Sunday, June 3, 2012

Stages of Agony (or...Rewriting Exposed)

I didn't have a chance to add my own comments to last week's interesting comment discussion, but it has influenced my post for this week. (Feel your power, commenters!)

I will not be talking about the Irish language or viral research, but will, instead, share something I do know something about, and that's rewriting.

(By the way, some of your comments about me last week were very generous and kind and made me feel like all the work that goes into my writing is noticed and appreciated, which was SO nice!)

I know I've done a previous post about rewriting, but this will give you a bigger, broader picture, and I think writers (or appreciators of writers) will find this interesting (and hopefully not too daunting).

What follows are different stages of the first page of Sammy Keyes and the Showdown in Sin City.

Here it is as initially submitted to Nancy (my editor, for you newbies). Keep in mind that this page is the result of the initial writing plus about 15 rewrites to get it "perfect" before submission to Random House. (Click image to enlarge.)

What follows next is my "perfect page" after Nancy weighed in on it and I reworked it. (Some of the pencil is her. The red pencil is what I did in response to what she did. And then, to confuse matters, I also wrote in regular pencil. If you're someone who's going to study this, you'll figure it out. If not, just see how my perfect first page has been brutalized.)

Next (below) is that brutalized page reworked again before being resubmitted to Nancy.

And finally, here it is again after two copy editors ("J" and "A") and Nancy have weighed in on the "REV 2" copy. (Those of you who follow the Sammy Keyes series will bust up at the electronic comments.)

Keep in mind this is ONE page. There are about THREE HUNDRED of these to agonize over in each book I write. (And believe me, some of it is agony!) I can spend half an hour debating the replacement of a word or the placement (or removal) of a comma by a copy editor. (Commas drive me crazy!) And then there's the maddening eleventh hour plot revision suggestion that requires analysis of the entire book to make sure one "little change" here doesn't mess something up elsewhere.

Some authors claim that final draft flies from their fingers.

I'm not one of those.

Some authors have editors who don't really edit.

Thankfully, I'm not one of those, either.

To be good at this craft you need to be willing to work and lucky enough to have an editor willing to do the same. I work very hard and I'm willing to weigh the advice and perspective of my editor and work some more.

Am I talented?

If so, I've worked very hard for that 'talent.'


That's more like it.

So yes, your comments from last week mean a lot to me. And I hope that showing you part of what I go through to be a writer worthy of those comments will inspire you to see the process through in your own writing. Be dedicated. Be tenacious.

That's how to make your talent shine.


Kylie said...

Holly moley! That is a lot for just a page! But then again that page does set the novel in motion! And bow I really want to know what Casey call was about! Was it him inviting her to las Vegas with him and his family? Or maybe Lana and Warren want heather and Sammy to become better friends so they are spending a little time in las Vegas? Oh I just can't wait for the book!

And I love the electronic comments! The gas away one was my favorite!

Thanks for giving us the inside looks to how our writing prosses is like!


Mark said...

"Some authors claim that final draft flies from their fingers."

Hey! I was only joking...LOL! (Seriously, you're both talented AND tenacious.


Gabrielle said...

So excited for sin city! And Wendelin you are an awsome writer! And you've really committed to this series. And it does sound like a lot if work to write a book,there is just so much writing and rewriting.

Gabrielle said...

And commas are annoying. You have to be like,does it belong there? Wait,I forgot one there,wait I don't need one there. But I don't really like the subject english.

Yusa said...

Gosh, the prologues always get me super interested. I have all the questions that Kylie has. Especially about Casey. What did he do?

Thanks for taking all this effort to write your amazing books. We really appreciate them. I can never write well no matter how hard i try. I either accidentally copy a story plot or can't finish one.

Also, Gabrielle, ikr about the commas. I never know where to put them...


Anonymous said...

"Or at least stop asking so many questions".
Who, Sammy? Why? She doesn't ask a lot of questions...does she?
Okay, okay, this was great. "A soap so great, its been cancelled".
And it's extremely interesting (as a weird person obsessed with writing) to see other peoples' processes. And those electronis notes never make sense to me so I'm glad it was mostly written. The old-fashioned ways never die (which is why I hate Kindles/Noks/e-readers).
Okay, so one thing I noticed was how in ALL the notes it said Lana was a SPOKESPERSON ("!" haha) and it still ended up your way. It's kind of like when someone KNOWS they're not being completely proper but still don't fix it-- I made the mistake in letting this girl in my bio class (who "claimed" to be a good editor) read over my first oldest draft and in so many places she commented writing things like, "So-and-so isn't STRONG enough--give her more female strength, girl power, etc!"
I was like, "Mmmhh, uh, I'm gonna vote NO on that."
And it's also kind of like in hockey when you know punching the opposing center isn't the right thing to do, but you feel like it makes your game better. Not that the Blackhawks punch people a lot-- in fact, THEY are always the ones being beat up because they're young and one of the best teams on the NHL.
To you guys it might not connect, but trust me. After 1 hour of losing, punching the opposing players helps boost any hockey players' game.
Plus, unlike basketball or any sport actually, violence is allowed.
My kind of sport.
Writing is like hockey. There's not MANY restrictions--its pretty much a long, TENACIOUS, hard-working free-for-all (PUCK IN NET. ONE POINT FOR TEAM.) but there ARE a few CRUCIAL guidelines and MAJOR processes to perfect the art of being the best at hockey/writing.
I mean, basically writing can be anything.
Of course, you can't have grammar mistakes or plot-holes or out-of-character-ness or random sidetracks and it has to FLOW. Plus tons more. Other thab that it's totally rule-free! Just don't forget the millions of rules, er, "guidelines".
But really, what teenager picks up Sammy Keyes and goes: "Oh, Lady Lana is the SPOKESPERSON and not the Gasaway Lady" or "Oh, this sentence was slightly AWK, it ruined my whole reading experience"?
Just like what teenager watches hockey and goes, "Wow, Cory Crawford just punched Blackhawk-traitor Antti Niemi in the face, therefore the game is ruined"? Or "Oh, Patrick Kane wearing a Superman cape on ice isn't PROPER, the game is all wrong"?
Editing is important and hard, and so are the rules but most of the time we take what we see for granted.
Like literally I thought that you whipped up those prologues like some sort of Harry Potter-wizarding-world pro, like (HP spoiler oooh!) Dumbledore before Snape killed him (but if you didn't already know that, people, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN LIVING?)
Now I know.
Prologues = harder than they look.
Editing = Useful
Writing = Sometimes taken for granted
Hockey = Writing
Thanks for another awesome and very insightful post. :)
And, OMG, January 8 = Sin City. MARK YOUR CALENDERS GUYS!!
Lol if the world ends that would blow. Like honestly my last dying thought would be, "WHO IS SAMMY'S DAD!?"
Perfect timing for Sin City. Very sadistically placed release date, couldn't have tortured people better myself.
(Just kidding...really.) :)

Gabrielle said...

Yeah,I wonder what Casey said... Maybe that Lana and Warren are getting married. Wich I wouldn't blame her for that making her mad. Or maybe like Kylie said. Hmmmm......?

Anonymous said...

I thought the married thing at first, too.
Or maybe he said something like, "Hi, I know you, but our parents are dating, and this is awkward, so please don't call me maybe".
Hate that song but LOVE the perfect parody lines that come out of it.

Gabrielle said...

That would be horrible if we died before we figured out who's Sammy's dad is. But in my opinion we probably won't die,I'm not sure if there's anything else besides that Mayan calendar. But the Mayan calendar its like the end of our calendar,and besides the Mayan calendar is a year ahead of us,so acaully it's 2013 already according to the Mayan calendar. And by the way my dad told me all this stuff. I feel like my dad knows everything. I always say how do you know all this stuff!

Kylie said...

Yes I Love the lines that are made up from it! They are eve best!

