My Three Rs: Rereadin’, Rewritin’, and Revisin’

Some days you have to choose–blogging versus spending quality time with the grandkids and one of your BFFs. Yesterday, the grandkids and the BFF won. So, no blogging, though I did spend a couple of hours in the evening working on the novel rewrite/revision.

I have about forty pages left from the original, rough draft to rewrite/revise. In the process I’ve added about 10,000 words to a manuscript, which was “just” 63,000 words to begin with. I’ve been told 60,000 to 70,000 words is a good length for an MS you’re going to shop to agents. Of course, I’ve also been told, at a different writing conference, that 100,000 words is tops for such an MS. So, who knows?

I think this first revision will end up at about 76,000 words, give or take a thousand. That doesn’t bother me, since the next step–after letting the MS gel a while–is to do a line edit. That should bring me back closer to 70-72,000 words, which I think is enough to tell a story in two time lines.

Why did I add words in a rewrite? Well, that happens sometimes, especially after time has passed since you wrote the draft and a re-read shows you scenes, which have no context. The actions, dialogue, setting, etc., seem to have just fallen from the ether onto the page. The context has to be there, or the reader will spot the disconnect right away. Sometimes the additional material has to be there to make a character two- or even three-dimensional. Other times it’s because what is obvious to the writer isn’t always to the reader. Yes, readers like it when you give them just enough for them to make the leap of logic; however, you can’t give them a chasm to jump. Readers are not Evel Knievel.

Here’s an example: A character in this novel is obsessed with the unborn child of her own son, killed in World War II. It wasn’t enough to just state this. I needed to show examples of this obsession, and this led to a scene of a frenzied woman going to the house where her daughter-in-law has sought refuge from her and making a scene. And of course, I had to write other scenes to show this tendency so that the final scene had context and was believable. Also, of course, those scenes may not stay, but at the time I needed them to understand this character better. You can’t condense until you have the context of the characters, the plot, even the setting.

Another example: Since I made up a town in the Shenandoah Valley, I had to give it a history, some of which is based on three different towns where I’ve resided, as a child, a teenager, and an adult. The history is great–I both researched and relied on my memory, and I’ve created what comes across, to me, as a real place. However, again, how much of that history is essential to the overall story in the novel remains to be seen, but I needed that to fully realize this fictional town in my head.

Of course, this fixation on rewriting/revising means I’ve created very little original material, at least not novel length. I average two pieces of flash fiction a week, which keeps the writing brain engaged. I do, however, miss the process of sitting down and churning out a novel-length work.

Then, again, that’s what NaNoWriMo is for–and that’s only three months away.

Three months? I guess I better start thinking about something new to write.

I live for your constructive comments.

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