)

In the process, some characters had to go. Sorry, it’s not you, it’s me. Well,I guess technically, it’s both…

ROBERTA- Girl, we had some laughs. I’m gonna miss you. I really, really hate to lose you, especially that great scene with you at the end. It just wasn’t working. Sorry.

CHRISTIAN – You were a part of a subplot that just wasn’t meant to be. You’ll find someone else – really! Actually, you don’t need to. As it turns out, your girlfriend, AMY, is getting cut too.

AMY – Ride off into the sunset with CHRISTIAN. You kids are gonna make it! Just not in this story.

NATHAN – You were a love interest suggested by my script analyst. Not gonna lie – I was never that fond of you. Not really sorry to see you go.

HAILEY – You were dead weight from the beginning. You contributed nothing to the script. You HAD to go.

KARY DOMINAC – You were a bitch. It’s okay! You were supposed to be. You were just too complicated. You’re just not the right villain for the story.

CAMILLE – You’re on the chopping block, but I’m just not sure yet. You may get a last minute reprieve. Depends on how the script goes from here…

And to IMOGENE, PAULA, and MATT (extends rose…) you guys are still in! Congratulations. Please do your best in the script. Be funny, entertaining, multi-dimensional, and advance your character and the plot in every scene.

Please welcome to the script LINDSAY, JILLIAN, and HANNAH. Give them a round of applause! Okay, that’s enough. Don’t be too nice to them – two of them are villains.

It’s hard to get rid of characters and scenes I once loved. However, I’ve learned from experience that over time I will develop stronger characters and better scenes that I love even more. The scenes I once loved will start to vanish until they are nothing but a distant memory.

Thanks, Santa, but this was NOT on my list…

Twas the last mailing day before Christmas (Christmas Eve) when I went out to the mailbox. All I wanted for Christmas (in the mail, anyway) was a Ryan Reynolds autograph….

For those of you unfamiliar with the Wannabe Autograph Project – I’ve been sending out my Wannabe flyer for my blog and asking celebrities to autograph it and write an inspirational “don’t give up” kind of message. I’ve gotten some truly amazing responses – many of them far better than just my little paper flyer. I get envelopes and packages of all sizes and it’s usually something pretty cool.

Autographs

So when I saw the manila envelope in my mailbox on Christmas Eve, it took me an extra second or two to realize what it was, though I did figure it out before I even touched the envelope.

It was my manuscript being returned to me by the literary agent who requested it last month.

Make no mistake – I FULLY expected to get a rejection. Though I’ve been writing screenplays for more than a decade, this was my first novel. Sure, I worked very hard on it. I read book after book after book on how to write a novel – believe me, I didn’t just dive in and start writing. I did my homework. I wrote and rewrote and rewrote, had it reviewed by a professional first, etc. But still, this was my first novel. I learned a long time ago that writing well is an incredibly difficult thing to do. I’ve mentally prepared to get well over a dozen rejections (at LEAST) before I have any success on this novel. I knew it was coming.

Just not on Christmas Eve.

Here is the rejection in it’s entirety:

“Thank for (sic!) giving me the opportunity to consider RAIN ON THE WATER. It is obvious that you have had a lot of experience and success with your writing. I particularly enjoyed the plot of your story and think that the way you jump right into the excitement and mystery is effective. Unfortunately, though, I’m going to pass. While your plot developed well, I found Jeri and Crystal difficult to relate to.

I’m sorry not to be your match on this project. I don’t doubt that another agent will feel differently.”

At first I was irritated at receiving a rejection on Christmas Eve. But the more I thought about it, the better I felt. I KNEW this novel would be rejected numerous times and I still fully expect that I will need to do numerous rewrites once I get more feedback on what needs to be redone.

I never expected my first rejection on my novel to be this GOOD.

And to me, that’s a win.

I’m Not Indestructible

Though I’m technically not working on my script, the ideas keep coming. It’s so wonderful when it works like that. There’s no pressure to write, but since my mind is free and open to explore, the ideas can occur to me without editing or judgment.

Still, it’s hard to go back and rewrite a script even when just loosely thinking about it in passing. The past haunts you.

It’s hard to look back on characters and have to completely re-think them. I’m so used to thinking of them being one way, but now I’m rewriting them. They have the same names, and it’s hard to let go of the old characteristics. You know, the ones that weren’t good enough the first time around.

The songs that I listened to while writing are now tainted. Those perfect songs that fit the script so well are now reminders of every scene that didn’t work, every plotline that turned out to be unbelievable.

Here’s where past failures can really help. I specifically remember going through this exact problem with my last script. I’ve learned that I CAN reclaim the songs that still fit the story. When I hear songs from that last script, I think of the new, good version of the script. The contest-finalist version. I can barely remember what was in those awful, earlier drafts.

It’s hard to go forward with a new draft after you’ve gotten a bad review. It definitely eats away at your confidence. Those parts of the story that I knew would work – didn’t. Like, not at ALL. How do you go forward when you don’t have any confidence that your next draft will be any better?

You just do. That’s what makes you a real writer.

It helps that I’ve read so many autobiographies of successful people. I’ve found that NOBODY really has a lot of confidence when they put themselves and their work out there. They just do it anyway. That’s what eventually brings success.

It’s always scary to fail and then muster the courage to try again with absolutely no guarantee that the outcome will be any different.

I’ve quoted it before and here it is again:

“Superman is indestructible, and you can’t be brave if you’re indestructible.” – ANGUS.

