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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Author Insight: Reread, Revise, Rewrite!

How do you know when a scene needs rewriting?

"Because all my scenes do!"- Elizabeth Scott, author of Grace.

"When it sucks." - Heidi Kling, author of Sea.

"If I keep nitpicking at a scene, changing a word here or  a phrase there, I know there's something wrong.  Something in my subconscious keeps sending me back to that scene, and until I fix it, I'm going to keep tweaking." - Scott Tracey, author of Witch Eyes.

"I know a scene needs rewriting when I read it out loud and it lacks emotion." - Danielle Joseph, author of Indigo Blues.

"You always know when a scene needs rewriting. You may not want to face it, but you always know it. I’m lucky in that I have a writing partner, an agent who used to be an editor, and two amazing editors at Little, Brown. That’s before we even start with the hyper-critical teen daughters. So there’s always someone to ask the hard questions." - Margaret Stohl, co-author of Beautiful Creatures.

"They all need rewriting. The hard part is knowing when to stop rewriting.  That only comes when two things happen: 1) moving anything around collapses the house of cards I've been building and 2) I have nothing new to learn about my characters in that scene." - Swati Avashti, author of Split.

"When I let somebody else read it and they yell at me, 'Karen! Why is X character being so stupid?' or something similar. Or when I reread it and realize how crummy my midnight inspiration was." - Karen Kincy, author of Other.

"Oh, wow—I am a chainsaw reviser.  There is no Knowing, just this one indisputable fact: everything gets rewritten." - Brenna Yovanoff, author of The Replacement.

"That’s a hard one to answer.  I think you just know deep down that it isn’t quite working.  Often when my critique partners or editor tell me that something needs to be rewritten, I realize that knew it all along but was fighting the feeling that it wasn’t right." - Bree Despain, author of The Dark Divine.

"I think much of this comes from instinct or with the help of someone with a very good editorial eye. If a scene just isn’t clicking for me, then I’ll scrap and rewrite. Sometimes a scene just needs more and I hadn’t executed it to its fullest potential." - Courtney Allison Moulton, author of Angelfire.

"When it isn’t working. More than anything for me, it’s a feeling. Like a crack or a flaw that I can't necessarily see, but I can feel it’s there. Finding the cure for it can be hard. But you know how when you strike a chord and the sound is off? Writing is like that. You can feel that the vibration and resonance is off and so you know you need to rewrite until the sound rings true." - Diana Pharaoh Francis, author of Bitter Night.

"If I hate the scene, it has to go!  Also, my husband reads all of my scenes, too.  If he isn't loving it, I know I need to try again." - Mindi Scott, author of Freefall.

"If I'm bored reading it; if it doesn't move the story forward. I tend to plan my scenes out in advance, though, so I know before I start if it's necessary." - Diana Peterfreund, author of Rampant.

"The same way I know a movie isn't working for me: I don't feel connected or interested in what's happening. Or if a reaction or emotion feels inauthentic for one of my characters, that's pretty easy to spot, too. The thing I have the most trouble seeing is when I overuse a certain word or clog up the prose with adjectives. Unfortunately, problems in my writing style sometimes have to be pointed out to me by someone else. Hopefully I'll get better at noticing that stuff as I gain more experience. Working with an editor has already opened my eyes a lot.  I feel like I'm now more aware of my writing weaknesses, and I watch for them." - Anastasia Hopcus, author of Shadow Hills.

"If I leave the manuscript for a bit of time and return to it, and I’m filled with second-hand embarrassment over what I did to my poor characters, I know.  If I trip over a bit of dialogue as I read it out loud, I know. And as a last resort,  my beta readers have no problems telling me, loudly, when something isn’t working. They’re extraordinary." - Michelle Hodkin, author of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer.

"If I trip over a scene multiple times when rereading the story, it’s a red flag that something in the scene isn’t working.  Usually it means I’m trying to get my characters to do something to move the plot along, rather than letting the characters and the story intertwine and grow together." - Kristin Tubb, author of Selling Hope.

Stop by Thursday to find out how the rest of our authors know when to tear a scene apart and rewrite it.
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