Last week I got a note from a friend, a wonderful writer and published novelist. She just finished her first draft (Hurray!) and is now facing revisions. Here’s what she said…
“I reread the draft. Of course I see all the obvious holes, problems, stupid ideas that go nowhere. The reality of the rewrite and how much rewrite set in. Now it feels like work. Instead of a Joyous Calling. And so I thought, I bet Pat has an exercise I can do like the Clustering Exercise or Finding my Character in a Bar exercise. Because I love your exercises so much!!! And they’re often more helpful than plotting or arranging and that stuff is my weakness.”
She basically wanted to know what to do to make her rewrite feel fun, instead of like drudgery.
Writing a first draft is like being high on your idea. You’re jacked up on adrenaline. It’s funny! It’s suspenseful! It’s going to be a runaway best seller or an Oscar worthy film!
You finish the first draft and read it. CLUNK.
Reality sets in. There are lots of problems to fix and work to do. It’s like waking up after a party to see that your living room is full of empty beer cans, pizza boxes and horrible smells. Damn, this house stinks.
Unfortunately, you have to clean up. But not all of it needs to be painful. Because at the end of the day your book/film/stinky living room will be shiny and new.
Here’s a four-part exercise you can do before and during revisions. It’ll help you reconnect to the joy you felt when you first started, AND help you solve some of the problems you’ve identified in your story.
PART ONE: Re-imagine that thing you envisioned before you began. Write down all the fun/dramatic/emotional things about your story that drove you to write it in the first place. What did you love about your main character? What did you love about the story? What were you trying to say to the world? Write down all the feelings you wanted the reader/viewer to have when they closed your book or walked out of the theater.
Imagine your “living room”, clean and full of light again.
PART TWO: Walk around with all these things in your head. Don’t sit down and put stuff on the page yet. Take walks. Work out. Listen to music. How could you take what you have in your draft and clean it up to deliver on everything you loved about your story when you started? In your head, start brainstorming ways to solve the problems. Be creative. If there’s an issue, what’s a completely different approach to solve it? Let go of your first draft. Tap into that freedom again. You can do anything you want. And you get to use your imagination.
PART THREE: Sit down and start cleaning up your house. Maybe the couch is blocking the front door, and it’s hard to get into the living room. Could you move it? Or get rid of it and bring in three armchairs instead?. Maybe that painting over the fireplace doesn’t work. The colors are wrong. Do you need it? Or is there another painting that works better?
Make a new outline, including these creative solutions. Redesign your living room.
PART FOUR: Execute your new outline. Have fun doing it! Remember how great your living room is going to look after the mess is cleaned up. Maybe even better than you imagined when you first sat down to write?
TAKE ACTION! Reconnect to the joy you had before you started the project. Noodle creative solutions before you dive in. I’m not kidding about taking walks and working out or listening to music. Moving around, free of your computer, is key to gaining the freedom and joy you need to reimagine. Then start the heavy lifting. Use the fun stuff you’ve come up with in your head to move things around in an outline. Rewrite so your living room looks even brighter and cleaner than it did before the party.
The honest truth is, it’s hard to pick up the trash. BUT, you can turn on the music and dance while you do it.
If you have a writing question, please let me know. I’d love to write about it in this blog! (email@example.com)
Have a blast with your revisions!
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