David A. Schwinghammer
· Soldier's Gap
· Fisher of Men, Chapter 8
· Honest Thief, Tender Murderer, Chapter Eight
· Mengele's Double, Chapter Eight
· Bereavement Blues
· Fisher of Men, Chapter 7
· Speed Dating With 'Janeane Garofalo'
· The Cynic
· Honest Thief, Tender Murderer - Chapter Seven
· Mengele's Double, Chapter 7
· Mengele's Double, Chapter Six
· The Nuclear Option
· Empty Mansions, book review
· Pilgrim's Wilderness, book review
· WWII Cartoonist, book review
· Write Yourself Into a Corner, book review
· Roanoke Island, book review
· Billboard Theology
· Baghdad Without a Map, book review
· Into the Wild, book review
· The Zookeeper's Wife (review)
· Alumni Game
· Girls Who Wear Glasses
· The Do Drop Inn
· Ode to Neve Campbell
· Jacks or Better 101
· Never My Love
· 3 O'Clock
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Blogs by David A. Schwinghammer
9/7/2009 9:11:25 AM
How to fix your novel after a first draft.
When I started my first novel, I wrote ten pages a day in long hand, sometimes twenty. I was a teacher at the time and I was bent on getting my novel, RETREAT FROM THE CHRISTIAN JETS, done before school started. I thought I would need around five-hundred pages, and I would make a brief outline for the next day after I finished my ten pages. Most of the time I totally ignored my notes, but I don’t remember having a day when nothing came to me, probably because I was teaching “free writing” to my students at the time, which requires that you keep on going no matter how bad you think the day’s writing is going. Anyway, it worked. I finished in mid August. But I didn’t have time to type it, and I wouldn’t have known what to do to revise it anyway. After typing it, I sent it to Scott Meredith Literary agency, one of those agencies that charge to even consider you. I got a twenty-page scolding, although whoever reviewed it said that I was an “uncommonly talented writer.” I didn’t believe him/her. I didn’t try again until I retired from teaching, but when I did, I looked for a little help, going to workshops and writing conferences. I also joined Writer’s Digest Book Club where I found SELF EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS, by Renni Browne and Dave King (who later became my free-lance editor). Here are some helpful hints for when you finally get around to the revision process, some of which I got from Browne and King, some of which I came up with on my own.
1. You will spend 98% of your time revising. A first draft is comparatively easy, revision is a bitch, but it’s kind of fun sometimes because it’s your baby you’re working on. You’re trying to give him a good hair-do, a good complexion, and nice teeth as well as buy him fashionable clothes.
2. Add verisimilitude and change “be” (is, are, was, be, being, been, am) forms to action verbs whenever possible. Verisimilitude means make it sound like it could be true. Find out what kind of plants and trees grow around the setting you choose. Add active description. Do some research. You won’t need a lot. I used to belong to the Electronic College on the Internet. They charged like ten bucks a month for access to hundreds of newspapers and magazines. There’s also something called Lexus/Nexus that newspaper reporters rely on.
3. This is one writer’s process: First draft, get it down on paper; second draft, put in what you left out; third draft, take out what shouldn’t be there; fourth draft, make it sound like you just wrote it. Don’t fix spelling and grammar until you’re finished with content. You’ll only need to do it over again later to fix mistakes you made while revising. Get a fresh eye, though. We tend to read over our own mistakes. Copy editors charge like a buck a page, but at least your editors won’t throw your book away because you can’t spell and you make too many typos.
4. Show rather than tell wherever possible, even when you’re narrating rather than writing a scene. Vary the rhythm of your writing. For the same reason you must vary the length and structure of your sentences (Know the difference between simple, compound, and complex sentences. Know what gerund, participial, and infinitive phrases are. See the NEW OXFORD GUIDE TO WRITING, by Thomas S. Kane. It’s very good.
5. Put this where you can see it every time you sit down to write. RUE, resist the urge to explain. Explaining destroys tension and that’s what keeps people reading.
6. Eliminate dialogue that’s expository in nature. “I met your new boyfriend. He’s 6’4”, isn’t he? My husband is 6’4”.”
7. Avoid addressing another character too much. “Is that right, Tom?” People rarely address each other by name.
8. How smooth is your dialogue? Could you use more contractions, sentence fragments, run-on sentences?
9. Get rid of thinker attributions, “he thought.” Change them from first person to third, give them their own paragraph, convert them to a question, or italicize them. You don’t need, “he thought.”
10. Too many beats lesson the tension in a dramatic scene. “He blew his nose in the bed sheet” tells more than an entire page of narrative describing a character’s slovenliness. Instead of telling your reader so-and-so is a slob do the preceding.
11. Watch out for solid walls of gray. Look at your page after you finish a scene. Paragraphing more frequently can make your writing more engaging. Also avoid starting paragraphs with the same words in successive paragraphs.
12. Make sure you have enough white space to give your reader an occasional break. When you’re falling asleep, you need a place to stop before the end of the chapter.
13. Voice? Do your narrator and all of your characters sound alike? Narrators should be authoritative and smart if you’re using omniscient point of view.
14. Characters should be doing something in a scene, peeling potatoes, changing a flat tire. This is movement and it gives you a chance to use imagery. It also helps avoid talking heads.
Dave Schwinghammer's published novel, SOLDIER'S GAP, is available on Amazon.com.
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