Finding Mr Rewrite

With the first draft of Purging of Kadillus despatched to the editors, it’s time to move onto the next phase for The Crown of the Blood – rewrite! Having spoken with Marco at Angry Robot for his feedback and left the manuscript dormant for a while so I can look at it with fresh eyes, its time to polish it up ready for the copy layout and proofreaders…

There are a number of things to be looking for on a re-write. Often time is at a premium so I only get a chance to go through a couple times looking for everything, but if your schedule allows, it is a good idea to separate out each of these into its own read-through, so that as much gets caught as possible.

Structure – If you’ve written a synopsis and a chapter-by-chapter breakdown there shouldn’t be any fundamental structural changes to make. However, pay attention to pacing – long description that slows down action scenes, or lengthy dialogue where it breaks the flow – and also make sure that you haven’t had to rush the ending because you’ve gone on one too many side trips earlier on. Presentation falls into the category as well. The Crown of the Blood doesn’t follow a normal chapter format, so we discussed ways that the lengthy sections can be broken down to make it easier on the reader to follow what is happening, signal changes of perspective and time and so on. Your book may be divided into ‘Books’ as well as chapters, or have some other structural features that should be reviewed.

Purge Purple Prose – Although ‘purpleness’ is a bit of a subjective measurement, a good way to go about this is to examine every adjective and adverb and ask whether it really adds to the text. It’s also good to look for possible tautologies and similar repetition – “burning flame”, “bright sun” and so on. This also goes back to the ‘tight’ writing advice I passed on in a previous post.

Dialogue – Along with a general review of the dialogue in the piece, I take the opportunity at the re-write stage to look at the main characters’ dialogue and make sure that they speak in a generally consistent style. If a character is meant to be terse, look for any wordy dialogue; if they use lots of run-on sentences, check that this comes through; if a character swears a lot, while others don’t. Anything that creates a better sense of character.

Description –Alongside the purple prose check, review description for two other things – all senses and emotional involvement. Make sure the reader does not only see the scenes, but can hear, smell, taste and touch them. Don’t forget senses like tiredness and hunger, the texture of things. This isn’t an excuse simply to extend every descriptive paragraph, but a means to ensure the reading experience is immersive. As for emotional involvement, you have to make sure readers interact through the characters – this is really part of the Show Don’t Tell ethos. Don’t describe a vista as awe-inspiring, show characters being awed, that sort of thing. Question the internal consistency of the setting as well – a really useful piece of feedback from Marco regarding The Crown of the Blood was to work harder getting across some of the scale of the empire, the army camps and so on. Make sure that the descriptions actually create the scene in your head.

Collation – I don’t make many notes while I’m writing, but I’ve learnt to make more during the re-write – check names are spelt properly, make lists of people mentioned, places visited. In The Crown of the Blood there are passing mentions of old kings, tribal names, villages, mountains and rivers, and all sorts of other information like physical descriptions of minor characters and places. Some of it will never be needed again, but some of it has to be recorded to ensure future consistency. Lists of people and places are good, and even if you don’t want to make your own wiki-style records, its worth keeping page references of where things are mentioned so that they can be looked up quickly later on.

While it is ideal to cover each of these subjects on its own – if you look for everything at once, you’ll get sidetracked and miss a few things – it isn’t always possible. Gather like to like if you can, so that all of the description and purple prose stuff is done at one pass, all of the dialogue and info-gathering is done on another, and so on.

Published in: on March 2, 2010 at 2:32 pm  Comments (8)  

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. One of the very best posts you’ve done, Gav. Highly informative.


    • Agreed – great post Gav and good luck with the rewrite too.


  2. great post,


  3. Insightful as normal. Cheers for sharing Gav 🙂


  4. Hi Gav,

    I have an out of theme question regarding “Raven’s Flight”.
    In the end it mentions that less than 3.000 marines are left out of 18.000 or 80.000 ? It sounds more like 80.000 but if you do the math, according to what Agapito mentions in the beginning that they’ve lost 75%-90% of the legion and they were at the moment about 4.000 marines which sums up the losses at about 78%, the starting number should be 18.000 marines.

    So what number is it?

    I really liked “Raven’s Flight” so please try to do something else for Raven Guard in HH or 40k (a novel or even better trilogy would be fine).


    • Hello,

      The Legion’s strength before the drop is roughly eighty thousand marines. Agapito admits his initial casualty estimate is very rough; the total losses from the dropsite and retreat being closer to 95% (seventy-six thousand dead Astartes!) by the time Corax has gathered his troops, with a further 1,000 or so Raven Guard lost during the subsequent fighting.

      Glad you liked Raven’s Flight. I’d like to do more with the Raven Guard in the HH, we’ll have to see what happens…



  5. Wotcha Gav,

    Do you find it hard to get back into a story if it comes back from an editor with suggested corrections or changes (e.g. for pace) ? or do you know instinctively where you are in the story so you do not have to re-read to get back into the feel/pace of it ?




    • Hey Tim,

      One of the benefits of games developer experience is my fairly rigid attitude to ‘version management’. My process is one of complete drafts, no going back before a draft is finished (except for the odd little thing you just happen to spot whilst on tea break). So, first draft is the ‘bash it out, get it done’ stage. Second draft is a spellcheck. Third draft is quick read-through. At this stage I consider the manuscript suitable for sending to the editors and won’t touch it again until I get their feedback – normally becauser I;ve got draft one or synopsis to write for something else! Fourth draft is editorial corrections – I focus only on the direct comments from the editor(s) and address every point raised (even if it is to ignore something now and then). Fifth and final draft is my second read-through, which may involve several read-throughs as detailed in the post. At no stage do I interrupt the editing or writing process and always complete the draft on the whole manuscript.

      By doing this, it means I’ll pick up on the structure and pacing again as I am reading through; particularly for the first draft. I think a lot of writers (seduced by the wiles of modern word processors) spend too much time early on doing first edits rather than a proper but rough first draft. During that first draft, after a break of more than an hour, I’ll re-read the last five hundred words or so to get myself back up to speed with the current pacing and then carry on from where I left off.


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