Here is a very practical tool that has served me well time and time again. Most recently a little over a week ago.
When to Use It –
There come moments in writing where the prose is well-honed, from a micro perspective, but is unordered and disorganized. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does it is always 7 or 8 drafts in. And it is a stopper. It becomes evident when reading it over a few times. You see that all the material is there and it’s written well, but the rhythm and tone feel rough. As a reader you are distracted and unable to settle in, but you can’t determine precisely why.
If you continue to try to edit and rekey you’ll only spin your wheels. You need a more dramatic move.
This tool will free you from the linear manipulation that is the edit & rekey cycle (which is THE primary way to quality prose) and give you an entirely new perspective on the draft at hand.
How to Do It –
Step 1: Make sure the prose is double-spaced (you’ll need the white space) and then print it out.
Step 2: Read it once more. Look for awkward breaks in the prose – those moments that jolt you out of the dream as a reader. Mark them. Look for sentences that follow each other but vary in color or tone and don’t seem well paired. Mark these too.
Step 3: Cut these sentences (or groups of sentences) out of the page with a pair of scissors.
Step 4: Repeat Step 2 and 3
Step 5: One you’re done cutting free your sentences discard the margins and other scraps. There may be sentences you decide to discard along with the scrap.This is good.
Step 6: Grab a clean sheet of paper.
Step 7: Reorder the sentences by laying them out. Keep the scissors handy as you may need to cut apart a few more sentences.
Step 8: Once you have reordered the entire piece, tape the sentences to the paper.
Step 9: Read the piece again and make the hand edits that are now needed in order for this new draft to hang together.
Step 10: Go back to your computer and rekey the newly taped section of prose from scratch.
There! You have a fresh draft, you understand how it’s fitting together, the prose is tighter, and you’ve added material during the rekey.
Now you’re over that hump. On to the next draft.