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Rewrite Your Way to Publication
by Kathryn Lay

You’ve finished that article, essay, short story or book? Is it time to print it, stuff it in an envelope, slap on those stamps and shove it in the mailbox?

Nope.

Writing is rewriting and rarely is a first draft ever ready to be a final draft.

For some, the rewriting is the fun part. For others, it’s a drudge. You’re having to switch from your creative brain to your editor brain. But it’s important if you want to make that manuscript truly sellable.

By following a few steps, you can make sure that your written piece is as polished as it can be before that editor takes a first look.

LET IT SIT

At first glance, your first draft may seem to you to be utterly brilliant or totally trash. Rarely is it either. It’s time to step away from that particular piece. It’s difficult to rewrite while it’s completely fresh in your mind. You’ve just finished it and you’re either sick of it or convinced you could never make it any better.

Depending on you and the type of piece it is, you may want to let it sit for a day, a week, or months for longer pieces. When you pick it up again, you’ll have a new perspective and you’ll more likely see it as it really is.

Now’s the time to begin rewriting.

READ IT ALOUD

Try reading into a recorder or just reading the piece aloud. You’ll be able to notice places that are jarring or sentences that ramble, don’t make sense, or are difficult to read.

Listen for the voice for fiction or if the sequence of events or steps you are sharing make sense for an article. If it’s an essay, does it flow easily? Does the ending seem abrupt? Are there parts where you think, huh?

REWRITE

It’s time to fix those big and little problems. Maybe you need to rearrange thoughts in your article, add more emotion or less telling to your essay, and strengthen the ending to your short story.

Cut, add, expand, tighten, delete. Don’t be afraid to take the red pen to your beloved words.

READ BACKWARDS FOR PUNCTUATION

Try reading your piece backward to check spelling that your Spellcheck may have missed or missing punctuation. This way you won’t get involved again with the actual writing, focusing only on punctuation and spelling.

FIND A CRITIQUE GROUP OR ANOTHER WRITER

Get an unbiased read from another writer. Mom, the kids, your best friend…they may not be your best critiquers. “It’s just wonderful and perfect just like it is” or “Boy, this is a stinker” may influence you the wrong way. Sure, they are readers, but in this raw state, can they give your manuscript a professional look-see before it’s edited and typeset and sitting on a shelf?

Check your library, bookstore, or book editor of the newspaper to see if an established critique group exists in your area. Not one? Consider beginning one. Put an add at the library bulletin board or a local college and begin creating a group who will be both supportive and helpful.

Once you’ve let your piece sit, read it aloud, rewritten, checked the punctuation and perhaps had it critiqued before rewriting again, and you feel it’s in the best shape possible, you’re ready to send it out and wait for a response.

Your piece may sell as is, or an editor may express interest if you’d do a rewrite. Do you get discouraged? No way. Now’s the time to prove to an editor that you can and will rewrite.

When I sent a short story for consideration to Cricket Magazine for children, they were very interested in the piece but felt it might be better for the younger age. The editor of Spider magazine, their younger publication, liked the piece but said it would need to be cut from 900 words to 600, and a few more details added in.

Right away I worked on cutting it down to 600 words, then found ways to use a few words to add the information the editor wanted, then cut it back to 600 words. It took some work, but the story was bought and published. Recently, a story to Cricket was accepted after doing a few rewrites.

Many of my pieces for magazines have been accepted without rewrite suggestions. But those that have asked me to do them, I am quick to run to the challenge. If I completely disagree with the suggested changes, I’ll talk with the editor. Often, once you share your reasons for keeping something a certain way, the editor will agree. If not, you must decide whether it’s important enough to lose the sale, or the sale is more important than those specific words or ideas.

Remember that your words are not written in stone until they are actually published. And by then, any changes are too late. So consider the importance of rewriting and revising to polish your well thought out ideas, make your words sparkle, and editors want to get more and more from you because you send them writing that needs little-to-no tweaking.

© Copyright 2007, Kathryn Lay

Kathryn Lay is the author of 26 books for children, over 2000 articles, essays and stories for children and adults and the book from AWOC.COM Publishing, The Organized Writer is a Selling Writer. Check out her website at www.kathrynlay.com and email through rlay15@aol.com

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