What’s in Your Writer’s Bag of Tricks? Putting the Writing Process in Context

I’m in the middle of a big revision of the first book of a sff trilogy and I thought I knew what to do. I’ve written several novels now and when I get to this stage, there’s one big problem. I am sick of reading the thing.

How many times do you read a novel before you send it out into the world? 5 times? 20 times? 100 times? I don’t know; I just know that it’s a lot of times and it reaches a point where I’m not re-reading what’s in front of me. My mind wanders off to anything and everything else.

One strategy I’ve used to deal with that is to retype the entire manuscript. Even if it’s 60,000 words, I just dig in and retype. This strategy forces me to see every word anew. It’s a strategy that I know works.

Except, it didn’t this time. I kept putting off the typing. When it was time to start, I’d find something some marketing to do; or I’d read on my Kindle; or I’d do research for a different project. I forced myself to type out about 25,000/60,000 words, but I was making very few changes. I wasn’t confident that this strategy was working.

Finally–with the urging of a friend–I stopped the foolishness. I started copying one chapter at a time into the fresh document and working on just that chapter till all issues were resolved.
Stuck in Revision? Pull out your writer's bag of tricks and try something different.

Wow! I’ve totally revamped a scene: it was static with no tension and needed lots of work. I found a conflict sitting there amidst the rubble, picked it up and ran with it. I cut a scene totally–worthless dialogue that went nowhere. Another scene got an overhaul for emotional impact.

In other words, my process is different for this book than for all previous books. Duh. Of course.
Each book that I write, I find a different way to work.

What doesn’t change are techniques that I have in my writer’s bag of tricks. I just need to remember that I won’t be using them in the same order for each book. Also, I may not use every technique or tip for every novel. And that there are always shiny new ways of working to explore, and that’s OK. Retyping a manuscript is a great technique that I’ll likely use again, even though it was deadly for this one. Focusing on short chapters this time helped me to see the story in a context that allowed for good decision making. That’s what you want: good decision making in your storytelling.

Stuck? Rummage around in your writer’s bag of tricks and try something different!

5 responses to “What’s in Your Writer’s Bag of Tricks? Putting the Writing Process in Context”

  1. I’m intrigued by the idea of retyping an entire MS. Daunted, but intrigued! I think it’s a good idea. I’ll have to get up my nerve…

    For this revision, I wanted to make sure I understand that you just pasted each chapter into a new doc. (As opposed to TYPING it into a new doc.) That’s less daunting. ;) I think this is a great suggestion also.

    Thanks for your posts and newsletter!

  2. Kathy:
    I’ve done this before, re-typing an entire mss. Last time, it worked well. This time–well, it just wasn’t working, as the post says. Yes, you understood. I cut and pasted chapter by chapter into a new doc. Then, I would re-read and edit the chapter I just pasted.

  3. I rewrite in chunks, too. I generally save the first draft in chunks of three chapters at a time. Then I read the whole draft again and outline it, summarizing what happens in each chapter, and, in read, noting questions and weaknesses that have to be addressed. Then I start the new draft, working with three chapters at a time, and paying attention to all those questions, to see if I’ve addressed them.