How Kim Rewrites

Back in November, I started a series of posts on how I organize my thoughts in preparation for writing a rough draft, all the way from my first handwritten page of wants to a peek at my “character grid.”  We-e-e-e-e-e-l-l-l-l, I’m starting the editorial rewrite of the next Hollows book, and I thought you might like a glimpse at what I do to take that first rough story and turn it into something they will actually pay me for.  (grin)  Keep in mind that this is what works for me, and there is no wrong way to write, except not to . . .

Before I went on tour, my editor got back to me with a 4 page edit letter.  4 pages!!  Nice.  I’m usually at six, and I swear my editor uses smaller type to fit more on the page.  Not bad.  There were three paragraphs on Pierce and some questions I need to answer to make his character stronger and work better, two on Trent regarding logic behind his actions, two on the villain (name to remain undisclosed), one on the beginning, two on the end, and a third on the comfy cozy coda that is one of my writing styles.  Two pages on smaller notes pinned to certain pages where I have to answer or clarify something.  All in all, not a hard edit.  The world is set, so we’re just mucking about with personal logic now.

I also got my original manuscript back.  It’s been lightly copyedited for typos and such that Diana caught on her first read through.  This is part of the process that is starting to shift in the industry.  More and more, authors are being asked to edit on the screen using the tracking function.  I can do it, but not seeing that paper in front of me and ME making the changes, not just approving them, seems to divorce me from some of the satisfaction I get from making my work better.  My editor likes working with paper, too, so maybe if we keep producing top-notch manuscripts that bring in lots of money, they will leave us alone and let us do it the old-fashioned way.  One can hope, but I’m feeling like some of my favorite authors who continued to use a typewriter even when a computer was so much easier and versatile.

Anyway . . . I got my letter before the tour, read it through, and promptly forgot about it, letting the back part of my mind mull it all over for a week or so while I was busy with you guys.  Yesterday, I pulled the letter out again and picked it apart with a mind of how I can change things.  I’ll usually make notes in the margins of the edit letter, or go back to the manuscript and use that big space at the front of each chapter to jot a few things down like, tighten up for speed.  Shift character to next chapter so description doesn’t slow action down.  Skip first three pages and get right to action?  Move character’s intro forward.  Can this character’s function be given to someone else so character can be cut to address Diana’s concern about too many characters?  Stuff like that.  Still not actually changing anything on the manuscript.  I don’t do this for the entire manuscript at once.  It usually breaks down to 50 to 100 pages at a time —  a day or two’s work.

With the thoughts of how I might tighten and address my editor’s concerns, I then open up the computer with the manuscript in front of me and start going through it page by page, reading it as I fix the small typos that are marked.  It refreshes my memory, and reminds me why I can’t take said character out and lets me find new places to wedge a bit of needed info in.  I might fix a few things as I go, but the larger stuff I simply make notes for at the beginning of the chapter until I’m sure that me changing it won’t adversely affect something farther down the line.

For example.  I have a fairly slow start to this one.  I’m not happy with it, and my editor affirmed my thoughts that it was too slow with the simple statement: “Chs. 1-3  Tighten these up a bit”  Sigh.  That’s all she said, but it’s going to be a three-day work session to fix it.  But I’ve got an idea.  As it stands, it runs something like this.  Cp. one.  Trent is at the church, some magic happens. (magic, magic, not romantic magic.  ha!)  End of chapter one.  Chapter two is a fight.  Chapter three is a coming together of forces.  chapter five, six, and seven, cool stuff happens, and in chapter eight, more magic, which in hindsight, I don’t really need.  I had intended this magic to be pulled upon later in the book, but it didn’t happen, which gives me a golden opportunity.  To quicken the first two chapters and get to the action faster, I can dump the magic in chapter eight and replace it with the magic in chapter one.  Or can I?

If I do that, I have to monkey with some of the emotional logic from chapters three to eight until said magic is preformed and Trent’s a happy camper.  Shifting emotions can be tricky, but . . . the emotional distrust that I have to work in will work double duty, adding more texture and more mental gymnastics, which I love.  So yesterday, I puttered through the first 100 pages or so changing little things as I went through to text to make sure I can pull this off without having to change too much emotional or structural stuff of what’s already in place.  My conclusion?  I think so, but chapter eight is going to be a mess.  The changes I make will address more than my editor’s suggestion of tightening chapters 1-3, but also the two paragraphs on Trent, so I’m going to give it a try.  I feel better about it already.

