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Revising on a Blank Page

By Caitlin Maskowitz

August 01, 2022

Until recently, I’ve revised my novel the old-fashioned way—moving sections around and rewriting my prose. But in my latest revision, I felt stuck. Then, I read Matt Bell’s, Refuse to be Done and was inspired to try something new.

My novel jumps to the past to tell the story of one character’s youth. I’ve had difficulty dramatizing these sections and finally realized they need to be written in first person, present tense. I had been writing in third person. I was overwhelmed by how much I had to change. I avoided working on this section until I decided to try Matt Bell’s approach. Bell outlines after the first draft and then based on what he learned, he starts over and writes the second draft from scratch. I didn’t feel up to putting my whole manuscript aside and starting from scratch but figured working on my one challenging section would be a great trial run. I opened a fresh Scrivener document.

So far, it’s going better than expected. I read the old version of a chapter, made notes on major changes, and then switched over to my new document, and wrote the scene from scratch. I know the story so well at this point that I’m finding it easy to see what’s most important and the words are flowing in the first person. I’m not sure I’ll ever be up for a complete manuscript redo, but this technique has unlocked a challenging section of my work. I recommend giving it a try.

Caitlin Maskowitz is a founding member of book inc.