Get Me Rewrite! Starting the Third Draft

Get Me Rewrite! Starting the Third Draft

I am writing a novel.

These five words have become my mantra, something I repeat silently to convince myself it is real. Not a dream, not a figment of my imagination. Not something I began and never finished.

This time I am getting ‘er done.

By putting it out there I am also making myself accountable. When “How is the book coming along?” is asked I don’t have to flounder around for a lame excuse.

It’s coming. I’m getting there. It’s moving forward.

“So after the second draft,” a friend asked me the other day, “your book is pretty much done, right?”

If only. But not by a long shot.

Get me rewrite.

Last fall I attended BinderCon, a writing conference for women. Among the many valuable sessions was a panel of four freelance editors, each of whom had worked in publishing for years. I was impressed with their knowledge and approach to helping writers make their book the best it can be. So after the conference I contacted one of them and I am working with her now.

I submitted my second draft to her and waited anxiously for feedback. Would she love it? Hate it? Biting fingernails, chewing the inside of my mouth, binge snacking: I engaged in every nervous habit I could think of.

Well, we had a phone call last week to discuss the book. There was good news and bad news.

Good news: she liked the story, thought the characters were well drawn, enjoyed the historical setting of the novel, and thought it would ultimately fare well with readers.

Bad news: a major rewrite is necessary.

Good news again: The rewrite is going to make it SO much better.

Before this feedback, I was having trouble seeing the forest for the trees. I was too close to the content. It was impossible for me to be objective.

With a few brushstrokes of her vision, she gave me clarity that I was unable to find on my own.  As I rewrite the second draft, I will:

  • Take a swipe at the number of characters. There were too many. “Beyond four or five major characters,” the editor told me, “people start getting confused. And it is really hard to make their voices unique.”
  • Narrow the time frame. The expanse was too wide, too Belva Plain. Instead of 50 or so years, now it will be five. And that’s enough.
  • Focus on the motivations of the characters. This has to be credible.
  • Intensify the drama. Make the precipice higher. This will make the reader want to keep turning the pages.
  • Be careful with the historical events. This is not a history lesson. Make the events part of the narrative but only in the context of their impact on the characters.
  • In each chapter, define where we are in time, what is going on with the family, and what significant event takes place that propels the story forward

These simple suggestions will eliminate many of the problems I had with the plot line and the development of the main characters. Instead of feeling angst, I feel a huge sense of relief – and excitement.

I will be deleting a huge chunk of my work, maybe even 50%. Perhaps some of it will return in another novel another time. A sequel, perhaps. Doesn’t that sound nice?


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60 Thoughts on “Get Me Rewrite! Starting the Third Draft

  1. Robin (Masshole Mommy) on March 7, 2016 at 9:35 am said:

    I can’t even imagine how much work goes into writing a novel. It must be so rewarding, though.

  2. Best of luck! I will be waiting patiently until it is done.

  3. Oh the rewrites.
    I will never forget getting the feedback that they liked the events but hated the character so I needed to remove the character and keep the events but give them to another…character.

    • hbludman on March 8, 2016 at 9:40 am said:

      I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that, Carla. I can see how that would be frustrating.

  4. Good for you! And best of luck. I’m eagerly awaiting it’s published form!

  5. Congratulations Helene. I have someone helping me as well. Although, it’s not a professional like yours. I have no idea how to do get that far or even where to start looking. We’ll see when this is finished I suppose.

    • hbludman on March 8, 2016 at 9:41 am said:

      Good luck with yours, Rena. I can’t wait to see the finished product.

  6. Writing books is not for the faint of heart! It takes tremendous commitment and passion for the art! We are so lucky we have computers and not typewriters! Can you imagine??? Don’t get discouraged, stay on your path……the end result will be wonderful! You are a fab writer. Good Luck!

    • hbludman on March 8, 2016 at 9:41 am said:

      Thanks, Ellen! I can’t imagine how our forebears hand wrote so much. 80,000 words by hand? Yikes!

  7. It’s a wonderful mantra. I hope to use those five words myself one day. It’s so not easy!

  8. Yes, absolutely onward! And your book is going to be amazing.

    When you talked about historical content, of course I thought of Downton Abbey and how they let first introduced the time period while reading the headline in their newspaper. The sinking of a ship. It set the tone without too many words.

    I can’t wait to read your book. I’m sure I’ll be cheering from the rafters – higher above if possible. You go, Author Helene!