Making it work.  Making it better.  Tightening it up.  Getting rid of what I don’t need, and making what’s left serve two purposes.  Going into making changes full-bore without careful thought will often leave you writing an entirely new story, and that’s not what rewrites are for.  Rewriting is a skill, just like the first original splurge of creativity, so take your time and develop it.  It will pay off at the end.

PS  Don’t forget I’ll be over at B&N chat lists today taking your spoiler questions.  Noon today to Noon Friday.  😉


Filed under Drama Box

66 responses to “How Kim Rewrites

  1. Max

    Hi, Kim, good morning. I just wanted to say that you are one of my favorite authors. I have managed to read 9 books since January of this year (and no I am not making that up) and your Hollows books were among the ones that I have read.
    I also wanted to know if you deal with writer’s block at all and if so, how do you deal with it? See I am trying to write a book of my own and I have this great idea but I keep getting distracted. Do you have any advise on anything I could do?
    By the way, I cannot wait to read the sixth book in the Hollows series. I am hoping to be able to get to the store on Saturday to get it.

    • Hi, Max.

      Wow. All since January? You are a fast reader! Thank you. I’m glad you’re enjoying my work so much, and I hope you find the 6th one soon.

      You asked about writer’s block. I do run into it occasionally when I’m trying to get a character to do something that I know he or she wouldn’t logically do. In that case, I back up, and go forward a new direction. Or I introduce something that explains the odd behavior. In your case, I think it’s a matter of planning. You say you are being distracted? You might try taking some time and write out a very short version of your book, five to ten pages in length, where you rein yourself in and sketch out only the high points of the story. Make sure you have the ending and how you get there. With that, you will know where you’re going, and will be less likely to become distracted.

      Good luck!

  2. Lorelei Bell

    Hi, Kim, just popped in to see what was going on. I’ve only just come to your websites, joined facebook etc.
    I enjoy your writing style, enjoy spending an hour before dinner to read your books.

    I’m a self-published author working on my own urban fantasy, working to place it with an ebook publisher.

    Just wanted to say, I think your sharing your writing passion, and the how-you-do-it is super. I think I’ve rewritten my first chapter of my vampire book a dozen times before I felt it click, and realized I needed something to happen here!

    Keep up the great job. I’m behind in my reading (because I have a day job, and write at night–or whenever I can), but I’m not going to hurry through a book just to say I’ve read it. I enjoy reading as much as writing.
    Have a great day, and look forward to stopping by again and again.

    • Thank you, Lorelei. I’m honored that you are enjoying my work, and I hope that you have all success with yours. Isn’t it funny how you know when it finally clicks? Just being able to recognize when things are right is an important step in becoming a better writer. I’m still learning myself, and each new “tool” in my box is treasured.

      Good luck with your work!

  3. Greg J

    Kim I have to know when will you let us ask the questions we are dying to ask about BMS. I don’t know how long I can wait.

    • Hi, Greg.

      Give me another week or so. I’d like to do it now, but I’ve got a bad schedule this weekend and next, and I can’t add anything labor intensive right now.

  4. dorotea

    Finishing BMS so far – and loving it! Ecstatic that you are working on the next book. I am awed at the fact that you don’t shy on sharing much of your author’s perspective on the work you are doing. The whole rewrites routine have been a major revelation to me – as yes I have to confess I do scribble -exclusively for myself and my friends though.

    Caught a whiff of you here being angry at a fan for not liking Pierce. Yup, I understand you as author are in love with the character and are trying your darn best to make him likable via being romantic, dark, dangerous and all-the-package of Rache’s candy plus fertile-witch. Does not work so far – primarily because of too much retcon – his introduction into the game was too late and he came in stunted with ‘predestined to be loved by Rache as love-of-her-life’ line. That was not very graceful – therefore readers will hate him , does not matter how more depth is hidden within the guy. Never good to convince yourself – I am writing the love of her life period – cause you have to convince us readers, and we are not .