And JANUARY 8! Oh the world better not end, because then I will not find out who her dad is! And I must know who he is! I can't wait for JANUARY 8th! Haha that rhymes!


Gabrielle said...

Oh my gosh my older sister LOVES that song. One day she would not stop singing it! I was like Oh my gosh shut up! But I actually like that song,but she was singing it all day!

Anonymous said...

Is it bad to wonder why she has a WHOLE remix album of that song on iTunes. How many ANNOYING ways can one sing "I don't know, here's my number"? And lol I love how theres dubstep for her.
That's like, Taylor Swift and Kanye on the same track. Hot and cold. Tall and short. Interruptee and interrupter.

Anonymous said...

Just turned #SammyKeyesProbz into a Twitter hashtag.
BTW "probz" is another way of saying "Its so wrong its RIGHT".
Like, when I first read Snake Eyes, I pronounced Pepe as PEEP, lol... #SammyKeyesProbz :) maybe I should tweet that one. (and yes I had a long, busy day and now I'm ultra bored and this is fun so dont judge)

Norma said...

Oh wow! If anything, this just makes me appreciate your dedication to Sammy that much more. You're an incredible writer to the Nth degree. :) As for those comments on the last page, too funny! So then you don't have the same copy editors for all your books?

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Not the same copy editors! I confuse the poor new ones with my tense-changing style...they don't know what to do with me! Nancy runs block on their changes, saying "STET, STYLE" meaning leave it alone, it's the author's style. But it can get very messy!

Yusa said...

Steph, i just figured out it's NOT Peep...
I feel so stupid. Thanks for the clear up.
Hope both (Wendelin and Steph) of your stories are going well.


Tibbitoo said...

You are truly amazing, Wendelin! I think Casey told her that Lana and his dad were getting married, and Heather reveals all her deapest, darkest secrets (okay, not that extreme)to Sammy because they're going to be sisters and they "give up' their fight (it would be amazing if they became friends). And Lana isn't working as a moviestar right now? (well, as of Sin City). Man, I feel great things happeneing in the future.

And Steph, I read it as Peep too. My friend, Mrs.BillyPratt/Juliet corrected me and I felt like an idiot.

Anyways, I cannot wait for the new books!!!

Gabrielle said...

Wendelin,you're am amazing author,and an inspiration to people who want to be authors. And the more I think about your commitment to the series the more I'm amazed.

Jessica said...

There's another big astronomical event happening on Tuesday June 5th, and it's the last time any of us will get to see it. Venus will be transitioning over the sun in the late afternoon/evening (

And... I love all your writing (and rewriting) posts. I've gone back and tried to find ones you've done in the past, and I have a few questions. In other posts, you talked about having the beginning, end, and major signposts planned, but letting the characters surprise you, too. For a mystery, do you have all the clues pre-planned, or do you just try to stick them in where you can? Other mystery authors tend to have patterns that make it easy for me to "solve" the mysteries in their later books (though I don't know of any other besides you that give enough firm clues to leave a careful reader with only one real suspect), but I find each of your mysteries really fresh, and the clues so artfully woven that they're easy to overlook. If you have a pattern, it's very skillfully hidden behind your narrative.

My second question is related. I've tried to write a few novels; the first two I wrote chapters and chapters without really moving the story anywhere (the first, I didn't even know where I wanted it to go, but the second I did have specific scenes and signposts and even an end... but big gaps). Neither of those ideas are really worth pursuing, but I have two more ideas that are fairly fleshed out... except I'm lacking subplots and the threads that tie them together. I've written some of the scenes, but I want to plan them better before I get too mired in writing that doesn't lead where I want it to go. I've read various guides, but I feel like some of them have gotten me way too bogged down in the "planning" (and yet I'm still not much farther along). So... how, specifically, do you plan a novel? Do you have notes from one of your published works that you could share with us?

