And so the rewrite begins.
I started chronicling my writing process with a post I made last week, one that recounted the first phase of my process – the decision, design and discipline that helped me complete my first draft manuscript earlier this month.
That first phase of my writing process I called “The Deadline Phase“.
Since then, I have moved on to the second phase, or what I call “The Rewrite Phase“.
This phase has many steps and each gets more dreadful than the last. No surprise that many writers wrestle with this phase! And no surprise that I decided to proceed ever so slowly and gingerly into it with…
…Step 1: “Shake, Rattle & Roll”
When I first began drafting my manuscript, I had filed away drafts by scenes, chapters and acts, so there were multiple folders and files.
The outcome? An organised ‘mess’ that needed a good shake to make things easier for what I was about to do next: combine everything into a single 300 page document.
Then, I went ahead to send the final file to a printer to download and print out every page into a single, unbound hard copy. It cost me 15 bucks but it sure beats printing 300 pages by myself, one agonising page after another, using my slow and fickle home printer!
At the risk of having Greta Thunberg come a-knocking on my door, I decided to print each page on one single sheet, rather than double-sided (sorry Greta!). It just makes it easier for me to flip to the next page. Plus, it would leave enough space behind each page to jot down any notes and thoughts I would have as I did my rewrite later.
After collecting the printout, I left the pages to sit proudly on my desk, like a brand-new Olympics trophy.
And there it remained.
For nine days.
Why so long, you ask?
Because it took me that long to pluck up the courage to pick up the first page and start to rattle off each word and line!
Yep, you heard me.
I was simply too afraid to hear my own words read back to me and by me, in case they sounded horrid.
So I procrastinated (insert sheepish grin here).
Yet, reading aloud was key to this next stage of my writing process.
I needed to hear with my own ears how the words I strung together, sounded together.
There are certain ‘melodies and rhythms’ to every piece of writing. The way the ideas and themes unfold as I read them out loud. The syncopation, the dissonance. It’s like a piece of music – beautiful yet also potentially haunting and terrifying.
Having researched this, I came to the conclusion that if I don’t read out loud my manuscript, and hear my words with my own ears, I might miss out themes, meanings and polished (or more likely, unpolished) prose. Not to mention, needless repetitions and clumsy sentence constructions.
All these would have bearings on how my message came across to readers.
So two days ago, I plucked up enough courage, locked myself in my room alone (but of course!), and started to read aloud for an hour.
Why an hour?
Because it was all I could manage! By the end of the hour, my mouth felt so dry and my throat so parched, I wondered how I conducted two-hour lessons multiple times a week in my past life as a full time lecturer!
And, after an hour, my brain was also pretty much numbed from listening to the non-stop streams of consciousness issuing from my lips.
Still, it’s proving to be a very revealing exercise.
As I listened to myself read each line out loud, I found myself at times absorbed by the narrative; at other times repulsed by the fact that I had repeated scenes stitched into different parts of the same chapter!
Then there were the never-ending sentences that made me lose concentration and go into a monotonous drone.
Despite all that, I took deliberate care to make no changes in my first read. I simply let the words “roll” over me. At times they felt like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, when I shuddered at my appalling choice of words!
At other times, they felt like refreshing droplets of an autumn drizzle as the words awoke new memories or unearthed an insight I didn’t even realised I had.
But of course, it wasn’t purely a reading exercise.
As I read, impressions would come to me, and I would scribble on a note pad a list of things to do when I begin the actual editing later on.
By my latest estimation, I should finish my “Shake, Rattle & Roll” step in another six days, if I read one hour a day.
Then, it’ll be time for (gulp!) Step 2, which I call “Making a List; Checking it Twice, or…”.
Wish me luck ok?