Friday, January 4, 2008

Proofreading work and rewriting pleasure by Robert W. Walker

Here is the difference between proofreading (work) and rewriting

Proofreading as a word has always sounded like work to me, work
someone other than a novelist ought to be involved in. Don't get
me wrong. ReWriting is Writing in my book. But please! It is
notproofreading in the manor of a copyeditor because there is a
significant difference if you take the right attitude and turning
oneself into a proofreader, and defining oneself as such by
"putting on one's proofreading hat" seems to me to be defining
that part of the process of writing as a negative instead of a
positive. And as all the self-help books say, negative never
works, and a double-negative is not so good neither. So
already--already--you are in the wrong frame of mind simply by
thinking proof and read rather than rewrite and discover.

Other ways to be in the wrong game or frame of mind when
reWRITING is to think you must do it as soon as your script is on
paper. It is not stretching a point too far to say that you need
to put the script "on ice" either literally as in your freezer or
figuratively as in your drawer for two weeks, a month, two
months? Whatever you are comfy with but you need to get AWAY
from this mountain you've built so as to allow time not to
work on the script but to work on you and your objectivity.

Allow time to work on your less than keen eye for typos and
missteps and wooden dialogue and wrong turns. Time will have
improved your eye for detail and error and new ideas; it will go
from 80-20 to 20-20 or at least much closer to 20-25 if you get
yourself out of the way for a time.

Now what I am about to say is going to sound the opposite of that
last proposition, but really it isn't at all, so bare/bear with

As you write, you may not correct and rewrite while writing--as
that of course sets up a battle between you and yourself, your
creative side with your analytical side--right brain, left. So
while you do not edit and write simultaneously, you CAN and I DO
rewrite in a parobala fashion. This works well for me, and
probably has been developed over a series of books, and not sure
if it is for everyone--most certainly there are many rivers to
the ocean and no one has a lock on how to float there with ease.

However, I have discovered later in my career that I gain
momentum and cleanliness in my manuscripts by writing up to say
chapter three, going back to one and rewriting to that point,
going on to six chapters, swinging back to page one, rewriting up
to that point, and doing the rewrite along the way. Now this
sounds the opposite of "freezing" the results and coming back to them
later, but really is not in opposition to that step which comes AFTER
the entire manuscript is cooked. The parobala rewrite is part
and parcel of my method in my writing process. I don't allow
the editor's hat to go unused for the entire manuscript but
rather don it many times throughout the process, making rewriting
a continuous thread or part of the process of writing. Nothing
negative in this as I "discoveer" and "build" and almost always
lengthen the work as I get more detail on top of detail in, more
triangulation of the five senses, more in the head of characters
gets said, and dialogue is improved on the fly.

Think of it as building a house, but you at first don't have all
the materials and tools necessary to complete the job, so when
you are faced with a stop work order, you don't pack up and
leave; rather you go back to chapter one and recall to mind what
your original room (scene, chapter) required, and you find the
materials and tools at hand to truly fix that first room and by
this time you arrive at room number two (scene or chapter two),
and you are moving forward again, and serendipity plays a major
part as you find the tools and materials you needed for chapter
four where you'd been stymied for lack of building ideas. In the
meantime, you've really cleaned up after yourself while
finishing--up to a point.

Writing is easy, just open a vein, said one old author lost in
time. Who was it? Charlie Wileford maybe? Can't recall. Red Someone?

Have also heard that writing is like lifting a raw egg off a
linoleum floor with your bare hands. Writing is more than just the physical
process as we know. It is a mental process as well, and when an
author says he put in blood, sweat, tears on a script, you can
believe it. He's also put in time, energy, efforts of a
superhuman. Clark Kent would be proud. And he or she does this
without ANY guarantees the effort will ever pay off, and the
payoff for an author might be as simple as getting a thumbs up
from an agent or editor and yet years go by and the script
remains unsold and so unread. Are the "unread" any better off than the
"undead"? Just kidding.

Rewriting is not the same as proofreading. Toss the idea of
proof and reading (the whole thing again?) which only makes
you gnash teeth. Think instead as I do: My best twists and
turns, my best wrought sentences, my best foot forward comes of
writing-rewriting-writing-rewriting. I had done the parobala
thing as I wrote it, and I had put it away for nearly a month,
and now I can SEE the typos far more clearly as I am not as close
to the trees as before, and I have seen where I have belabored a
point or used a line or a word too often, and I have seen
characters change, and what is really fun is having a line or two
attributed to one character that gets sliced and diced so that
two and sometimes three characters are going to share those
lines. Makes for faster and more natural dialogue and keeps you
from creating the "blow-hard" character who goes on for
paragraphs giving a speech or lecture. Break up those Obi-wan
character lines. Recall that Obi-wan was the guy who had all the
answers but he did not reveal them all at once.

As to what I've been doing for the past week as well as this
weekend, I have been RE-WRITING my DEAD ON manuscript. Man this
would make a great movie staring Jennifer Gardner, Ben Afleck,
and Matt Damon.

Hey, I have been busy so have failed to answer everyone in timely
manner. I cope with the Holidays by gettting work done. At any
rate, Happy Holidaze to one and all, and I have enjoyed the fried
chicken stories. Watched as a child my dear, beloved grandmother
go out to the chicken coup in Tuskeegee, Alabama to break a few
necks with her bare hands so's we'd've food on the table that
night while visitin from Chicago (my mom's family). Remember
proof-readin is work but rewriting is fun and filled with aha
moments and discoveries and revelations!

Rob Walker (new stuff up there!)

No comments: