Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Writing Wednesday: Self-Editing

Hey everyone,

Today I'm working on my own manuscript and I thought it would be great fun to show you what I do when I take a rough draft and change it into what it will look like when I turn it in. Yes, this is sort of combining the two 'jobs' I have facing me today, but don't hold that against me :)

Okay, this is the passage I'm working on right now:

(A little set-up: this is Kaylee's first day of real classes at the reformatory boarding school she's been court-ordered to attend and she's just made the most popular girl in the whole school angry by interrupting her three times during her report.)

Destiny managed to stall walking out the door long enough for Kaylee to catch up. Through her smile she said, "Chellee doesn’t like to be interrupted."

"Sorry," Kaylee muttered as they went into the hall together.

Chellee and two other girls were dawdling and when they saw her, straighted and came to her side. The strawberry blonde said, "We decided to escort you to the gymnasium, show you the way, in case you forgot already."

Kaylee sensed an intensity in this girl that went beyond just an expectation that others would worship her. The girl truly believed she was the most beautiful, most intelligent and had better taste than anyone she’d ever met. There was a sense too, that she wasn’t far off the mark as things came easy to her, she was smart and learned fast and had a huge dose of overachievement.

Kaylee’s father would have called her a classic… something or other, like vain, narcyst or something like that. The bag slung over her shoulder, she fit right in with the four girls. Destiny and Nancy she knew from breakfast, Chellee and the other blonde beside her, not so much—but oddly, because of the strict demands on her decorum and the way she dressed, Kaylee didn’t feel out of place at all.

Now here's the rewrite:

Destiny waited for Kaylee to catch up. Through her smile she said, "Chellee doesn’t like to be interrupted."

"Sorry," Kaylee muttered as they left together.

Chellee and two other girls dawdled in the hall. The trio straightened and Destiny made them a foursome. Nancy she remembered from breakfast, the mousy, petite blonde not so much. What did they want from her?

Chellee smiled. "We'll take you to the gym, in case you forgot already."

The girl's intense green eyes inspected Kaylee, challenging her. Would the new girl become one of her posse? Or would she pose a threat?

No way, Kaylee thought, did she want to dethrone the school's queen. She wanted to blend in, not start a feud on her very first day with a girl who obviously thought she was better than everyone else. She sensed Chellee wasn't far off the mark either. Things came easy to her; she was smart, athletic and creative. An overachiever everywhere she went, she thrived on the envy, jealousy—and worship of others.

Kaylee's dad would have called her a classic… something or other, like vain, nar-cyst or something.

In the uneasy quiet, Destiny said, "C'mon, it's not far."

Chellee's mouth twitched, but she didn't lose her smile. "Yes, we don't want you to make us late."

"Okay," Kaylee said. She relaxed some as they walked together. Dressed in the same uniform, their matching BH satchels hanging from their shoulders, she didn't feel so much like an outsider anymore. Maybe there was something to this uniform thing after all.

It will go through a few more edits before it ends up at the printer, but you see the difference right away between the original draft and the rewrite. I'm more inside Kaylee's head in the second one than the first. The second draft is always my favorite because of this. I get to be the character more and worry less about the story--because that part is already on the page.

I learned self-editing through the Adult Creative Writers Club and highly recommend their monthly anonymous contest to anyone wishing to test and hone their skills. (If you're interested, I finally won first place in July of 2003--contest #23 :))

Why don't you all take a moment to paste in a paragraph from your own work, and then how you rewrote it to come more from the character?



Martin Bartloff said...

One day I'll be as good as you now. Nicely shown. I think you should make all your previous myspace lesson blogs available, somewhere other than myspace.

I loved those writing lesson blogs, very helpful material.


J.R. Turner said...

Hey Martin :)

I've got all those saved off to my computer--plus other stuff I've written in the course of helping others. I was thinking of putting them together as a download, have them all in one place sort of thing.

Maybe one of those days when I'm not so busy :) In the meantime, you can run a search on my blog for anything you're interested in ;)


Author Guy said...

In my writing I put everything down in one draft, edits and revisions are done as I go. I come up with new text by re-reading old text and trying to work out where it would go from there, and word processors allow me to add foreshadowing and backstory whenever I need it. So I never have previous versions of a story lying about to compare. The only story I have even a part of from version 1 is so bad I would die before I let anyone see it. The first sentence of that version became the first paragraph of the second version.