Eye Transplants

There are lots of tips on editing novel manuscripts– stronger descriptions, better characters, cooler names– but they always tell you the same thing:

Come back to the story with new eyes.

Hello, is this the Association of Organ Donors?  I would like a new pair of eyes.

Somehow, I don’t think that’s what they mean.  Usually they explain a little more: leave the manuscript alone for a couple months, read something new, maybe even write something new– then you can consider yourself fresh enough for a reread.

It wasn’t quite enough for me.  I took a very long time to get back to my latest story, but I finally began rewriting.  I was immediately sucked into the same writing style, which was the one thing I needed to change more than anything else.  How was I to do it?

A few months ago, I shared a technique to keep yourself from writing too hastily: I used a different handwriting to get the creative juices flowing again in a way that wouldn’t succumb to the dreadfully useful Backspace.  It was a different way to look at a scene that otherwise wouldn’t have been written.

No, I don’t suggest writing your entire second draft on paper (though I did begin mine that way).  But you can still change the way things look.

In short, if you’re going for a total rewrite, open a new document in whatever word processor you like and start messing with settings.  Microsoft Word has three background colors– black (which I used for the first draft), blue (standard), and grey (which I am using now).  Fonts are fun– I found a font for Microsoft Word I like called Poor Richard, which I added to a monochrome color scheme which I labeled Almanac.  (Historical humor!)  I set the document’s default settings to double-spaced text (previously single spaced or something), which, along with 12-pt font, will give a fairly accurate sense of how many pages of print it would be if it was published.  I also put an indent in the beginning of every paragraph, so things actually look authentic.

And just because I wanted to, I wrote the title in enormous letters right on the front page.

I got myself excited again about this draft by messing with settings until it looked new.  Sure enough, the bad writing style hasn’t showed its sorry face.  There are still some clumsy things about the writing and story, but that isn’t something you can change with a new font.  I’m still learning.  (That’s why this blog is still running.)

While writing, I comment.  Microsoft Word lets you add footnotes and comments to the text, just in case you’re co-authoring something.  I indulge my schizophrenia and comment on anything that bugs me, but I can’t figure out just then.  I have commented in accents.  I have commented, and then added “But you know that.”  I have told myself that I’m lying or being redundant.  Of course, I also joke about phrasing, other jokes, and my own occasional stupidity.  It almost feels like one of my more insulting characters is writing the comments while I slave over the manuscript.

Basically, I made it so it’s fun to redo something I’ve already done.  Try it.

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129 Comments

  1. THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU LIAM THE KING OF AWESOMENESS! I needed this so badly. It’s time for me to mess with my story, so…

    And I love the Historical humor.

    Reply
  2. I haven’t utilized the “commenting” option in Word review like you have, but when I get stuck I will write down completely stream of consciousness conversations with myself about where the plot is going. Glad to know I’m not the only one who get’s a little schizo over my writing!

    And great blog by the way!

    Reply
    • I know of one writer who, when he gets stuck, simply writes out every detail of what his character is doing until something comes to him, but that isn’t quite what you’re speaking of. My conversations with myself tend to fizzle out after a few brilliant lines, so I just write the brilliant lines and call it quits.

      Reply
      • Sounds like a much more effective process than mine…I suppose I need to work on the brilliancy! Love all of the Les Mis references you have by the way!

      • Why, thank you! I’m glad you like everything.

  3. Hello, is this the Association of Organ Donors? I am calling in regards to a recent order you received. Liam, Head Phil… yes. Please make sure that the eyes you give him are in need of bifocals– he’s always liked the idea of bifocals. No, I am not a relative. No, my eyes are fine, thank you. *click, dial tone* How rude! Apparently, requests are not permitted… especially if you are not akin to the recipient.

    “While writing, I comment.” That is a cool idea. Is it a specific character that your comments sound like or just rude charrie in general?
    So, if you ever stop learning, there will be no more This Page Intentionally Left Blank? (Do not ever be all knowing, Head Phil!) By the way… did you get the blog-title from an SAT prep book?

    Reply
    • Since many of my characters are insulting, my comments sound like quite a few of them.

      There will come a time when this blog becomes superfluous and redundant, and at that time it may be time to retire it. That is, unless I become published and I can post every day about upcoming book releases and tours. (No, I got it from a hilarious bank statement.)

      Reply
      • Quirk came to mind.

        Will you ever have posted everything about writing? Will you ever have read all books and reviewed them?
        Why do you say “unless”? “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”… wait a minute. That’s not right.
        Point is, shouldn’t that “unless” be something more certain and positive?

      • Some books aren’t worth reviewing.

        I said unless because I meant unless. This blog might retire… unless I find another use for it in book tour announcements.

    • I thought perhaps it came from the WordPress theme pages. For those sample themes, the pages say “This page intentionally left blank” or something extremely similar.

      Reply
  4. I used to write drafts on different backgrounds! Then I got lazy. :/ But now I change the font. I edit in about 20pt. Write in 12pt. I maximize the screen up to 150%. All different stuff depending on what I’m doing. Change of font is still a favourite. I agree that this is an excellent thing to do! More people should know about it!

    I also leave myself interesting comments (mostly when I’m outlining) like, “And then he dies. HA! KIDDING.” Hay. At least I amuse myself.

    Reply
  5. Oh, I love the things/jokes my head comes up with for Word comments. Though lately I’ve been beta-reading for someone and I’ve been trying to keep the comment weirdness to a minimum.

    I have not played with the default settings on Word much, other than to set an automatic default indent. Interesting how that helped you. I applaud your historical humor. I shall have to play with this too. *Has disturbing mental image of going at Word with a dissection scalpel.*

    Also, that TCWT chat is tonight, though no one other than me has shown up in the chat room yet. There’s only so much chatting I can do with myself.

    Reply
    • John just informed me that the chat is NOT tonight, and that he cancelled it due to a lack of interest on the Facebook group. Drat. So now the chat room has some really odd messages I posted to no one.

      Reply
      • I just got there, but you had left. *sniff*

      • Aha! I found the reply button!

        *Sniff* (Curse this iPad keyboard, that nearly said Snuff instead of Sniff.) Alas, I had to leave in order to partake of my evening repast.

        I need to figure out how the chat on Google+ works. I need to figure out how Google+ in general works.

      • I dislike iPad keyboards.

        If you have that little box on the right side of the page that says “Chat” on the top, you just click on any of the list of your friends who have green symbols by their names. I tend to remain “invisible” so I don’t get distracted by the irrepressible conversationalists among us.

      • *is rather suspicious as to who that means*

      • And I’d be happy to help you figure out Google+ 🙂

      • Okay, it’s like the Facebook chat thing then. Only I don’t think FB has an invisible feature, which would be nice as I do know some irrepressible conversationalists, as you call them.

        Thanks Amanda! I think I’m okay for now, but I’ll keep that in mind for the future!

    • Indeed. Comment-weirdness isn’t right for everyone– consult your doctor before taking in large doses.

      I could do plenty with myself, but I wasn’t there.

      Reply
      • My doctor hasn’t gotten back to me yet, the lazy blackguard.

        I probably could have been a bit more creative, but I had a first draft pleading for attention. Did you know there’s a comment feature in Adobe Reader for PDFs similar to that in Word? Very useful.

        My comment suddenly require moderation. Maybe that’s to do with this iPad, or perhaps it knows this is past my bedtime and does not trust me to be entirely sensical.

      • Blackguard! I love that word.

        Yes, I did know that. I’ve used it a couple times, but I refrain from saving my WIPs to PDFs.

        My blog doesn’t like you for some reason. Are you wearing strange perfume? It might be allergic.

      • Psst, Gwen/Lily, would you mind checking your email? I emailed a question to you.

      • And if you’re on right now, please go to the TCWT chat room, ’cause I’m waiting for someone.

      • I have no idea which universe it’s in, otherwise I’d be happy to talk both of your ears off.

      • I’m trying, but it’s not working. Grr. Did you do something to it?

      • Just go for Google+ and stop commenting here.

      • …never mind.

      • For now. You can comment again later.

      • I meant the link to the chatzy thing. That’s why I said “never mind.”

      • Seana: I did not get your email! I actually have two accounts, and the lilyjenness.com one (at least I assume that’s the one you used) isn’t always reliable, so try resending it to lily(at)morenna(dot)com. I’m very curious as to what your question is.

        Liam: My mom just finished the first draft of a jam making e-book, and she made it as an interactive PDF, and she asked me to beta-read. (No, she’s not the one I’m limiting comment weirdness from, that’s someone else.)

        No, I don’t usually wear perfume, but my sister likes perfume, and we share a room, so it’s possible that she sprayed something odd on. I also live with three cats. Is it possible the blog is suddenly allergic to cats? Or fleas? I live with more fleas than cats.

        And I missed you in the chat room again! Grr.

  6. Ehehehe, I think I shall do this when I come back to revising my manuscript, too! Writing snarky comments to myself is always fun, and it’ll remind me where the real squick zones are. Like you, too, I need to up and empty out the style (my narrator reads horribly), so I may pinch a few of your tips here, too.

    Thank you for saving me from a future of descending into editing-related madness.

    Reply
  7. Fah chenk fah well trb fas. Et thill yu vurb imosalls.

    Reply
  8. I can see that, while awesome, the whole commenting thing could easily descend into ridiculosity/procrastination/a novel in and of itself, but what the heck, why not? It’s not like I have lots and lots of work of various kinds to do. –shifty eyes– I shall try it! 🙂

    Reply
  9. So. How’s the editing or writing or whatever you’re doing coming, Liam?

    Reply
  10. Hmm. I’ve done this. It’s especially fun to add a mock “title page”. Except when you don’t have a title…which is often my problem. And messing with fonts…

    I find it kind of interesting that not every writer apparently automatically adds indents to paragraphs while they’re writing. I do that without even thinking about it. Then again, I also habitually double-space between sentences, which…apparently nobody ever does anymore. *shrugs* Habits. I don’t see a real good reason to break it, though, so I just leave it and hope nobody gets annoyed by the bigger spaces.

    Reply

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