ReWrite Better By
Providing A New North Pole

By Lin Stone

One night one of the writers I coach came in with a long, rambling, rumbling – uh -- bunch of words. “How can I fix this?” he asked.

  • My first thought was “Fix it into what?”
  • It wasn't poetry,
  • it wasn't prose,
  • and it wasn't an essay either. 
  • It had no paragraphs
  • and many of the things with periods after them were not sentences.

Then I recognized the contents and said to myself: “Ah Ha! This is a splatter of thoughts.”

Okay, by golly. That makes it simple because I know exactly what to do with a splatter of thoughts, hot off the stove.

We sat down together at the computer and began going through the splatter, line by line and extracted those items that were already sentences. “Now, do any of these sentences go together?”

“But you don't understand," he moaned hopelessly. "This is poetry!”

“Right now it's a mess. Do you want my help or not?”

You have to be brutal with these writers
or they might not ever write anything worth reading.


We grouped some of his sentences together and called some of the groups paragraphs. These we put at the top of the page in some kind of order -- that wasn't necessarily permanent.

Ordering the sentences within each paragraph took more time. My young writer was fascinated with the process because he could already see more splatters that would belong in some of these groups. We seemed to have all night so I let him sit at the keyboard so it was his fingers being worn to the nub.

  • Next we began picking out some of his precious little thought splatters and nestled them in with the sentences or with the paragraphs, when they fit.
  • When this process was finished we turned our attention to the remaining splatters and, sure enough, many of them belonged together in little groups of their own.
  • They had remained hidden all that time. Now we had them hogtied and put them on the new page we were building, down at the bottom.

The writer was already astounded at what we had produced. “Ive never written anything this good before!” he gushed 3 or 4 times.

  • Oh, WOW! Is that right?
  • I wonder why he hasn't.
  • Well, ownership battles like that arise all the time.
  • I let the matter of ownership go unchallenged and moved aside.
  • He had also assumed ownership of the major revisions I had made for him in his first two books.
  • My name hadn't even been mentioned in the “credits to those who helped me most” sections.

We had saved our original document under an assumed name,

  • then immediately saved it again as: assumed name #2.
  • We did this so we wouldn't lose that first burst of writing splendor.
  • Our changes to #2 will be extensive – therefore, we will want to go back to that first well in the wilderness (otherwise tagged as version #1)
  • and produce as many other gushers as that well may produce. 

#2 is what we began our revision work on.

  • I studied it for a long moment and the impression grew that the poor boy was fantasizing about some girl he had just met.
  • Being a happily married man with 4 kids he was naturally hiding this from himself
  • and hoping to hide it from the world by writing this document in an abstract manner.
  • “One can,”
  • “One should,”
  • “One will always,” etc..
  • Putting on my “wise old writer” look, I said:
  • “You know, this document would really be improved automatically if we just wrote it to someone special.
  • Maybe to a unique young lady.
  • Let's think about this, what name would go with a unique young lady that words like this might be written to?”

He gave my face a sharp, raking glance but, guilelessly, I stared right back at him. Finally he said,

“How about -- Shannon?

Would that name work?”

  • “Sounds like a splendid name to me.
  • Now we're going to put this girl's -- I mean lady's --
  • name into this document for no other reason than to polarize your thoughts as you write and reassemble it.
  • When we are done we can pull her name out
  • if we want to
  • and it won't hurt the rest of the document one bit.”

Sure enough, once we had polarized the piece with the girl's name inserted at strategic points

  • it was easy for my young writer to see some of the changes that needed to be made,
  • when I pointed them out to him.
  • In his mind the structure of the whole document shifted,
  • kind of like a parallelogram being shifted back to make a square;
  • he saw it in a whole new light.
  • “Yeah, this is what I'm trying to say.”
  • Scribble, scribble, scribble.

Silver Bell Options

 Writers have some incredible options when it comes to production after their first draft is finished.

  • Sometimes “One can,” “One should,” “One will always,”
  • really is the best way to go.
  • However, you should also realize that just by shifting the viewpoint you can produce an entirely different document.
  • Let's take the classic titled “Green Mansions” for example.
  • It starts off with the viewpoint of a character known as “I” as the main character
  • and then introduces a man of mystery that he has made friends with.
  • After several thousand words our “I” character drops out of the book
  • and the man of mystery begins telling his own story and, by golly, he provides this main character the name of “I” as well.

That's one too many “I”s, don't you think?

  • Green Mansions is in the public domain now..
  • That means that you and I can change it into any new form we might want to
  • and even copyright our new product
  • in the same way that Walt Disney seized upon the story of Snow White”
  • and made a cartoonized movie out of it that he copyrighted and made millions from.

The simple way to improve Green Mansions is by slashing the whole introduction out of the book. It reads just as well without that first several thousand words.

  • The first “I” is gone
  • and the second “I” becomes the dominant character of the whole book.
  • Long Live “I”.

Another option..

  • We can also change the “I” character to “He”
  • and this will shift the poles of the story to another new slant
  • so that you see new ways of presenting the same story material,
  • and you will probably even find whole new packages to add to the document.

What about an “it” in our document's viewpoint?

  • That's fine. Green Mansions is a quasi-mystical novel anyway.
  • We can put an “it” into place,
  • hovering over our hero from the very first.
  • It is nudging him out into the jungle to nurse our keening jungle girl back to health and back into the actions of life.
  • Would this polarize the novel in another direction?
  • Yes, it would (or could) also add purpose to the novel
  • so that these subsequent events would no longer be just a series of accidents.

Try This At Home!

Would the viewpoint and storyline of your material have to be changed

  • if you turned it into a movie format,
  • or into a play?
  • You betchum.

As I said in the beginning,

save that first version

  • because then you can always come back to it -- if polarizing messes everything up,
  • and you can always produce dozens of new dimensions from it.
  • All you have to do is change one of the viewpoints or any of the options to give your document a brand new North Pole.

Shannon, will thank you for it.

the end

About the author: Lin Stone is a slightly
less than wealthy author, writer and
photographer currently living in Norman OK.
His current mission in life is letting others know
about the latest news in slant-beam radiation
treatments for victims of cancer.
"Anything with a 94% success rate in treating
cancer patients deserves an earnest investigation."