WRITING IS REWRITING! – SECOND DRAFT RETREAT :)

View from Springbrook retreat

Every writer knows the first draft is only a small part of the work involved in bringing a story to publishable standard. As Ernest Hemingway once famously said, “All first drafts are crap!” (I may be paraphrasing a little :)).

So how do we take a crappy first draft to something publishers are going to fight over? Rewriting! Or if we’re lucky just redrafting – though let’s face it if you’re a pantster like I was, you may have to write whole new sections. Twice I’ve cut back first drafts of 100 000+ words to 30 000 then rewrote the rest!

Ernest Hemingway – redrafting?

How do you self-edit?

The first step of any rewrite is the structural edit.

This looks at how the main elements of our story are working: characters, setting, voice, genre-expectations and plot. Mainly plot! 

The best place to start is with a scene list – not just chapter headings but a list of every scene within every chapter. Include which characters are involved, where it’s set, what’s happening (clue – if nothing’s happening – cut now!) and the main focus of the scene, plus whether the scene is moving us towards Hope or Fear. Go through the whole manuscript and you’ll come up with a list of potentially hundreds of scenes.

Photo by picjumbo.com on Pexels.com

Once you have this list it’s much easier to see any repetition, or worst of all, completely unnecessary scenes that are neither developing or illustrating character or moving the plot forward. This is when we press DELETE. Or, for chickens like me, this is when we cut these scenes and paste them into another document called “Good bits I may use later.” I have a few of these documents now for various projects and mostly they remain unused, but occasionally I’ll go back in and pull out a section that has become relevant again.

Your scene list will show you where your story starts to sink in the middle or if a character who was pivotal in the first half fades away in the second. You’ll be able to tell if a character is suddenly acting completely differently to who they were earlier, of if they have taken up too much page space – this often happens when we just go with the flow and let bossy or forceful characters have their way. 

Oh yes, those bossy characters may kick up a stink.

A scene list makes it easier to find any plot holes or if you’re building enough suspense or just having characters repeat themselves over and over without growth or change.

What tricks do you have up your sleeve to help you tackle the dreaded, but actually fun, second draft?

Have you got a project nearing the stage when it needs a proper evaluation and an objective rethink?

Writers hard at work on their redrafts at the last Second Draft retreat!

If so, come along and join us at Springbrook in the rainforest covered mountains behind the Gold Coast in Queensland for a cosy winter SECOND DRAFT RETREAT – AUGUST 12 – 14.

Come and join the fun!

This special retreat, for women and non-binary writers with a project needing attention, has workshops to help you tackle the second draft, focusing on finding the heart of your story, distilling the themes, the structural edit, and plenty of tips to help with line editing and pitch documents too.

All in a stunning location with cosy single rooms with desks, beauty and peace, like-minded folk to share your story with in feedback groups, fantastic food and lots of fun. 

For only $440 if you book before June 30 2022. See more information about the retreat and other retreats coming up HERE.

Or drop me a line for more information.

The second draft needn’t be a scary or lonely experience. Come along on retreat, connect with other writers, and get a head start on the next stage of your project.

What tips do you have for tackling the second draft (or third fourth or hundredth for that matter!).

Hope you can make it to retreat – we always have a wonderful time 🙂

More lovely retreaters 🙂

Lots of love,

Edwina xx

THE D WORD METHOD OF DARN GOOD DESCRIPTION

My C Word Method of Character Creation is responsible for this! Couldn’t help myself!

I’m well into this semester’s teaching at the University of Queensland and am drowning in a whole lot of adjective-plagued setting description that is driving me to distraction. As writers we need to ground the reader in the world of the story by describing the setting.

But how can we do this without just piling on the adjectives?

Here is another lesson from screenplay – SHOW US WITH ACTION or in this case DOING WORDS! (D word!)

Booth by Karen Joy Fowler

I’ve recently finished reading Booth by Karen Joy Fowler, one of my favourite writers, as much for the strength of her prose as the interesting topics she chooses and the compelling nature of her stories. Here is a random sample of setting description from Booth.

Paragraph from Booth

Yes, a couple of adjectives, but mostly Fowler shows us what people are DOING. Even the plants are DOING something. The sun is shining. The tulip trees are coming into bloom.

Children chase each other. Everyone and everything is moving. Verbs abound! By doing this the author creates a scene that we can imagine, that we “see” with our mind’s eye, and a setting that feels real and contemporary, even though this scene is set in the 1860s.

She shows rather than tells us what is in the park. She could have just said: He went to the park and there were green trees, and it was a sunny day. It was pretty busy with people.

But she didn’t. Thank goodness!

Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

THE D WORD METHOD OF DESCRIPTION

Good DESCRIPTION is made up of specific sensory DETAILS and DOING WORDS.

PROMPT 1

Remember a place you’ve been to – a park like this, or a beach, or a forest, or a party, or a classroom, or a shopping centre – and write a paragraph of DESCRIPTION using primarily DOING WORDS. See if you can avoid using any adjectives or adverbs at all. Instead create a list almost of people, animals and plants in ACTION.

Add people DOING things 🙂

Set a timer for five minutes and go for it!

PROMPT 2

Now do the same thing but for a place you’re unfamiliar with, another planet, or some kind of fantasy world, or futuristic or historical setting. Practice world building through describing actions.

Photo by Nothing Ahead on Pexels.com

Set your timer and write like the wind!

SETTING IN STORIES

Whenever you read, look for examples of how writers you admire establish setting in their stories. Look for the verbs. Look for specific details and nouns. When you’ve found a great passage, use it as inspiration to practice writing something similar.

Thank you Karen Joy Fowler for being an inspiration and a joy to read. 

Good luck with your writing projects. Hope the D word method helps!

Let me know how you go with your prompts.

Lots of love

Edwina xx