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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

THE GREAT REWRITE

By Ruth Seitelman


“There is no great writing, only great rewriting” ~ Justice Brandeis


I worked December and January on writing my synopsis and rewriting my query letter. I think I have read every blog and posting from a variety of agents, editors, authors and writers on both subjects. There is so much information available: what the documents should contain, write the synopsis before you write your book (oh no, another faux pax), include your voice in your query, loose the emotion and description, tell, don’t show, and condense 100 thousand words into five pages. All this and oh, make certain it holds the readers attention, gives a good representation of the story (plot and romance), and demonstrates your writing ability. (Breathe!)

The materials were great and provided wonderful clues, hints and samples. Some are even step by step. Then it was time to review what I had written. I found that my query and synopsis were surprisingly similar. The opening sentences were almost exactly the same. That may work for consistency, but not necessarily for creativity. I studied and wrote, then rewrote, trashed it all and rewrote again. In the end, I have to admit the query letter and the synopsis are much improved. Here is the opening paragraph of the new query letter:

Query Revised Opening Paragraph
All Rebeka Tyler did was take a short sight seeing trip to Stonehenge to fill in her day. She has no idea how a small misstep sent her back in time only to be caught in a struggle between two druid masters, and forced to fight for her life. She must live long enough to decode the magic runes and unearth a family secret to find her way back to the 21st century. Add a formidable and passionate Lord, and it’s all but impossible.

It had not been going well. I was batting a big zero with my original query letter (5 passes -- that sounds so much better than rejections). I sent out the new query letter to one agent, and got a request for a partial within 24 hours. I couldn’t believe it. I was so encouraged.

Now I needed to put together the package to fulfill the agent’s request (yea!). I printed out the short synopsis and reread the pages for the umpteenth time to check for typos, grammar, you know the usual stuff. My hard work had paid off (so far). I sat back with a smile and nodded really satisfied with the results.

Synopsis Revised Opening Paragraph
Dr. Rebeka Tyler, PhD., doesn’t think of herself as a warrior, renowned authority on medieval studies, martial arts amateur yes, but warrior, definitely not. In England to claim her inheritance, she has no idea how a tiny misstep at Stonehenge transports her through time and leaves her stranded in 17th century England, amid a renegade druid’s plot for revenge. She does know that while she is trying to survive and find her way back she is either fighting for her life literally or with the dangerously handsome Lord Arik figuratively, and somewhere along the way she has fallen in love with him.

Next I needed the first three chapters of the manuscript. I decided to check that out for typos, etc. It had been a few months since I read the manuscript, and I was looking forward to slipping into the dialogue and getting reacquainted with Lord Arik and Rebeka. Like good friends, I realized I missed them. (That’s a topic for another blog). I read the pages as they came off the printer and went pale. What was I thinking! Did I really write that?

I have been writing a long time, mostly corporate communication and marketing documents for a large company. I know I can reread my documents and always find something to edit. But this was different. Now don’t get me wrong, the writing was good, but over the last two months of studying writing, pulling my paragraphs apart, synthesizing them, distilling them, seeing where I was telling rather than showing, the manuscript needed the same loving attention.

Do I send the agent what is currently under consideration with the editor? No, only my best work goes out. That was a no brainer. With Karen Cino’s encouragement, I changed my weekly goals and began to edit the document, this time with a bit more objectivity. I have been going over each chapter with a fine tooth comb, cutting sections, rewriting others, and in the morning rereading it all.

Sadly some of my favorite parts had to be dropped. Others I just couldn’t let go. Once again I went to blogs and books for help and direction. As I rewrote, I kept a keen eye open for repetitive mistakes. The biggest appeared to be telling rather than showing. I kept in mind that the POV is all in the character’s mind, and while you can certainly tell your reader how someone feels or reacts, showing them through action, dialogue and emotions is much more powerful. Easier said then done. For inspiration I keep this quote posted by my computer.

“Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ~Anton Chekhov

So, I have been editing each day and I am just about finished.

My dilemma, what do I do about the editor? Do I send them a new copy?

Stay tuned for Ruth’s next reverie.♥



BIO:   My name is Ruth Seitelman and I am a paranormal romance writer with one completed manuscript under consideration with an editor, and currently working on the second half of the epic story. When not writing, I can be found reading, cooking, doing Sudoku and counted cross stitch. To be honest, I am almost never found not writing. Together with my husband Paul, we enjoy ballroom dancing and, with New York City close by, going to the theater. We have three grown children and two grandchildren. On many levels they are my inspiration. They cheer me on, as I once did for them. We all thrive on spending time together. It is certainly a lively dinner table and we wouldn’t change it for the world. I am a Trustee and Vice President of the Board of Shelter Our Sister (SOS), Bergen County’s only shelter for victims of domestic violence. I am a frequent guest speaker at various functions around Bergen County speaking on behalf of the Shelter.

5 comments:

  1. Ahhh Ruth Lass, don't you just hate it when you have to drop some beloved scenes from your work?
    But your post tells us just how dedicated you are about your work and the sacrifices and changes you are willing to make. It's a hard thing, but doable even if unlikable.

    POV has never been my strong area although everyone helps me with it ALL THE TIME...

    yYu said it best, ONLY YOUR BEST WORK GOES OUT, so send out your best work.

    Patt

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  2. Don't think of it as a rejection, think of it as one more agent/editor out of the way so the right one can find you!

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  3. Keep slogging away! Gah, I feel your pain! Whenever non-serious people tell me "I love to write!" I smile and change the subject. I don't love this part of writing and I can't think of anyone who is serious about writing, looking foward to, or enjoying the very hard labor pf revision. I think its the revising and re-writing that seperates the men from the boys, the women from the girls. I don't love re-writing, but I grit my teeth and do it. Its called discipline and every serious artist has it.

    I take as my inspiration Fred Astaire sometimes. Yes, he looks like a dream dancing up there on the big screen. But we don't see (and never will) all the outtakes, things that didn't work, the curse of frustration, the sweat, the knee injuries, etc., (Name me one serious dance who hasn't been injured!) Times he felt like slapping Ginger Rogers for not getting it, etc, all the hours of choreography, etc.,

    That's our job as writers -putting the magic out there while slogging grimly away to make the magic. Nobody wants to see the slog. All anybody is interested in is the magic.

    Thank God for other writers who understand and sympathize with you and your pain! You are mot alone!

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  4. Ruth, your process got away from me--I am fascinated by the story itself, and would love to read it sometime. As a little girl on family visits to England, I used to play on the stones (the fallen-down ones, of course) at Stonehenge. I don't think it's allowed anymore. And my desktop on my home computer is a picture of Stonehenge. Thanks for a great post. Elizabeth Palladino

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  5. Excellent post Ruth. Now that your rewrites are almost done, it's time to start brain storming on your next book. Keep your creative flow going, especially over this snowy weekend.

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