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

I was planning to chime in and say I love all the speculation going on here and thank everyone for the nice comments (which I do and I am!)but then Jessica's comment appeared and...You know if I were organized I'd know where I've posted about writing before, review it and see what I can add. But I'm not that organized and I don't want to bore people by repeating myself...but I do what to help where I can and I know it can be frustrating to be surrounded by advice or techniques that don't seem to move you along in the direction you want to go. So let me think about what new I can share and either come back and comment here, or post about it on Sunday.

Anonymous said...

I'm excited for more insight on "Wendelin's World: Revealed". god. Did I just say that?! This is why I will NEVER get published.
@Jessica: Honestly I think the pace of a book depends.
Harry Potter:
"Harry, yer a wizard" (like 2 chapters in)
Hunger Games: "Primrose Everdeen" - "I VOLUNTEER!!!" like 1-2 chapters in.
Sammy Keyes: "I saw a guy stealing money through the window and oh, oops, I waved" (NOT quoted from the book. Just, uh, synthesized a little). That was like maybe 2 pages in or sp?
And then here comes the one--I'm reading this trilogy, Delirium, my mom reccomended to me and she keeps telling me, "Don't worry! The book gets good once Lena meets Alex! Trust me! TRUST ME".
Its been maybe 15 chapters and Alex isn't here yet.
Lena. No one cares about your boring life running through basketball courts being Mary Modest and avoiding male eye contact. MEET ALEX ALREADY.
Really dull beginning. I haven't finished it yet--I haven't even met this Alex dude yet!--so I can't judge the whole book in its entirety yet.
Oh, and let's not forget the beginning of Twilight. I'm trying to use well-known examples.
I admit, Kristen Stewart can be a drag but the FIRST time I read Twilight in 8th grade, I had a seizure-like spasm and nearly died out of love.
Now, I can't even TOUCH the book. But back then--oh man. But this Stephenie Meyer chick knew what she was doing. It was a slooowww paced book, but it made you OBSESSED. Like, "OMG EDWARD SHE KNOWS, TELL HER!!!"
The movies killed it. So did the next 3 books.
But slow isn't always bad.
Holy crap something just CRASHED upstairs. I'm in the newly finished basement at like 11pm and everyone is sleeping and just saw my life flash before my eyes gonna go fight a possible murderer now, guys, no big deal I do this all the time bye.
(PS, I'm a fast-paced kind of writer.)
(PPS I've always wanted to be murdered so at least heaven is gaurunteed for me. Oh wait now I'm probably not going to heaven anymore. Dang.)

bookworm said...

Words cannot describe my longing for the release of Justice Jack and for Sin City (you may as well throw in Killer Cruise too).

Oh Wendelin, I do believe you enjoy torturing us.

Jessica said...

Wendelin, you're amazingly generous. I felt rather presumptuous even asking those questions, but I figured the worst that could happen is you could say no or just ignore them. I did a Google site search on "plot" and "plan" (and their respective "-ing"s) to make sure you hadn't already covered it, though I could have missed something. The relevant posts I mentioned were posted in October 2009, "The Writing Process" parts 1-4.

Steph, I hope you're safe and that it was just a pet getting into trouble, not a burglar.

For the speculators: while browsing the archives, I rediscovered Wendelin's "Viva Las Vegas" post, where she said she just about had Sammy on a plane, which wasn't easy. And we know that Sin City is only going to be a weekend, so my theory of Hudson driving there has flown out Jester's window. But I suspect Warren told Casey that they were going to elope in Vegas, and Casey had to tell Sammy because Lana was being her usual uncommunicative self (and Casey promised no more secrets). I have no idea who paid for Sammy's plane ticket, but a Vegas wedding would explain why Sammy, Heather, and Sammy's mom are all part of the plot.

Or -- really wild speculation -- Lana actually married Sammy's dad but never got divorced? And he's in Vegas, so she has to track him down to start the divorce so she can marry Warren? But... I don't think so, somehow, since if that were the case, wouldn't he be on Sammy's birth cert then? And I would think if his identity had to stay a secret, he's probably still in Santa Martina.