    • Hi, Dorotea.

      Cool! I’m glad you’re enjoying BMS.

      Actually, I love sharing what works with me with readers, but it is labor and time intensive, so I have to do it when I can, not necessarily when people ask me “how do you do . . .” That’s wonderful that you write. I hope that it sticks with you.

      Mmmm, I wasn’t angry at a reader for not liking Pierce, and I hope I didn’t come across that way. I’m not liking him much myself right now, but I’m seeing hints of how he’s going to fit in as we go deeper into the books, and it’s going to be . . . interesting to say the least. I’m blaming Rachel. -laugh-

  5. Jenn

    Good Morning Kim et al!

    Wow, Kim it seems like you have the rest of the month planned lol. Thank you for sharing all that with us. I have a story rolling around in my head & listening to that break down will help me structure it, I think.

    OK, you you gave the breif descriptions of your chapters, but completely skipped chapter 4? What’s going on in chapter 4? Hm…sounds interesting!

    Well, I hope you have a fantastic weekend & I will try to pop over to the B&N chat list today!


  6. SeattleRobin

    I never even finished my NaNo novel and with it, every time I thought about what’s involved with editing the rough draft to even get it quasi-readable I’d get a look like a deer in the headlights. It’s partly what keeps me from continuing, though I know it’s just a mental thing and that there are some easy ways to get past it.

    What you described here just makes my brain hurt. (grin) I really am in awe of writers who can take their initial drafts and do what is needed to craft it into something worth reading!

    • Don’t be afraid of it, Robin, just jump in and do. You might be surprised how much you like it. I love rewriting, this is where most of the little fun things come into the books. Just edit a page or so. See what happens. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just a little less messy.

  7. Really fascinating insight into the writing process and into the way your mind works through your task. Man, editors have to be brutal: “Can you give this character’s function to someone else?” It must be a different reading process to be looking for those kinds of things – one that has no place for “oh good this dude again – I like him”.

    Really cool and exciting to see those little teaser bits from the book you’re working on without you giving anything away – a skill I’d have to say you are a master of. Speaking of which, I just want to also randomly compliment your mastry of answering questions in a way that simultaneously gives both an affirmative and a negative answer. I have a huge appreciation for this wickedly ambiguous wordcrafting of yours. 😉

    Have a good one!

    • Hi, Tiffany. Actually, editors are very kind in their requests, it’s me being brutal to myself that you’re seeing. My mental shorthand is rather . . . blunt. But as for it being a different reading process while looking for theses things? Yes. It is. There is always a place for the squeees of delight, though, and when I can make my editor squee, (or cry) I know I’ve done good.

      Ahhhh, answering without a definitive answer? I’ve been honing that skill for a good six years. -grin- Guy things I should go into politics.

  8. Hey Ms. Harrison,
    *grin* a friend of mine’s an editor (proof reader/wonder woman), so I’ve seen it from the OTHER side as well. She likes the track comment function and inaugurated me into it. It must be quite a feeling, when you’re finally Done Done with a book, putting in that last comma or sneaky quotation mark. 🙂
    Marsha’s book is still on the way, but it’s close, I’m sure! I can’t wait. If it doesn’t come today (Friday) I’ll have to wait till Monday again!! The agony. I’m being terribly good and not going to any of the spoiler pages (and the NaSty Nine warns for spoilers when they discuss it) so I’m still clueless. Which is great because I like peeking ahead myself! 😉
    Question: 🙂 How did it feel, when you realized that you can quit your day time job and become a full time author?
    Have a great day!

    • Hey there friend on the other side of the world! It looks like we’re somehow doing the same thing at the same time 🙂

    • Hi, Alyssa. It’s a great feeling when you ship your manuscript back for the last time (in the form of page proofs) I usually clean my office and wipe my mind down for the next project. It feels good, but only because I’ve been teasing myself with what I want to do next for the last six weeks to six months.

      It felt pretty good when I quit my day job to rely on my writing to bring in enough money to equal what my part-time job was bringing in. I had been under contract for three books and was getting ready to sign another before I quit.