I’m not indestructible. I’m brave.

Simplicity

As the old song goes, “Tis a Gift To Be Simple”. I’m inclined to agree.

I haven’t changed my mind about not looking at my script until after the holidays – I still believe that’s best. I need some distance in order to get the fresh start I need. However, that doesn’t mean I should turn off my imagination. I couldn’t if I wanted to. While I’m not actively working on my script right now, I can’t help but think about it from time to time. That’s actually a good thing. Sometimes you find the solutions when you’re not trying so hard.

I shouldn’t be all the surprised that this script didn’t turn out well. It was a hard struggle from the beginning, which is not always the case. I worked for a very long time on one outline after another. Lots of detailed notes of stuff I wanted to fit in the script. There was lots of information, character details, plot ideas, but there was a lot missing.

Mainly, fun.

I loved the idea for this script, but I was not having much fun with it. The script I wrote right before this one took me two full years to get right. And I never got tired of it. I had fun with the characters and the plot. I had some awful reviews in the beginning and it was devastating, but I battled my way back until the script became a finalist in a national competition. Maybe I can do that again with this one.

Dealing With Rejection Part 1 : Emotional

Screenplay | The Writer’s Life: Learn From Rejection

I am starting to believe I was trying too hard with this latest script. I like the premise and I really like the main character. I think I’ll build on those elements and see what I can do. I’m throwing out all the complicated plotlines and twists (that turned out to be too obvious anyway) and just go back to basics. For the next month, I’m going to let my mind be free. If I feel like kicking around ideas for the script – great. If I feel like singing Christmas carols and eating cookie dough with the kids, then I’ll do that.

I need to simplify the script. Think about what might be funny. What would happen if…what if the main character did….wouldn’t it be hysterical if…. and see what I come up with. Just let go and see what happens and where the characters might lead me.

And that’s what writing is all about, Charlie Brown.

That Was Fast….

Sometimes it’s just really, really, hard to be a wannabe…

Remember when I said it was dangerous to submit a script for a review when you barely had time to celebrate finishing the thing? Remember that?

I worked on that script for an entire year. And just like there – in black and white – a short one page review – it’s shredded into little tiny pieces. Just like that.

The review is in. It’s nowhere near done. I guess I haven’t come as far as I thought. I’m going to have to go back to the beginning and start all over again.

My beloved husband, who knows me so well, once gave me a sign that now hangs in our kitchen. It’s a quote from Confucius:

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but getting up every time we do.”

That’s goddamn right.

Fade in…

Will Write for Ink

It’s been a busy week in my Wannabe life. On Wednesday, I finished a very lengthy and grueling third draft of my latest comedy screenplay. I was incredibly relieved to finish it. I really need some space from that one, so I am putting it away and not even looking at it until after Thanksgiving. After that, I hope to go through it and punch up the dialogue, strengthen the characters, and generally tighten up the story, all of which should be easier than banging out new pages every day. Of course, that’s what I thought this third draft would be like. It turns out, however, that the script sucked. I pretty much had to write it all over again.

When I finish a draft, especially a tough one like this, I can’t help but sometimes imagine that today’s accomplishment might be tomorrow’s rejection. I’ve been through the same drill with each script for the last decade and a half – draft a script, rewrite the hell out of it, query every producer that I can with it, some will read it, most won’t, and then once I’m out of production companies, I move on to the next script. Rinse, lather, repeat. I’m proud of the work that I’ve done so far on this script. I dragged myself out of bed at 5am every morning and worked on it whether I felt like it or not. I don’t wait for inspiration to strike. I don’t wait, I just DO. And somehow, between running a household, paying the bills, raising two kids, and working a full time job, I manage to finish a screenplay – one hour at a time. I’m proud of it, but I can’t help but wonder if it will eventually result in a success, or is this script just a bunch of future rejection letters waiting to happen?

I’ve been so busy writing this script that I haven’t had too much time lately to work on marketing the middle-grade novel I wrote last year. However, late Sunday, I took some time and sent out a few emails to literary agents. I can only do email because, at the moment, I cannot afford ink cartridges for my printer. If it wasn’t for my mother, I wouldn’t even have paper…The life of a starving writer.

On Monday, less than 24 hours after I sent out the email queries, I received a rejection. Such is life as a Wannabe in the digital age – bad news travels FAST.

On Thursday, the day after I finished my tough draft of the new screenplay and was wondering why I put myself through all this, I got another email. A literary agent in New York City requested the first 50 pages of my novel! I literally did a double take as I read the email. I finished this novel last year in November. For a solid year I’ve sent out queries to agents and for a year every single one of them said NO. It got to the point where I would sent out several queries, wait for the rejections, then plan to send more. It becomes so automatic after a year of rejections, I almost forget that once in a while, people do say YES.

The best case scenario is that the she will love the novel and decide to be my agent, perhaps putting me on the path to publication. Maybe I’ll look back and laugh – remembering that I actually had to wait for my next paycheck to buy ink so I could send out the pages. If nothing else, perhaps the agent will send me some notes on how to improve the novel. I know the story is strong – after all, the same story in screenplay version is currently optioned by a production company in L.A. The jury’s still out as far as whether or not I am any good as a novel writer.

Either way, it’s a win. I needed a win right now after having worked so long and hard on writing, even if it was on an unrelated script. It was wonderful reminder that today’s hard work really can be tomorrow’s success story. Even if it did take more than a year.