Ling said...

I can't begin to imagine how much work it takes to write one book, let alone a whole series of almost 20 books! Wendelin, you both amaze and inspire me! Thank you for the sneak peek of the writing process as well as the beginning to Sin City. I look forward to more writing tips should you decide to share them. :)

Optimistic4ever said...

I leave 2 days... 2 DAYS and I miss so much!

i will never again complain about how long it takes to get these books released. That is crazy hard work right there!

Steph, I read Divergent. So good! It's the reason I haven't used the computer in 2 days. ASDFGHJKL it was amazing!

So Wrong It's Right... isn't that an All Time Low album?

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to put Insurgent on hold...

O4e :D

Anonymous said...

All Time Low. YES. I'm surprised you knew that, its an older album. They're coming to Chicago (well, not the city but an area nearby, Tinley Park) for Warped Tour this year. I've loved them since when? FOREVER. AAAHHH JACK AND ALEX!!!!! Jalex. Bromance.
Everybody go read Divergent by Veronica Roth. Not only is it a BETTER futuristic story than the Hunger Games, but its in futuristic CHICAGO.

You see, I got to meet the author of Divergent at her house because her best friend, Gabe, works at the same mental hospital as my mom (well, a hospital for "problematic" children, ie: suicidal, depressed, and yes, a little bonkers in the head @ times). Gabe and my mom one day were discussing the awesomeness of books like Hunger Games and others and Divergent came up (and mom reads these teenage action/romance type books..OK?!) and Gabe was like, "DIVERGENT? Oh, I'm VeronIca Roth's buddy!"
So my mom somehow got Gabe to let us all have "tea" (green tea..awk) while I asked her annoying questions and got my books signed, etc.
Oh and she actually lives nearby so we didn't like, drive to California or whatever, that would be WACK. She lives like inbthe Chicagoland Area. And yes. It's ACTUALLY called the Chicagoland Area. Like in Phineas and Ferb, TRI-STATE AREA.*Doofenschirmtz voice* And I don't even WATCH that show..
Optimistic, isn't Four TASTY? ;D
coughcough Casey is cough cough so much cough better though.

Optimistic4ever said...

I loved Four! It was kinda weird when she first started calling him the other name which I will not type because of spoilers and stuff, cuz that name wasn't very manly. It reminds me of some socially awks penguin dude. And Four remninds me of those really hot but sweet guys. Lol Hot'nSweet Ketchup. In every Indian's household.

Casey will always be better though. :)

I am so jealous of you. John Green, Jay Asher, and Veronica Roth. Not to mention ALL TIME LOW! Is it wrong to assume you're going?

As for old albums... I've listened to songs by the Sex Pistols, and they are waaaaay older.

O4E :D

Yusa said...

I leave for like a day and a half and get sick, and i miss everything!

I can't wait for the insight on writing, because i have the same problem as Jessica.
Just finished my 119 question history final while i had a 103 fever... I still set the curve at 106 for my class, tied with someone else. The other class set it at 114.
8th grade graduation on Monday! Not ready for highschool after going for the same k-8 school for 8 years.
Also, i need to read Divergent...


Optimistic4ever said...

8th grade graduation tomorrow 4 us! And I am not ready for highschool. My freshman friends told me I need to buy jeans. Must I? I like sweats and shorts...

Anonymous said...

LOL, jeans are great. Sammy approves. Heather, however, does NOT approve. Heather and pants?!? HAHAHA
Do you Californians watch hockey!? Because the L.A. Kings are in the lead 3-1 in the Stanley Cup finals, against New Jersey. It all just seems sort of unfair because throughout the season L.A. takes it as a joke sort of and we're all over here going to games in the freezing biting cold to cheer on the Blackhawks and then they're WINNING THE STANLEY CUP. This is a BIG deal!!
Granted Chicago has won many Stanley Cups so its only fair to share...NO. NO NO NO. WE WANT ALL THE CUPS. I'm not New Jersey's biggest fan but they're more appreciative of the sport. I hope they win. I always envisioned Sammy as a San Jose Sharks fan, and Billy as a L.A. Kings fan. And Casey as a Blackhawks fan, JUST CUZ I WANT HIM TOO. Besides, he'd look better wearing a red jersey. Maybe he should PLAY hockey. Seriously if he did, I would...probably commit suicide because he isn't real..
ANYWAY, game 5 is on Saturday so if any of you Californians wanna root yourselves on...;)

Kylie said...

