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Jump off a cliff!

You think jumping off a cliff is scary.


Try this revision dare:


This tip comes from the lovely Ammi-Joan Paquette, author of the equally lovely, The TipToe Guide to Tracking Fairies.

(What kind of scary tip could the author of this sweet book offer?)



One of the best revisions tips I've been given was from a friend who told me when she's having a hard time with a manuscript, sometimes she will just start retyping it from scratch--without looking at the original!


Okay, Ammi-Joan…the hard time with the manuscript part we can all identify with. But typing it over without peeking?


Ammi-Joan confesses: I kept this idea tenuously in my mental "last resort" basket.


However, some time ago a hard drive crash caused me to lose a manuscript which I dearly loved. It wasn't too long, so I decided to try retyping it to the best of my recollection. Shortly after finishing doing so I found a print-out of the original. Some things I'd rewritten almost identically. Others (in the new version) were brand new. Others (in the old version) I'd left out. I combined these two versions into one that contained all the strongest points of each.


I don't know that I'd use this technique all the time--but for those pesky WIPs that just won't seem to fall into place, retying blind can sometimes work magic.


Magic….like fairy magic?


I think so.


My confession: I LOVE this idea. And I am so glad Ms. Paquette suggested it.


I tried “typing over without looking” (now known as:  TOWL....and I don't mean throw it in!) a long time ago on a manuscript that I was too tied to. I remembered hearing a VCFA faculty member make a similar confession: that after writing a rough draft, she presses DELETE. As in GOODBYE DRAFT. She remarked that the first draft teaches her what she needs to know to write the book for real.  That when she deletes, she is free to write the story she knows.




I am.


I am also a crazy drafter....my rough drafts always contain short cuts and silly decisions. 

So I did it. 

Okay. I didn’t push Delete all the way. I saved it on a flash drive. But then, without looking, I RE-IMAGINED the book. I changed the POV. In fact, I gave the book a new protagonist. I think the only thing I kept was one subplot. It was that subplot that first interested me in the story.


That book, fourteen hard revisions later, is now finished. In fact, it was just acquired.


So pardon me for a moment if I do a little leaping and dancing!



Now.......try it!  Even just a chapter!  Put your old draft away and get re-aquainted with your characters, your POV, your plot, your IDEA.



Don’t stay married to your rough draft! 


TOWL!!!!!  That's type over without looking!

Now I’m going to go try on some new shoes!  Oh yeah, and write! More tips tomorrow and Friday!


-Happy Sarah Aronson


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 13th, 2009 01:51 pm (UTC)
BEYOND LUCKY is fabulous. I remember when it was just a tiny manuscript- with a sister squashed in a crosswalk. And now, after your remarkable revisions, the sister's gone and it's about to be a full grown book! Hooray for you and congratulations to Dial for acquiring such a terrific novel!
May. 13th, 2009 02:04 pm (UTC)
THANKS!!!! That sister will some day...in some book....rear her squashed head!
May. 13th, 2009 01:54 pm (UTC)
I've TOWLed individual scenes and chapters before but never a full novel. I read that Mervyn Peake lost the first draft of Titus Groan. He believed the novel turned out much better for having had to rewrite the whole thing. If my latest revision of my WIP doesn't turn out well, I may try *losing* the original.

Jeanie W
May. 13th, 2009 01:58 pm (UTC)
TOWLing is scary, but it raises the stakes.

It's an adrenaline rush.

Raising the stakes for your characters is important....and sometimes, we have to raise them for ourselves and the process.

GOOD LUCK with the draft!

May. 13th, 2009 02:05 pm (UTC)
Sounds VERY scary. Hopefully I won't have a whole ms disappear on a crashed hard disk to figure out if I have the gumption to do it.
May. 13th, 2009 03:27 pm (UTC)
If it sounds too scary, it might not be for you. I really need to feel SAFE when I'm writing.....so it's funny that this method has worked well for me.
May. 13th, 2009 03:16 pm (UTC)
I love this method- I just used it about a month ago, actually, though it was only for one chapter. I wanted to get rid of a subplot that began in that chapter & tried revising around it and it just wouldn't come through. So I just opened a new document and started again. :)

And now I'm doing something vaguely similar with another manuscript, since I'm changing the POV structure. I have the original chapters open to see if I want to salvage any lines, but I just smooshed 1 1/2 chapters into 1 and am already liking it better!
May. 13th, 2009 03:25 pm (UTC)
That is great!

When we decide to change one major element, like POV, it gives us permission to play more. It sounds like you have a great process going!!!!
May. 13th, 2009 04:32 pm (UTC)
Hey! I heard about your new book through the grapevine before I read it through the tollbooth. Congratulations, Sarah. That's fantastic news.
May. 14th, 2009 02:42 am (UTC)
Thanks! I am so thrilled! This has been such a great day!

May. 13th, 2009 06:07 pm (UTC)
One thing that always scared me away from this was the idea that I'd lose all the stuff I did before, or that things wouldn't be as good the second time around. But somehow I'd never considered KEEPING the original draft and COMPARING the two, taking the best of both. Now I know this is exactly what my WIP needs! Thanks!
May. 14th, 2009 02:41 am (UTC)
You're welcome! I'm glad this tip inspires you!

Good luck with the revision!

May. 13th, 2009 08:03 pm (UTC)
Hi Sarah:

Congrats on your sale! So inspiring!


May. 13th, 2009 08:13 pm (UTC)
Re: Congrats!
Hi Rani!


How is your writing going???

May. 14th, 2009 02:32 am (UTC)
Hey Sarah - first, CONGRATULATIONS! That's so exciting!

I recently had to start retyping a wip, and even at that stage realized how powerful the act of starting over can be. I don't think I'll ever revise again without starting over.

Though the idea of hitting delete still gives me the willies....

Janet Fox (current VCFA student)
May. 14th, 2009 02:44 am (UTC)
Keeping that extra copy offers a nice feeling of safety, but usually, my informed version is better....

I have this big fat file of "scenes looking for a novel." ie: deleted darlings...

They never seem to make the cut!

Good luck with the revision...how is your semester going?

May. 14th, 2009 02:31 pm (UTC)
thanks for asking, Sarah!

VCFA is heaven. I pinch myself daily. :)
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )