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Rewriting Tricks

Cheryl's Musings: Rewriting Tricks

Cheryl's Musings

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road


Rewriting Tricks

At long last, I'm working on rewriting Juggling the Keystone, the book that placed first in the 2008 PPWC writing contest. (The book that an editor has actually asked to see in full, after reading the first 20 or so pages as a contest judge.) My wonderful critique group has read the thing, I've processed their many comments, and I've entered the re-plotting phase of the rewrite.

This is a familiar road. I walked a similar path when learning to publish articles, craft pieces, and short stories. I had to learn to fit my writing into each of these different forms.

For instance, here's how I wrote my first publishable short story (after writing many, many that remain in my files):

  1. Juxtapose unexpected characters and events. The story ideas that came easily to me weren't original. I guess they came easily to others as well. So I started to brainstorm unexpected combinations: fairies and trains, a telepathic cat and a magical orb with an attitude, rats on Mars (still trying to get that one published....) Those are the ones that editors wanted to read.

  2. Polish without mercy. Beautiful writing isn't good enough. I went over every paragraph, every word, every description to make them the best I could make them. I checked for sensory details; read aloud for rhythm and flow; ruthlessly pared unnecessary words.

  3. Analyze successful stories. For the writer who's trying to break into a new area, your best teachers are the stories and articles already published in your target market. Break them apart. How many words in the average sentence? How many sentences in the average paragraph? How much of the story is handled in description versus dialog versus action? These details will help you see why published pieces work--and apply what you learn to your own writing.

  4. Analyze story structure. In #3, I tell you to look at the details of your writing. You also need to look at the shape of your writing--and again, your best teachers are published pieces. Take a short story from your target market and diagram it. How much space is devoted to the introduction? When does the author present the story problem? How many scenes fit? What transition techniques are used?

When I wanted to sell a science article to Highlights, I studied their science articles. When I wanted to sell a short story to Spider, I studied their short stories. Now I want to sell this middle grade fantasy. It will take time and effort...but hey, if you've got a method that works, why mess with it?

:) Cheryl

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