Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Procrastination Station (Revision Edition): Reread to Retread

The big philosophy of Nanowrimo - after caffeine, chocolate, and community can turn any die-hard type-A into a writer! - is that to rewrite, first you must have written.

Somewhere in between writing and rewriting, you must reread what you have written.

Oh, boy.

This is the painful part. It wasn't naming characters or killing off your favorite, or your nine favorites, or even clawing your way through the occasional five thousand word day to drag your manuscript across the finish line. You thought those were hard, but wait until you have to reread what you slapped down at 2 am that one time you thought finishing off the wine bottle on your ownsies was a brilliant idea.

Rereading what you actually have is like ripping band-aids off your eyeballs. It hurts, best done quickly, and is kind of a letdown. Think about it - your eyeballs have a lot of moisture so I imagine that adhesive isn't all that bad, not like tearing a band-aid off your arm or somewhere with actual hair. Anyway, my point is the first reread happens without a pen in hand. My goal with that first reread is to unrosy my view and understand that, yes, I really did rename my male protagonist halfway through my novel without realizing it. I later renamed another male character with the exact same name halfway through a scene.

I think I really like that name.

I put a comma in the middle of a word, I brought up three separate storylines that went approximately nowhere, I suddenly answered questions that had yet to be asked, and thanks to my tendency to write four thousand words in a sitting and then ignore my work for three days, my manuscript has wide swaths of text that makes sense but setting all those wide swaths together gives me something swampy and uneven.

My villain whines, my sympathetic sidekick is the creepiest sociopath outside of Hannibal Lecter, and the love interest should have been pushed out a window by page two. From a very tall building.

The first reread is the most painful I've noticed because not only do I wince at every new scene but I skim when I know I've committed a writing sin which means I'll have to read it again. That's okay. Those stray commas aren't going to circle themselves.

Most importantly, those five page chunks of prose that go nowhere aren't going to X out themselves.

The first reread is the worst, until I get to the second, and the third, and the fourth...

Thinking of revision as some kind of huge undertaking is a good way to put my novel in a drawer and never look at it again. Instead I have to think of it as a series of small steps. Where Nanowrimo says write, then write, then write some more, I now have to read. Read. Read some more. Try not to strangle the love interest. Keep reading. Don't look away.

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