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Thursday, September 30, 2010

More Author Insight: Reread, Revise, Rewrite!

How do you know when a scene needs rewriting?

"I usually know as I’m writing it that something’s off, but I give it until morning and reread with fresh eyes." - Leah Clifford, author of A Touch Mortal.

If I cringe when I read it." - Daisy Whitney, author of The Mockingbirds.

"When I’m bored reading it or can’t clearly answer the question 'what’s the point of this scene?'" - Jen Nadol, author of The Mark.

"Every scene needs rewriting. The trick is to know when to stop." - Jon Skovron, author of Struts & Frets.

"I read my pages out loud (when my husband’s at work and my boys are at school). This somehow helps me with everything from word choice to word repetition to just plain old yawn—I’m boring myself. I’m also in a critique group. If more than one of them doesn’t get it, I rework the scene." - Wendy Delsol, author of Stork. 

"I usually intuitively know that something about the scene is off. Sometimes I can't quite put my finger on it so I'll read it out loud and re-evaluate what my character's motivations are during that scene. If I feel like that doesn't work sometimes I'll free write from another character's point of view, even if that character isn't the focus of the scene. My Vermont College mentor and I were working through some of my sequel while I was at residency last January and when we investigated the motivations of the minor characters in a few of the scenes, everything worked itself out. Sometimes you have to come at the scene from the outside looking in - Wow, long answer much!?" - Rebecca Maizel, author of Infinite Days.

"I had an acting teacher who always taught that 'acting is re-acting.' I think the same can be said for writing. I don’t think I’ve written a single scene that has not gone through multiple drafts." - Kelly Creagh, author of Nevermore.

 "I can always tell that a scene needs rewriting when, after taking a break from the manuscript for a week or two, I reread and find that I can't read the scene without getting a.) annoyed b.) bored or c.) laughing (in the wrong places).  If I feel this way during any of my scenes, I start from scratch and try again until I feel like it fits the characters." - Kody Keplinger, author of The DUFF.

"If my eyes don’t move smoothly over the page while reading, if I find myself stopping to re-read at any point – instead of plunging forward – I know it’s not good enough yet." - Dianne Salerni, author of We Hear the Dead.

"My scenes ALWAYS need rewriting. But one way I can really tell is if I try to read them out loud to my husband and get too embarrassed to finish." - Ally Condie, author of Matched.

"If I’m looking at it, it needs rewriting. That’s my sadly warped perspective. I am one of those perfectionists who must be told, firmly, to stop messing with the manuscript and write something new already. If I could magically edit books of mine that are already on the shelves and in people’s homes, I would!" - Phoebe Kitanidis, author of Whisper.

"When my agent or editor tells me so. I actually really like hearing from other people and incorporating their reviews into my writing. They find things that I can be blind to - often I'm emotionally all over the place while creating, so I really appreciate direction." - Lia Habel, author of Dearly, Departed.

"Clive Barker gave me some great advice, which he said he got from mentor Ray Bradbury: Read everything you write out loud. It’s painful, but you can really hear what doesn’t work. I also know if a scene isn’t working if I get hung up on it no matter how many times I read it. Those are the moments when the writing pulls you out of the story, and suddenly you remember you’re reading about a situation, rather than experiencing it." - Kami Garcia, co-author of Beautiful Creatures.

"I need to take a good, long break from a manuscript to be able to see clearly what is working and what still needs work. I also have a great set of critique partners who are essential to the process. I don’t think we can ever really have perspective on our own work. I’m thankful that my critique partners are not afraid to tell me when something needs work, but they say it in a way that doesn’t kill me." - Denise Jaden, author of Losing Faith.

"If it comes off as clunky or false; if the rhythm isn't smooth; if it doesn't seem to have a point or make sense." - Jennifer Hubbard, author of The Secret Year.

On Tuesday the authors will dish about getting an agent, so don't forget to stop by!
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  1. I too really loved this and am going to print and put in my writing advice notebook. Thanks so much for doing these.