  9. Frank

    “until said magic is preformed and Trent’s a happy camper”
    Hmm so Trent will lose the demon mark in chapter 8? ^^

    “There were three paragraphs on Pierce and some questions I need to answer to make his character stronger and work better”
    Bah, I proudly pronounce that Pierce is by far my least favourite character.
    (Please guys, tell me you think the same. xD)
    Hopefully the stronger character doesn’t carry him farther than book 10. Ivy and Rachel still need a chance, please don’t take my illusion of a happy ever after for them Kim. =) Even Trent (althoug with him, there is Jasmine to think of) or Al are better love interests than Pierce.

    • Very astute, Frank. I’ve been trying to take care of that for a while, and it’s time.

      I’m glad you don’t like Pierce. Something about him is bad for Rachel. Al knows it. Maybe Rachel will start to make better decisions and miss out of the love of a lifetime. Maybe not.

    • Frank

      Hmm, sadly “I’m glad you don’t like Pierce” doesn’t mean much. You wanted us to feel frustrated about Kistens death, too ^^. That at the back of my head, connected with “miss out of the love of a lifetime”, still keeps my fears up. But the hope is back! :>
      Thanks for the reply Kim.

  10. Lurker

    Hi Kim,
    you know I love it when you do this stuff. But Im going off topic here. Im about half way through BMS and it occurred to me that, while Rachel is a earth itchy witch, I can’t remember the last time (if there, in fact, actually was) Rachel got down and dirty with some earth magic. She even says that while ley line magic is all flashy and quick, a prepared earth witch is just as bad. So, since she actually had time to prepare and spell for the upcoming ruckus, I was expecting some earth baddassery last night. But, lo and behold, it all turned into another effing ley line party again.
    So, when do I get to see some gut punching, head stomping, holy crap you just got owned earth magic? 🙂

  11. Phil

    I’m fascinated by what’s put into a first chapter, how much to set up, how many characters are too many to introduce if they’re new? Obviously want to get main characters in quickly, though doesn’t have to be chapter one. And, if a chapter does end with an action scene, should the next chapter ever go right into more action, or kind of unwind a bit before more stuff happens?

    I love that cool stuff is going on in ch. 5, 6 and 7 of book 10. 😉

    • Hi, Phil. The first chapter is like no other. It has different requirements, and usually takes me twice as long to write as any other chapter. Balance is key, and it’s still off in this one.

      For urban fantasy, the faster you get to the action, the better. Kind of like a mystery has the body on the first page? But again, it’s about balance, so you need the slow down as well. Personally, I like no more than two action scenes back to back, and then we gotta rest.

  12. Kat

    Great insight into your process.

    I have been trying to post over at the B&N chat room…and it is not working for me…sniff. 😦

    • Antonio Rich

      It’s not really fan-friendly over at B&N for new visitors, is it? No directions. OK–1)you need to register w/email address and a password. 2)find “Kim Harrison” post and click on “reply.” 3)you will be prompted to invent an onscreen name, say Kat89 for instance. 4)a page pops up where you can write out your question 5)push the “post” or “publish” button(i forget what it says now) and “walah!” you’ve asked a question. Hope that helps.

    • Kat

      Hi Antonio~I got to making an onscreen name and then clicked on reply and nothing happened. I tried several times….:( Thanks for trying to help though. Guess I will have to ask my Q’s here when spoilers are allowed…Although I am going to go try and give it another go.

    • mudepoz

      *Hands out, palms facing forward, shaking head* Not going over there, not done yet. Will resist.

    • Mud, don’t go over there. There are spoilers everywhere, and half the time, there is no warning.

    • Hi, Kat. The reply feature was down yesterday for a few hours, but it should be working now. It sounds like you were doing everything right.

    • Kat

      Good to know. I thought it might be my computer.

  13. Thanks for sharing this, Kim. It will come in handy. 🙂

  14. Like you, I am also someone who would much rather edit in hard copy! After writing a long 8 page paper on the computer, I can’t sit at my desk and stare at the screen scanning for errors. I miss a lot of errors when I do that, so I print it out and mark it up with blue pen and write in the margins. It’s faster that way and I can make little diagrams and draw arrows and whatnot. If I’m editing a friend’s paper or story they usually email me the document and I will just make track changes and send it back, but if they give me a hard copy I ask if I can write on it, then scribble all over the thing lol.