    • hbludman on March 8, 2016 at 9:44 am said:

      That’s a great example of letting the history unfold through the character’s eyes, Cath. Thanks so much for being my cheerleader!

  9. So exciting Helene. Best of luck!!!

  10. I applaud your writing journey….I know how hard it can be. I just do blogging, but a friend of mine is into writing…it is because of him I started my blog in the first place.

  11. I can only imagine the kind of work you are putting in to write a novel. I want to write a book one day so I am following your journey and taking notes!

  12. When it comes to writing, there is always good news and bad news, but the underlying great news is that you are writing a book and I can’t wait to read it.

    • hbludman on March 8, 2016 at 9:46 am said:

      I think it’s all good, Pat. You are my inspiration — and when is the next book coming out?

  13. Wow. What a huge commitment, but I bet it will be amazing after you’ve done the rewrite and then is ultimately published. The coolest part? Getting to add “author” to your list of accomplishments.

  14. I lvoe that you are pursuing your dream of writing a novel. I am excited to know I be able to read it one day.

  15. Jess C on March 7, 2016 at 1:16 pm said:

    This is so exciting! I have always wanted to write a book but have never had the guts to try… Good luck! 🙂

    • hbludman on March 8, 2016 at 9:53 am said:

      Thanks, Jess! You should give it a try — you may be surprised.

  16. It sounds as if she gave you excellent advice. Now you have the scaffolding you need to tackle the third draft. Hard work ahead, but very exciting too!!! I can’t wait to hold the finished copy of your book in my hands 🙂

  17. Well make sure to save those drafts!! I am quite sure you actually almost have a whole series written. Perhaps this rewrite will be your biggest blessing ever?

  18. Good luck, Helene. Just the fact that you are working on your third draft is a huge step in a positive direction!

  19. So of course you know i will be dying to read any book you wrote. And I am dying with curiosity to learn morea bout your story! Rewrites are normal. Part of the game. Can’t wait!

  20. But your writing a book, and living your dream!!
    So many people want to write a book, but don’t or can’t.
    I am anxious to get my hands on this book as well. Hoping that the rewrites continue to go well and that you will be on to the next part of this adventure soon!

  21. I think it’s great that you got such helpful feedback and that you are taking it and running with it, not ignoring it or getting frustrated with it. Your novel will definitely get done!

  22. Best of luck as you begin your new adventure! The third time is a charm. 😉 I’ll be anxiously awaiting your novel.

  23. How wonderful! And not wonderful. I think you are smart to work with an editor from the get go.

  24. I love how you see this rewrite as a positive thing and are already looking forward to the next novel. With that positive outlook, you are bound to go places.

  25. That is so awesome that you are pursuing your novel! It is a lot of work. But sounds like you have an amazing editor who really inspires you.

  26. It is a great thing that you are writing a novel and that you are not letting the work deter you from moving forward! Congratulations.

  27. I can’t imagine the kind of work you are putting in to write a novel. I want to write a book one day so I am following your journey and loving it!

  28. I cannot wait to see and read your finished product. Keep moving forward and making progress!! Good job!!!

  29. Congratulations on starting your third draft. It is truly great that the writing conference was helpful to your progress.

  30. So exciting, Helene! It sounds like you got what you needed to move on. I’m so proud of you and can’t wait to read the finished product!

  31. That’s wonderful Helene. It was great to hear the story of your progression. It sounds like you are nearing the end of this wonderful journey of writing. Can’t wait to read it.

  32. How wonderful that you’ve found an editor that you trust. Sounds like she is helping you focus. And redirect your efforts. Progress indeed. And my husband says you must be getting near the end of your first draft — ugh.

  33. Good luck! It will all be worth it in the end.

  34. I can feel your drive and determination! I love the suggestions for the rewrite! It sounds like you are back on track. I can’t wait for your post telling use it’s published and for sale! Yippy! What a wonderful achievement. You should be proud girl!

  35. I had a similar experience when writing a memoir about dysfunctional family. The person who edited it thought the story intriguing but suggested a major overhaul of the story arc. While at first I was, well, hurt I suppose, but once I removed the arrow from the heart I concluded he was right. There was no way out but through the story again. Long story short (pun intended), he was right. The resulting book was so much more compelling than it was in the first drafts. (There were several.) So, yes, it took two years to write right but I had lived it for 30 years so I figured two years wasn’t so bad. Good luck with your novel. I think you have something terrific ahead! Having an editor say the story is good is majorly good!

  36. The way you feel about your book is exactly how I feel about my graduate school thesis. I am getting there but not quite. Good luck!

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