I have neared the mouth of madness. I have sat on the tongue of crazy.
And it’s all because I’m working on getting it right. Taking those extra steps to make sure my writing is the best it can be to quote the Army slogan.
This work entails printing out the manuscript, not once, but twice, sometimes three times because reading the print version helps me catch stuff I can’t always see staring into a computer. This also helps me find when I have used a phrase or word over and over.
This means going through and getting rid of adverbs, and declaring war on passive and vague words like there, was, am, it, must, could, and try, among others.
Reading the story for content problems, such as closing gaping holes in plot and that your characters stay in character. Making sure the theme is consistent and your symbolism isn’t overt. Ramping up the conflict in each scene, be it emotional or action. Searching for clichés. Being on the lookout for the times I have changed the name of my characters in midstream (Come on, haven’t you done that?)
Let your critique partners have a go at your work to suggest improvements and what you did right.
One other thing I do is beat back the impetuous urge to send out my first and second draft because I think the work is done. It isn’t. Maybe geniuses will have the perfect novel after two passes. I can’t.
Despite the craziness of rewrites, the more you work on your piece the better it becomes. That makes the madness worth it.
Patricia Santos Marcantonio