    Something for me that hasn’t changed is that whenever I start a new writing project I always scribble out initial thoughts on paper, by hand. For a story I will write out the first chapter or so, and then type it up to give myself a starting point. Some people think I’m nuts but it helps me think.

    • Hi, Candace.

      Hey, whatever works, right? -grin- There is no wrong way to write, except not to. My first four books were handwritten first, then typed into a word processor that could hold about 50 pages before I had to move it to a floppy. PC’s were out of my price range back then . . . The pace of a handwritten piece is more close to the pace of how I think, sometimes.

  15. JanisHarrison

    I’m at about 35,000 words with my story, aiming to wrap it up at around 50,000. I’ve got #2 starting to line up in my head, and I think there’s #3 lurking. Yee gods and little green beasties, what has been unleashed!? I’ve been advised to find a writers’ group for some peer critique, and I think I finally have enough maturity to face that. And I find myself doing the little rewrites all the time, every time I open the document, or just out of thin air, like this morning it came to me: “thong, not lace…”

  16. suzannelazear

    Hi Kim! I love, love, love getting this insight to your work process. (It also makes me feel better that published authors have to tweak their beginnings too, lol — I bet you can swap chpt 1 for 8 and make the opening so dynamic we forget to cook dinner, lol).

    My crit partners are all “paper people” and I’m one of those on-screen people. But we all make it work. 🙂

    See you over at B&N!


    • Hi, Suzanne. Tweak? I’m ripping out walls and putting in skylights with this one. -laugh- But I love it, so it doesn’t matter how long it takes, right?

  17. Chelikins

    Kim you are fascinating, talented and informative! I love when you share how you work and what you are doing. I thank you for giving of yourself everyday!

    Could you possible put your writing process blogs on one page on your website. I have a few friends from a writers group I joined, when I thought I actually had talent to write but found out I made the better reader of the group, and would love to share it with them.

    • Hi, Chelikins.

      Thanks! I’m glad you’re getting some use out of it. 😉 And never give up on writing. It’s a skill like anything else. No one expects someone to sit down and paint a masterpiece the first time out. It’s the same thing.

      That’s a good idea, moving them all to the website. When I get some time, I might do that. Until then, all you have to do is click on the tag HOW KIM OUTLINES over on the right side of the page. It will collect all the proper posts for you. You just have to read the last one first, and work your way forward. It’s all there.

  18. Wow! That’s really interesting… and oddly familiar.

    Right now, I’m at the phase where I auto-analyze my work to make it as good as it can be. I realize my pattern is similar to what you describe except I do the reading and commenting in a bunch then go through the manuscript to address my own comments. *grin*

    I think the process is actually more similar when I’m writing game mechanics and game experience, and face the scrutiny of the lead designer, creative director and marketing gals.

    Thanks a lot for sharing! I’ll make sure to read the rest of the series (since I missed it the first time around).

    • Chelikins

      Her first round of insight was amazing. You will really enjoy it.

    • I started reading it and it is indeed incredibly interesting. I’ve developed my technique by mix and matching things I read here and there, and things I learned in a Creative Techniques’ class in cegep (roughly the Quebec equivalent to college).

      It’s nice to pick up new techniques and compare with someone else.

      I think the characters spread sheet is something I’ll want to use eventually… It’s my kind of thing. That and post-it notes. I post-it just about every thing on my To Do Wall…

    • Hi, Aheila. It sounds almost exactly the same. Very cool!

  19. Wow. Writing IS work. 🙂

    Uhm…sry. Please don’t laugh at me but…does that mean there is still a chance for Ivy and Rachel? By the way, I loved the book as always. 🙂

    Uhm…just the Glenn thing…hmm. I just…uhm…you know I just stop here bevor I say more stupid thinks. 😉

    • Hi, Linda. Yup. It’s a lot of work. But it’s a lot of fun, too, being able to make something out of nothing.

      There is always a chance for Ivy and Rachel. As for Ivy and Glenn? It’s a date, not a life commitment. -laugh-

  20. Fascinating. Telling us your thoughts without giving away the story. Very, very impressive 🙂

    OK, totally off subject, and not a spoiler, but like the betta (I am now officially in smart ass mode), but some might know where I am. Probably not. No one else would care.

