Monday, March 31, 2014

Rewrite, Rewrite, and Rewrite Some More! by Tanya Hanson



Tanya Hanson

Hey writers, have you ever stopped to think about all the elements we fiction writers are attempting to balance as we write? Rewriting helps us layer in what we may have missed that first or second pass. Our guest today discusses writing historicals, rewrites, and how "knowing" and "doing" are two different things. Read on! ~ Annette

Rewrite, Rewrite, and Rewrite Some More
by Tanya Hanson

I’m meeting more and more authors who work full time, raise kids and pets, volunteer and do church work, and still manage to write books. I’m incredulous because...

...in the past, I did all those things concurrently except write books. I put it off until my kids went off to college. But I told myself I was learning. Preparing for my future as an author.

You see, I taught writing and literature to high school students. With my kids snug in their dormitories, I was mega-confident. Hadn’t I learned everything about writing by teaching it?
Well, there’s writing, and then there’s romance writing. I learned the difference quickly after joining an RWA chapter. A romance editor will excise long, overwrought paragraphs of description, no matter how perfectly they’re written. Why? Readers tend to skip them. 

Readers want action—the push and pull of the hero and heroine falling in love and finding their faith, in spite of themselves.

So what do we romance writers do? Our characters have to live somewhere. Best advice—mix in details about the setting in the characters’ action and dialogue, rather than all at once like a travel brochure.

Same thing in historical romance. Nobody wants a long lecture about the past. I write historical Westerns. To set the time and place, I might show my cowboy-hero discussing with the sheriff some topics relevant to the Old West. Maybe women’s suffrage, a Civil War battle, or the latest rifle technology. He and the lawman could be searching the cowboy’s ranch for clues on cattle rustlers. Throughout their conversation, my hero imparts some of his backstory as well as some historical tidbits. And the reader gets a good—but quick—mental picture of the setting.

I can even add some intrigue. Maybe the sheriff is a fan of barbed wire closing up the open range and my hero is not. Hmmm. I’ve just foreshadowed a potential conflict.
Another hint: Romance writers show; they don’t tell. Those adverbs so beloved by my students now become actions. For instance, “I’ll never leave you,” he said tenderly becomes even better by showing. “I’ll never leave you.” He brushed his fingers across her cheek.

The romance reader needs to “feel” not just “read” what’s going on. The plain old He held her hand becomes much more personal as Her breath hitched when he took her hand.

To quote Elmore Leonard, “If it sounds like writing, rewrite it.” Even more so for those of us in romance. We want our readers to feel what our characters feel and not waste time or words getting there. Cutting and revising and editing hurts, but our stories are better for it.

Claiming His Heart


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21 comments:

  1. Along with so many other aspects, you do settings soooo well, Tanya. I feel like I'm stepping into your western towns, and CLAIMING HIS HEART is one of my faves!

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    1. Dora, thanks so much. Your support is one of my greatest blessings. My love and gratitude always!

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  2. Love the book cover and title, and Tanya's advice about showing
    not telling. After writing short-stories for years it was something I kept catching myself doing while writing a scene. Your books sound wonderful. Nice to meet you on Seriously Write! :*

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    1. Howdy Diane, I actually know just what you mean...writing shorter works means you do have to condense and really pick and choose where to "use your words" Lol. I thank you for your
      Kind words and welcome today. Nice to meet you too.

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  3. I try to sneak and setting as I write, but it's so overwhelming to try to do it all in the first draft. Rewrites are the key. Thanks so much, Tanya! I really needed to hear this today.

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    1. Hi Angie, sorry to be so late getting here this morning. I've been looking so forward to another day at SW. But we've been out of town a lot with family matters and just got settled back home. It's so good to be here,

      I think we writers choose our words so carefully the first time, rewriting, editing, and cutting are emotionally very hard to do. Yet there is a good feeling of success and relief when we finally get it right. Xoxox

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  4. So true! I tend to write out my paragraphs of description in my first draft, then cut them in half and sprinkle parts into dialogue and beats. Rewrites are so important. Though I still wish I had it all the first time around, LOL:)

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  5. Hi Susan, I so hear you! But I find myself skipping long paragraphs when I retread old favorites from days of yore. Sigh. I think some of it is the fast pace of life today.

    When I was a freshman in high school, we had to keep a "prose and poetry" notebook and wrote down lovely descriptions we had enjoyed. Duh. We were thirteen!

    Thanks for the comment today.

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  6. So right, Tanya. I'm still working on this all the time. Have a wonderful day.

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  7. hi Kristy, yep, and it takes so much time away from reading. Sigh. But all good. Thanks so much for posting today. I so appreciate it.

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  8. Yeah, the chopping block can be painful because we get so attached to our precious words. But, you're so right. Our stories are always so much better after we let go and just show our readers the experience they want.

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    1. Hi Paula, oh, yeah, I do love every word I write..then my editor takes a peek and I gotta just grit my teeth and trust her when I get the "too much telling here, do some showing" shot in the arm!

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  9. Wonder if it's not just romance writing that's improved with the tips you site, Tanya! ;-)

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    1. I think you could be right, Kady. I'm sure being concise helps any genre. Thanks so much for the thoughtful post today. I really appreciate it.

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  10. Great writing tips, Tanya! With a few precise examples, you've perfectly demonstrated how to keep the reader immersed in the story.

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    1. Thanks so much, Sam. And I so appreciate you stopping by here today...I know how busy you are! And everybody...Sam is a 2014 RITA nominee! I am so happy for you, Sam. Tons of love and congrats.

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  11. Learning to re-write was--and is still--the hardest thing for me. Thanks for the thoughts, Tanya.

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  12. Hi Tracy, indeed, it never gets easier. But I a learning. I recently resurrected an old suspense thing and edited a total of almost FOUR PAGES out of the first three chapters! Out of order thoughts and sentences, long goobery description. So it's getting there LOL... Thanks for posting today, my friend.

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  13. I'm finding this with my current WIP. It took me three months to write, but six months to rework. Will I ever be finished?

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  14. Hi Kaitlyn, yes, you will because you are persevering. I will say, though, even when one of my stories is DONE and pubbed, I peer through it and still find things I'd fix, tighten, change...so keep at it. When you think you're done, or close to, maybe put it away for a few weeks, then bring it out for one last go-through. I don't have a critique partner now, but I learned a lot from one (a USA Today best-seller) especially in the end stages. So maybe a second set of eyes? Thanks so much for posting today.

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  15. Tanya, here I am! Better late than never! I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed Claiming His Heart. You did an excellent job of sprinkling all those wonderful "setting tidbits" throughout the story and it just flowed so well. Can't wait to see what you have in store for us next!
    Cheryl

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