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Author Topic: Any good redrafting advice?  (Read 1280 times)

Offline Peat

Any good redrafting advice?
« on: April 21, 2016, 04:05:15 PM »
About to undertake some major redrafts and was hoping for some good advice on what in particular to look for/work on - like, what things are almost always weak in the first draft. I tried googling for advice, and all I got was stuff saying "leave it/redraft it". Thanks Internet! I know you guys and girls won't let me down though.
This is the blog of Peat - http://peatlong.blogspot.co.uk/

Offline tebakutis

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Re: Any good redrafting advice?
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2016, 04:10:08 PM »
Advance readers are, by far, my biggest guide in what to change or improve in a second draft of a novel. Especially if they've all commented on the same element or elements. Until you've had some readers or an editor sink their teeth into your novel, it's easy to fall into the trap of moving pieces around for no good reason.

If you don't have any advance readers, however, then I'd focus on the fundamentals - eliminating passive voice, looking for things you could show instead of tell, trimming words you don't need, fixing typos, and other things that will objectively improve your draft. Plot and pacing, unfortunately, is always subjective, so once you're relatively happy with what you have, second guessing yourself without outside input is inefficient.

But regardless, you have completed a novel. So congrats on that! :)

Offline cupiscent

Re: Any good redrafting advice?
« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2016, 02:21:58 AM »
Readers are fantastic for finding things that need work. But personally, I don't go out to readers before I've done at least one round of revisions myself.

The best advice I've had for redrafting came from Susan Dennard. You can read her full advice over here, but what I really got out of it was getting back to the core of your story: that is, read what you actually wrote; remember the story you wanted to tell; and plan how you're going to get from A to B.

I think all three parts of that are important. You need to read through what you have - just read, don't get bogged down in fiddling with line by line (though sometimes I make big plothole or character arc notes when I'm doing this) - so that you can get the sense of the whole thing in your head. Sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees. And the planning is always very important for me, because otherwise I just start in one corner and nibble my way out and lose site of the big changes I need to make because I'm too busy perfectly one paragraph.

For me, some key tools for planning my revisions are an idea of the plot skeleton, and a scene-by-scene breakdown of my story. I do my plot skeleton as protagonist/antagonist reversals - i.e. I map it between the big key turns where either the hero or the thing she's fighting come out on top. Ideally, these should go back and forth, escalating as the novel progresses. Sometimes, just doing this shows me places where the hero wins too many times in a row, or there's too big a gap between reversals, and that gives me pacing areas to work on.

For a scene-by-scene breakdown, I use Susan Dennard's advice again: for each scene, I note the protagonist, their goal, and what gets in the way (be in antagonist or other conflict). If I can't, that's a good sign I need to do serious work on that scene, or maybe trash it altogether. Every scene needs to be doing as much for my story as it can, but they also need to be clear and not trying to do too much all at once. Once I have a scene breakdown, I can use this to measure a lot of things about my story - how long each of the protag/antag reversals goes for, for instance. Or how long it takes between key beats of subplots and character arcs.

With these two things, and a renewed understanding of the book I want to have, I find it's just a matter of working through and marking up the places where I need to do work to get to that desired end state (tighten arcs, clarify motivations, improve pacing, build in more conflict, etc etc). And then I have a list of things to do, and I can just work through that list.

I make it sound easy, but sometimes I end up rolling around on the floor in a chaos of plot cards calling for booze and help. And sometimes I do this three times before I feel like the book is as good as I can make it, and it's time to seek advice from first-readers. So good luck! :)

Offline Justan Henner

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Re: Any good redrafting advice?
« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2016, 02:49:19 AM »
About to undertake some major redrafts and was hoping for some good advice on what in particular to look for/work on - like, what things are almost always weak in the first draft. I tried googling for advice, and all I got was stuff saying "leave it/redraft it". Thanks Internet! I know you guys and girls won't let me down though.

I think the reason you can't find a clear answer to this, is that every author is going to have his or her weak points, and those points are going to vary for every person.

Like tebakutis, I've found that beta readers are the greatest asset in determining where my writing struggles. The internet loves to regurgitate canned advice, but I've found that advice isn't always helpful or nearly as relevant as the feedback given by someone who has actually read your work. Having said that, there are certainly things you can do on your own, and typically I ask myself a set of questions along these lines:

1.) What is the purpose of the novel? What is the theme? What is the plot? Are these ideas clear by the end of the work?
2.) What am I promising to the reader? Does the tone support the promise? Does the plot support the promise?
3.) Is the grammar clean?
4.) Is the voice strong? Are the characters distinct? Are any of them too similar? Can I put into words why I think this person is interesting? Can I put into words why this person is vital to the novel?
5.) How does this character reinforce the novel's purpose? How does this scene reinforce the novel's purpose? Likewise, are they fulfilling my promise to the reader?
6.) Does this scene further my goals, or does it exist to fill space? Because I thought it was cool? Is it real conflict, conflict which heightens tension, or is it gratuitous?
7.) Is the end satisfying? If I didn't have the information I do, would I understand it? Have I written things this way because I think its right, or because I think its what people expect?
8.) Have I fulfilled the promise?
« Last Edit: April 22, 2016, 02:51:25 AM by Justan Henner »

Offline Peat

Re: Any good redrafting advice?
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2016, 03:01:21 PM »
Thanks guys, there's some great advice there.

And, yes, beta readers are the best guide... but I don't have enough of those *sniff sniff*.
This is the blog of Peat - http://peatlong.blogspot.co.uk/