My Writing Process #3: The Rewrite Phase – Step 2 “Making a List, Checking it Twice, or…”

In true procrastination form, I have waited exactly two months to post this update today on my rewrite phase.

Gosh I’m “good” aren’t I ?! (*bitter laugh*)

Okay I’m not going to apologise for this tardiness because the truth is, this was such an “easy” step that I almost forgot to blog about it. Instead, I went straight onto Step 3! However, that doesn’t mean I will update about Step 3 any time soon (I’ll explain why at the end of this post).

So where was I? Oh yes, the Rewrite Phase.

Quick recap

I had started working on the second draft of my book-length memoir on my journey as a stay home dad. This took place about a month after I completed the first writing phase (my six months Deadline Phase), coughing up a roughly 100,000-word manuscript. I had written daily without fail, five times a week; each time between 750 and 900 words.

{You may verify these numbers with some mental calculations if you like *wink*}

Since there’s no such thing as a perfect first draft in writing for publication, the next task of course was to rewrite. I’m told that a decent version for a publisher/editor’s perusal happens on average only after nearly 20 rounds of rewrite! So I most certainly have my work cut out for me.

So exactly “How”, you ask, does one do draft rewrites?

I started answering this question when I explained Step 1 of the Rewrite Phase in my previous post (yea yea the one I wrote exactly two months ago. Now may I continue?)

In Step 1 “Shake, Rattle & Roll”, I basically made no changes to my draft. All I did was print out all pages of my manuscript, then read each one all the way through from start to finish.

Aloud.

To get a sense of the rhythm, the voice, the story, the syncopation, the sound.

Once completed, I moved onto Step 2.

Step 2 Making a List, Checking it Twice, or…

Photo: Kelly Sikkeman/unsplash

Here I made several lists of all the changes I will need to work through.

What’re in these lists you ask? I’m glad you did.

Here they are:

List #1 Themes

I would re-read the manuscript again, but this time with paper and pen on hand to jot down all the themes that emerged from my writing. In my case, themes like family, masculinity and self-worth stood out.

Then I would do a rough count to see which themes were the most well represented, and which were under-represented. Thereafter, I ranked my themes in descending order of frequency in occurrence.

This step helped me ascertain if I was on the right track, the wrong track, or if I was perhaps even writing more than one book! (*Gulp*)

List #2 Argument

As with any non-fiction, my memoir book has an argument too. So my next task was to identify where my book showed evidence that supported my argument. I would, with pen and paper still firmly in hand, jot down where those evidences could be found.

Once done, I would again do a rough count to see where there were shortfalls that needed propping, since no argument can hold without sufficient proof.

When this step was done, I would see if my book’s argument needed any tweaking or (worse) major overhauls.

List #3 “The Fix-It Checklists”

This is the one most people would think of first when it comes to rewrite; some might even conveniently refer to this as the grammar and typos checklist.

It’s that, and more. But we should only come to it, AFTER the earlier two lists have been completed. Not before.

Also, this list is actually one that comprises several checklists. In order not to distract or confuse the writer, each of these needs to be ‘attacked’ separately as you revisit your manuscript, not simultaneously.

  • Verbs
  • Adjectives & their nouns
  • Word/Line/Paragraph spacing
  • Spelling
  • Shortening all unnecessarily long sentences
  • Rewriting at least two-thirds of sentences on every page that starts with “I”
  • Punctuation
  • Missing content (if any)
  • Problem areas, eg contradictions
  • Additional researching – if there are areas lacking
  • Fact checking
  • Overall tone of the piece – does it sound like there’s more than one ‘voice’ (cos it shouldn’t!)?

For these checklists, a good practice is to assign a different coding system (eg different colour markers or correction symbols) for each, in order to distinguish one checklist edit from another.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, wraps up Step 2.

Except of course, it’s a step that may well be repeated many times as we move into Step 3. (Yep, consider this an official warning!)

So when’s Step 3 “Rubber Meets Road”?

Photo: Fabrizio Verrecchia/unsplash

The truth is, I don’t know!

You see, Step 3 requires a lot of reflecting, rearranging, reducing and, well, lots and lots of rewrites!

Because it is truly where the rubber meets the road in the writer’s world of editing.

It’s where I am now, and it’s a place I truly dread; probably the place all writers dread.

Yet it’s the one that’s going to slowly but surely turn my book into one lean and living example of a fine piece of argument.

And like I said earlier, Step 3 may well be repeated a good 20 times before it can see the light of day, or another human being can lay eyes upon it!

So all I can say for now is, when I am done (another *gulp*), you’ll know.

Until then, wish me luck ok?

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