Rewriting is Writing

Here’s the quote of the day by Michael Crichton:

“Books aren’t written – they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.”

I wish it only took me seven or eight or twenty times. But the fact is, with the first chapter especially, rewrites happen. I usually lose count after thirty. If there was an AA for authors (Authors Anonymous), I’d be a card-carrying member so I could commiserate with kindred spirits about self-editing.

Yesterday, page after page of my draft was turned without touching a word…until I came to a spot where I referred to my heroine in the third person (e.g., Corrie stepped in front of the guy). Only problem is, my book’s written in the first person. AAARRGGG!

I don’t mind editing and rewrites, really I don’t (excuse me while I find a fire extinguisher for my pants). In fact, I welcome them because every rewrite brings me that much closer to the novel I aspire to write.

But I have hope. Book 2 took me fewer rewrites than Book 1. That’s progress, right?

So here are three tips I humbly offer to assist in making the editing process more efficient:

1. Keep a checklist
I would show you mine, but I’m afraid you’d be traumatized. It’s a bit of a jumble. I use a yellow legal pad and write notes by book page. Then I either place a box, circle, triangle, star or whatever captures my fancy to group my notes together. For instance, on every page where Corrie mentions her late, great PI dad, I place a circle around the number. This is to make sure I’m not redundant.

2. Highlight dialogue
To ensure our characters don’t sound alike, it helps to highlight their distinct individual speech. For example, pink for Corrie, yellow for Veera, etc. If I were to cut out the speech of each character, put it in a hat and draw it out, I should be able to know who said what by personality.

3. Read the manuscript out loud. This is a HUGE help. But before you do, listen to an audiobook by your fave author. This will help you understand the proper rhythm of words and sentences.

4. I know I said three tips, but it’s my blog, isn’t it? Always, always make sure you enjoy the writing process. It’ll come more easily, and happy writing = happy reading.

A Day in the Writing Life: At the Post Office

The small, pastoral, yet somewhat sophisticated area (population 5000) where I live, boasts three post offices. During peak time (which could occur at any moment), the amount of frustration generated by the action or inaction of some postal employees wastes enough energy to operate 23 cell phones on the planet Pluto. That’s no small feat. Postal employees make it a habit to keep one worker behind the counter per every twelve patrons in line, keeping employee #2 within view, reading the local paper or braiding her hair. By the time I reach the counter, I’m ready to pull the safety pin out of the nearest hand grenade.

Much to my surprise, I encountered an entirely different post office last week.

I entered our main branch (I know it’s the main one because it’s open for limited hours on Saturday, and it sports its own parking lot with four parking spaces). The moment I stepped inside, I was immediately whisked away into a Hallmark film.

The place seemed brighter, unusually cheerful, and surprisingly welcoming. There was a glow about the room despite the same drab walls, dull interior, and cement floor. Granted, I was pleased that only one customer stood between the postal worker and me, but not pleased enough to hallucinate. Then it hit me. It was Chris, the jolly, in his late twenties or so, government issue employee.

His smile was so bright that he could have lit all the candles on an octogenarian’s birthday cake.

He looked so happy that he’d made the place come alive.

My turn came early because the lady before me kindly offered to step aside to an empty counter to properly lick the hundred or so envelopes she planned to mail. Typically, post office patrons do no such stepping aside, but do all their licking, lamenting or labeling right there at the counter making all behind them wait. I knew it had something to do with Chris and his luminous smile. His winning grin and benevolent words could have made the moon weep for joy.

At the counter, I told Chris that I needed postage for my oversize envelope #1 as well as the self addressed envelope #2 folded inside #1 which was to be sent back to me by the recipient. Proper procedure is to weigh each separately because envelope #2 usually weighs less on the return trip. Chris only weighed envelope #1, holding his smile of contentment and sheer delight the whole time and muttering sweet nothings. How could I quibble over a quarter or two with the very personification of bliss? It was easy to overlook his negligence. I dared not rain on his happiness.

Chris’ cheery demeanor encouraged me to overlook any shortcomings and treat him with patience. And he reminded me of the importance of utilizing kindness toward all…all the time. Kindness can benefit the giver even more than the receiver. I had a skip in my step when I left the place.

If every person in our society made a point of acting kindly, more often, life would be far more pleasant for all of us. Imagine that.

On Your Marketing, Get Set, Keep Going

In my previous post I discussed marketing your book using social media. This time around, I’ll talk marketing via personal appearances.

First, please note I am not a public speaker. I’ve taught small classes to children on writing and on communications as a volunteer, but that’s it. And I found those somewhat nerve-wracking. So when it came time to promote my book in person, my reaction was “Whoa doggy, what do I do?”

What I did was educate myself. I took a crash course in book promotion, via book signings, by reading blog posts of other authors and writing sites on how to do it. I tried to prepare myself for all scenarios such as:

– Reading an excerpt out loud: This request was sprung on me at a panel discussion, but you know what? It went swimmingly because my publisher had the foresight to insert a very short, exciting excerpt (a low speed car chase) in the front of my novel, and that’s what I read. I watched other panelists fumble over what to read, and one refused to read at all. It could have been a close call for me, had my publisher not provided the ready-to-go excerpt.

– Giving a quick talk: This was especially tough in the beginning because I truly believed I had nothing useful to say…until I was asked questions by kindly, wonderful book readers who attended my signings. That gave me a sense of what could be of interest to attendees (such as: how did you get published, how do you make time to write, do you edit as you write, is your heroine like you, do you have any illegal weapons, etc.).

– An audience member turns unruly: This happened only once, well maybe twice, from an angry attendee who couldn’t understand why she wasn’t published yet since her book was big-screen worthy. The first time this happened, I was caught off-guard, and the rant went on a bit too long. The second time, I asked her to speak to me later. She didn’t. Should this type of situation occur, take control by suggesting the person email or speak with you afterward.

The best way to anticipate and prepare for possible scenarios and to enjoy the promo event is to make sure your attitude is top-notch. An excellent attitude makes all the difference. I believe it was one of my fave authors, Janet Evanovich who suggested getting your hair done, wearing something new or just doing anything to give yourself a little lift before the promo event. Who doesn’t want to be around a happy author?