Hey I know this has nothing to do with anything were talking about but, I am making these shoes and I am drawing and writing quotes on them and since Sammy has been a big part if my life this year I wanted to add a quote from the books to my shoes, so does anyone have a great quote for me? I really appreciate it!


Optimistic4ever said...

I don't watch hockey. Then again, I really don't watch too many sports... we're Sharks fans though, for those of us who watch. :D

Jessica said...

Kylie, how about, "Promise me you won't get sidetracked!" since it seems someone says that to Sammy in every single book. Or how about "Want to take a shortcut?" from Night of Skulls?

Michael said...

This is encouraging for those of us who are trying to write and pursuing publication for the first time. My first page got a royal-beating from my own red pen... and then was abused by a blue pen by a reader. But that makes it the best it can be... I think. :-)

Michael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yusa said...

Don't watch hockey, but following the basketball playoffs a little.
I always wear jeans... Or pants cuz i can'y wear shorts.

Unknown said...

Wendelin, you are truly amazing. Sammy Keyes is so wonderful and funny and DEFINITELY worth the wait!
BTW-All you Sammy-lovers are Hilarious! So glad I found this blog :)

Caradith Craven said...

The best stories are told by those who have lived life, gone through the joy and pain of everyday living, and speak with a creative, authentic voice that transforms the mundane and ordinary experiences into the unique and extraordinary life moments with the power of words.

The best authors see hope, possibility, and humor in even the most difficult of situations and the most complex of life’s mysteries.

Wendelin is one of those authors who resonates with her readers and connects to the heart of her audience with her amazing talent.

She has a faithful following of devoted readers because she is committed to giving 100 percent of herself to making her writing craft the best it can be out of respect and consideration for those who read her books. She isn't a writing machine who cranks out a product; she's an artist who meticulously designs her work to please, inform,touch, and entertain her consumers.

Thanks, Wendelin, for never taking your readers for granted. You dedicate yourself to the hard work and "agony" of making your writing nothing less than superior, and you have earned the loyal support of devoted fans and followers around the world. May those who desire to publish a novel one day take to heart your practical advice and emulate your wonderful example.

Anonymous said...

LOL my friends have been bringing these up and I just remembered. Basically my english teacher last year made us write letters to ourselves that she'd mail out in our Summer Before Senior Year because its our last highschool year and so we can see how much we've "changed".
So my friends have been recieving theirs bust I JUST realized...actually, let me copy & paste my Facebook status, it explains it perfectly.

"To the person who moved into my old house in 'Hoodridge' and recieved my sophomore letter about me rambling about What happens in the next Sammy Keyes book and Whether Damon really dies in Vampire Diaries season 3...I'm sorry you had to read that. Awkward."

So now the people renting out our house think of me as a PSYCHOPATH, because seriously I was rambling about What Happens In Sammy Keyes and Vampire Diaries.
(And if the Blackhawks are in the final 4 in the Stanley Cup, which they weren't) :(
AND if Lana and Warren BREAK UP ALREADY which they haven't (btw no Sammy Keyes reference I refer to EVER refers to Justice Jack...I gotta wait until July).
Damon DIDN'T die, btw. Thank god. But Night of Skulls was, of, course, better than my expectations but now it feels like October was forever ago. :)
Oh, and its obvious I haven't changed an inch. Senior year yay SENIORITIS.
Tomorrow = new WVD post. GET PREPARED GUYS.

Yusa said...

I was prepared ever since this post...
Next year i'm freshman... scary!