One Writer’s Journey from The Beginning A Step-by-Step Beginner Writers Guide – Part 2 How to Write Your Novel Without Having a Background in Writing by Raina Schell

CollectionsLet’s welcome back monthly columnist Raina Schell as she shares with us about “One Writer’s Journey from The Beginning A Step-by-Step Beginner Writers Guide – Part 2 How to Write Your Novel Without Having a Background in Writing.” Enjoy!


Mistakes Were Made AKA Re-Writing

Depending on where you are in the process you may want to go back and read Part 1.

I’m writing this guide as my journey. I am now a third of the way through my 4th book in two years, and have just started my 5th.  When I was thinking about it I though it would have been great to have a little step-by-step guide. A guide of someone else’s process, someone else who knew absolutely nothing… like me.

The one thing that’s happened for me as the years have stretched on is that it’s gotten easier and I’ve gotten better.

I tried to rewrite my first novel but I didn’t know how to rewrite. The first mistake I made was to rewrite the first fifty pages over and over and over and over again. I did that for an entire year. I also did not work on the novel daily. Instead I spent endless angst ridden hours worrying about when I would make the time and what I would do during said time.

First DraftOne thing I have now learned to do is to go through the entire novel and rewrite it from start to finish. I currently use (and love) Scrivener so I label my first draft – 1st draft. Then before my first rewrite I make a collection of the first draft (thanks to Maya Goode who showed me how to do that). Then I rewrite and re-label my 2nd draft and finally my final draft.

Second DraftFor the first draft rewrite I go through and find out what isn’t working story wise. Where the plot is thin, where there are holes, where I lose attention, where it makes no sense. For the novel I’m currently rewriting I had to change the hero’s profession completely because his scenes at work were not believable. I also removed the first two chapters of the book entirely. This is common, especially for new writers. We tend to want to turn the first few chapters into backstory and spell everything out also known as “the info dump”. This is a huge rookie mistake. What we’re supposed to do is pepper the backstory into the novel itself, not ever revealing too much, don’t spell it out. Plus there’s that all-important rule of show don’t tell which needs to be used throughout.

What I don’t do during my first rewrite is “fix the writing”, that’s for rewrite number two. For rewrite one I focus solely on the story. And that is not easy to do. My ego screams at me “your writing sucks” and I ignore it, tell it to shut up and power through. What I’m looking for is pacing and plot. Does one scene support the one that comes after it? Is anything superfluous? Do things make sense? Does each scene move the story forward? I cut what’s not needed and I save my cuts in a cut scenes folder. That way I feel like they’re still there and I haven’t “deleted” them. This makes it easier for me psychologically to let them go. I add new scenes during this process to bridge gaps and propel the story forward.

Cut scenesAnother interesting caveat is that I personally don’t like external conflict, I avoid it at all costs in real life. Thus I have found that in my writing while I’m good with internal conflict I often gloss over external conflict. So in my rewrite I make sure that my character is challenged. In draft one I tend to have “everything work out” at the end of a scene when the proper scene ending is a cliffhanger. I also leave out a lot of my antagonist’s antagonism in my first drafts, which is another focal fix during draft two.

To make sure that the plot and story flow seamlessly together I move scenes around. Then it becomes like a puzzle and puzzles are fun. I try to work on it every day and often have to read the prior scene before I move forward. I also try to work on another new novel each day since new juice and rewriting are very different. New writing is creative and rewriting is headier. Whatever you do, keep the process going!

Next Month is Part 3 of the Writing Process



Raina SchellRaina Schell is a vagabond. She lives where the tide takes her. The only constant in her life is her trusty laptop. She doesn’t live in a tidy little house. Her dreams aren’t surrounded by a white picket fence. She has no family but spends her free time with a black and white bunny rabbit named Fred.
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  • Beth Barany says:

    Thanks for your detailed rewriting and revising tip, Raina! 🙂

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