    Moss. It is a very primitive plant, around since before the dinosaurs. it doesn’t have flowers. Irish Moss, not a true moss, has lovely tiny little flowers 🙂

    Mud, who is soooo bad, and should stop correcting Madame Writer. Sigh. Can’t help myself. I should ban myself from the blog until I have finished the book long enough to forget my comments !

    And you don’t want lovely perennials. For shame:) LOL. Well, I have a pkg for Whippet Doc (You hoo, you here?) so not totally without marks 😉

  21. Chris

    I am devouring all these type of writing lessons you allow us to know. To me it is fascinating. I knew it is more than writing an idea on paper, but I am coming to realize how difficult a profession writing really is. All my feable attempts make their way to the circular file or the shredder. It’s like I can see what I want in my mind but can’t translate it to paper. Maybe it is a lack of discipline or something. All in all it makes me appreciate and admire your talents even more. **i feel a song coming on–its only 11 months until the next Hollows installment—(the first notes from Nu Shooz “I Can’t Wait” start fading up)

    • Chris

      btw–#1 son, for the first time in his life, missed making the baseball team he tried out for. He is bummed, but maybe he will work harder to be ready for next year.

    • Hi, Chris.

      Oooh, first, I’m sorry your son didn’t make it, but perhaps a realization has been made that if you want something bad, you have to work hard for it.

      And I’m glad you’re getting some use out of my techniques. I’ve been developing what works for me for a while, and every year they shift a bit more, letting me become that much more efficient. It is a hard job, but so worth it if you can get it all together and everything works. I hope you don’t give up on writing. It’s not easy, but if you work at it, you can’t help but get better.

  22. Kylie Ru

    Al isn’t in this one, correct? Or is that book 10? I’m all full of questions today, but some would be spoilers, so I will wait patiently. However, this particular question isn’t a spoiler! Pierce’s speech pattern. Okay, in my head, he has a sounthern accent, but I’m unsure if that was supposed to happen. Also, when you write him talking, does it come easy, or do you have to think about it first?

    Oh, and most of the spiders were dead.

    • Chris

      Kylie-san…I noticed you said MOST of the spiders were dead. As for Pierce for some reason I’ve always had a Bostonian accent in my head–doesn’t make much sense I know.

    • Hi, Kylie-san. It’s ten that Al is missing from. He’s in nine. -grin-

      Pierce’s speech? It’s sort of like Mel Gibson in the Patriot, and I have to think about it when I start working with his character, and then stop myself from talking like him when I leave the office for the day.

  23. Bonnie Jean in MA

    Ye gads!! I never really thought about or realized how much work goes into writing. I guess that is an unfortunate occurrence….some people don’t understand how hard or how much work some-else does for their job because you have never had to experience it yourself. So now I am sending you an even bigger THANK YOU for sharing your gift and passion of writing with all of us. (The only type of “story telling” I do is to make up a story in my head to put myself to sleep everyday), corny huh?
    Liked the pic of your flowers, up here in MA we have no more snow left and I can see a small part of one of my dwarf flox greening up!!
    I actually only came in to say I am going to start “Black Magic Sanction” now. I start a new job Mon and have until then off so I will have a great 4 days to dig in.
    Thanks Bonnie Jean in MA

    • Chelikins

      OMG.. you do that too! I thought I was the only one, though I know that wasn’t possible but I have never met anyone that makes up stories in their head too. LOL!

      I have tried to put it on paper, doesn’t work. And especially after seeing what Kim does I don’t ever see myself making it there! 😉 So Iw ill just enjoy their fruits of labor with my love!

    • SeattleRobin

      I’m a fantastic writer in my head and have been most of my life! On paper? Not so much. (grin)

    • Jenn

      I do that too! I have since I was a kid…it’s amazing the things that we come up with huh? And yes, getting them onto paper is the hard part…sigh…

    • ooooh, congratulations on the new job, Bonnie! Good luck!

      And yes, it is a lot of work, which is why it takes a year! I can spend an hour on just one page.

      You might be interested to know that that’s how I wrote my first story. In my head while trying to go to sleep. I never put it on paper until about ten years later, after I got married, had a kid, and then got bored one weekend.