December 20, 2012

no. 11: re-writing: the gift that keeps on giving

Blogger's Note: I had the chance to review Romi Moondi's Year of the Chick (read it here) and Last-Minute Love (and here) this year while also bonding about our mutual love of Ryan Gosling. The funny lady she is, I'm thrilled to have her participate in the 12 Days of Writing. Be sure to leave a comment on this post for your chance to win a prize package of books.

No. 11: Re-Writing: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

By Romi Moondi
Author of Year of the Chick and Last-Minute Love

I’m guessing you either thought A: the post’s title was sarcastic, or B: you thought it was for real, and now you want to punch me in the mouth. Let me be clear: no, and PLEASE no!

Thanks to Laura I’ll have the chance to explain throughout this guest post, and by the end I hope you’ll agree with the title!

I’ll admit it, first-drafting is definitely the most “go wild, let’s party!” exciting part of writing. It’s like when your eyes perk up after that third Red Bull and vodka when you’re out dancing with the girls...there’s no telling where the night will take you! On the other hand, the re-write is traditionally seen as the point where you “buckle down,” pull out your writing sheriff’s badge, and banish all the crap one layer at a time.

But what if you looked at it another way? What if the re-write was truly all about what you PUT BACK IN?

Because guess what: it is!

This became clear to me most recently, when I started the first re-write of my adapted screenplay Year of the Chick (which is based on the first book in the series). I’m still in the process of completing this monster task, but in some weird way it excites me (is that sick?). I think it excites me because I’ve listed off the various layers of “minor surgery” needed, and that really helps me see what good will go back in once I carefully take out the crap. This is something I’d highly recommend for novel-writing too, so hopefully all you book writers find this process useful:
  • Make a notes page, and then list the type of editing needed one bullet point at a time, sometimes in the form of a question. For example: Has the setting come to life to be a character in the book? How? Then go through the screenplay or book, proving to yourself that you’ve done this, or deleting where it’s bland, and adding in the stuff that answers YES to the above question.
  • Highlight each bullet point in green once you’ve completed that particular edit. Green means good and correct and go and St. Patty’s Day...all great things! In other words the more green you see on the page, the more you’ll feel like you’re getting somewhere on the re-write! (Red is banished from this page; don’t we already see enough “red equals wrong so change this” in our writer lives?)
  • Reward yourself with each completed bullet point. This could mean a peanut M&M, a Sour Patch Kid, five minutes on the Internet...whatever your vice!
As you go through this process, you’ll notice that a lot of it involves cutting, whether you’re screenwriting or writing a book; it could mean cutting dialogue, long descriptions, or even entire sections of a chapter that don’t move the plot forward. The cutting sounds like work, but the magic happens almost immediately after. It’s everything you strip away that identifies what actually works, and when you see little glimpses of that, you’ll be able to add and inject way more of this goodness when you do your next read-through. It’s like getting in shape and using Botox (trust me this totally makes sense). There you are, doing all this cardio to drop the fat, only to inject it back in so your face looks ten years younger (though frozen). It’s like magic!

Okay fine, that analogy kind of fell off the rails, and I promise never to use it in a book.

Most of EVERYTHING ELSE I told you made sense though, didn’t it? Re-writes aren’t evil if you focus on the green instead of the red. Stripping out the crap is like digging for treasure; the closer you get the more exciting it is, and when you finally unlock how great your story can be, you’ll find it a lot easier to add the shiny, priceless stuff that makes your story truly sing.

Happy re-writing and happy new year!

About the Author
I don't want to spend too much time writing a biography in this box, otherwise you won't buy my autobiography when I one day narcissistically write it.

Therefore I will only divulge three facts:
1. I've been pooped on by a pigeon twice
2. A homeless lady in New York once told me "You're just a bitch on vacation with no money!"
3. I wrote a column in my high school newspaper called "Dr. Teen Angst." It was kinda mean.

For More Information About Romi
Barnes & Noble: (search "Romi Moondi)
Kobo: (search "Romi Moondi")
iTunes: available in every iTunes store! (search "Romi Moondi")

Comment on this post by 12 p.m. CDT Sun., Dec. 23 for one entry in the week's prize package. Each pack includes at least three print books and other swag. You can comment on each 12 Days of Writing post to increase your chances of winning.

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  1. Every time I read something from Romi I love her a little bit more. Which is somewhat creepy but I feel like she'd understand... :)

  2. Romi, I loved this post. I struggle, as many do, with finding the joy in the re-writes. Thank you for giving me a different perspective.