Well, it’s taken a bit longer than I might have hoped, but I’ve finished a new draft of my short story “The Trigger”, based on feedback I got from the Hamilton Writers group and the other two members of the ‘Terrible Trio’. (Which isn’t a name we settled on, because Lydia didn’t approve it.)
The length of this new draft is up by a remarkable amount – from 2000 words in my initial draft, which was a requirement of the SDMB short fiction contest, up to over six thousand! And what’s more, I think I’ve noticed something about the way I tend to tackle story revisions sometimes – not necessarily a good way or bad way, but figuring things out about my own writing process seems a useful thing to be paying attention to at this point.
The thing is, if I know I need to make big structural changes to a story, I don’t tend to work closely based off the previous draft and the critique notes I’ve got from it. I’ll review everything – and then start writing again, as if it were a new story, but based on the previous idea. If there’s a scene or part of a scene that I think would still mostly work, then I copy and paste it in, and edit as needed, but in other places I might just type in a few lines of dialog from memory, or descriptions, without even checking the last draft.
And then, usually, I go over the critique notes again, to make sure that I’m not repeating any bad mistakes from last time. I haven’t gotten to that bit with ‘The Trigger’ yet.
I’ve gone through this pattern a few times since I’ve started tackling short stories in the past two years – changing ‘Samantha and the Wolves’ into ‘The Wolves of Wyoming’, revising ‘Harry and Mars’ before I sent it in to the Kansas workshop participants, rewriting ‘Survey’ into ‘The Wyverns of Werness’ over the workshop weekend, and now ‘The Trigger.’
And this isn’t the only way that I do revisions – I did a fairly substantial rewrite of ‘The Landing’ based much more closely on the previous draft in August, and I’ve done some more superficial revisions as well. This ‘Scavenge and Rebuild’ tactic seems to be a fairly useful one, I think – probably should keep an eye on the results a bit before I let myself get too comfortable with it, but at least it’s a fairly fun way of approaching a rewrite.
What’s your usual approach to doing a rewrite, if you have one?
Hi, thanks for visiting my blog earlier. I’m terribly unorganised when it comes to revisions. I just write, cut, adjust, write, cut, adjust, and the story changes itself as I go. I’m sure there is a better way, I just haven’t found it yet!
I write a draft that ends up growing when I do revisions. I think that’s the opposite of what most writers do. I tend to flesh out details where I have written too quickly. The closest I’ve come to “starting over” is my current manuscript. I wrote 20,000 words in a third person POV and alternated between two characters. I wasn’t sure if it worked so I wrote another version in first POV, one character.
I don’t do as much writing as you do these days, but I used to do some. If I tried to revise right away, I always made a mess. If I left it, went away for a day or two and came back, it seemed so easy to fix things up. Not sure why that is, guess I could see the problems clearer. Not very sophisticated but it worked. I say, if your method works for ya’, take it and run! 🙂
Hey, Chris, so far I have written 100,000 word novels, a 20,000 word novella and a few short stories, so I tend to take the feedback from my critique groups and revise chapter by chapter, then I’ll go over the story from beginning to end with character’s goals, motivations and conflicts more clearly defined. I find I need to get that first draft done to get to know the characters, then I try to ramp up the conflicts. My problem is knowing when to stop revising. As an author (can’t remember the name) once said I’m not a writer, I’m a rewriter!
For me, it depends on the revisions/restructuring that are necessary. If it’s a major revision, then I might do something similar to what you described — however I tend to copy and paste whatever I think I may need from the old version and change it as necessary instead of working it back in from memory. I am way too clingy with my words sometimes. Must get over that I think at some point 🙂
That is an interesting way of revising… The only method I’ve used so far is chapter by chapter revisions based on feedback from other people. No major cutting out or reshaping yet!
For my novel in progress, I do a LOT of rewriting as I go. I liken my writing process to drawing: my initial rush of inspiration, trying to get the idea of the scene down, is like sketching. But, once I get the whole of what I want to capture, I go back and work in all the details.
A few weeks ago, I got to the point where I needed to reframe the story and add in a lot of new information in the beginning in order for me to move forward in the storyline. That involved completely rewriting the first 2 pages, and working in different details into the rest of the first three chapters. Then, I added in new scenes to cobble together the rest of the chapters. Hopefully, all that work will equal to some good forward progress!
For short fiction, I’m pretty merciless when it comes to trimming excess verbiage. I like the feeling of making each sentence tighter, making each word count for something. Revising short fiction is almost a physical process for me–>I need to feel each word like a punch in the gut.
Good luck, and happy writing to you!