At the moment, I’m slapping down two really rough first draft. Seriously rough. One is so bad that tomorrow I’m going to start this chapter all over again. But that’s okay because I don’t have a deadline. This is a something I’m writing for fun.
But the other one? Once I get a draft down, it is time to rewrite. When I have to rewrite and it just won’t come, I know that I am most likely trying to do too many things at once. I can’t make sure the order is logical, add more examples, punch up the language, and cut words all in the same pass. When I try, something gets neglected or I get frustrated and quit.
To keep this from happening, I may a super detailed to-do list. If you decide to do something like this, make a list and then get to work. Normally it takes me about five minutes to make the list. Then I take the rewrite chunk by chunk.
- Fix problems and holes that you marked while writing. You know the ones. The note you left yourself says something like – ADD A TRANSITION HERE or COME UP WITH A WORTHWHILE EXAMPLE.
- Opening hook of whole manuscript.
- Opening of each subsection/chapter.
- Make sure there are enough examples/details.
- Punch up those verbs.
- Do what it takes to get rid of the adverbs.
- Check the main character’s emotional development/story arc.
- Repeat #8 for secondary characters.
- Is the setting clear and present?
- Do the setting details fit the tone/mood of the story at that point?
- Are there several sensory details on each page?
- Read the dialogue aloud. Does each character sound unique?
- Check your dialogue tags. Can you replace them with beats of action. This is one of my favorite tasks.
- Read the manuscript aloud to double-check voice and flow.
- This one is optional but I also check the reading level. Most of my nonfiction has to be written to a certain range so this may not be essential in your own work.
It looks like a lot, and it is. But if you want your writing to be top-notch, you need to find a way to work through a rewrite. Ultimately, you need to find the method that works for you. Give this one a try. It just might work.