A book is made in the rewrite. We take the words and begin to refine and reshape them into the finished book. We compose the first draft quickly, getting the words down on paper as they flow. Then we begin the work of rewriting.
Here are our final four tips on rewriting with examples from The Shepherd’s Song. You can read the first three tips here.
4. Watch out for the word “felt” when describing a character’s feelings. Remember the old saying: show don’t tell.
FIRST DRAFT: She felt confused and out of control.
This is okay for a first draft but needs rewriting.
FINAL DRAFT: “What’s your name?”
She tried to focus. Her name?
“Kate . . . McConnell.” She gasped out each word.
She tried to come up with the answer, but it was too confusing. Tears welled up.
“It’s all right. Just stay with me.”
“What hap…?” She wanted to finish the sentence but could not.
5. Eliminate prepositional phrases that tell us about the character or action.
FIRST DRAFT: Without hesitation the nurses joined Dr. Belding in pushing the stretcher toward the elevators.
Instead of telling the reader “without hesitation,” why not put the scene in play and show them?
FINAL DRAFT: Dr. Belding grabbed the end of the stretcher. “Okay, people. Let’s get her down to the OR.” He turned to the nurse. “Has the family been called?”
6. Watch out for the word “saw.” Show us what the character is seeing instead.
FIRST DRAFT: He slipped the phone out of his pocket and saw the text message from his dad.
We don’t need to explain that the character saw something. Show it from the character’s POV.
FINAL DRAFT: Matt slipped the phone out of his pocket.
‘Emergency. Call me.’
A text from his dad. That was unusual.
7. Evaluate each adverb. Is there a better way to show the reader what is happening?
FIRST DRAFT: John McConnell looked up in irritation at his secretary.
“I said hold all calls,” he said impatiently.
Telling reminds the reader that it is not real. Staying in the character’s head means we show through the character’s actions what is happening, and how they are feeling. We had to rewrite to show his impatience.
FINAL DRAFT: “Mr. McConnell. A phone call, line three.” His secretary spoke from the doorway.
“I said to hold all calls.” He continued scanning the document in front of him.
“I know, but.”
“I am well aware that we all need to get out of here.”
These simple tips help us with our writing. Do you have others to share?
Betsy and Laurie