Just about a year ago, I reviewed Rightfully Mine and interviewed the author, Aggie Villanueva. Since I first discovered what a talented and active author, blogger, photographer, and much more she is, Aggie has gone on to many new accomplishments. Her latest book, The Rewritten Word: How to Sculpt Literary Art, No Matter the Genre, is a how-to guide for writers—not how to write, but how to rewrite.
Lillie: Welcome back to A Writer’s Words, An Editor’s Eye, Aggie. I’m thrilled that I got to edit The Rewritten Word for you. I described that experience in my last post. Would you please tell us what led you to write this book?
Aggie: Thank YOU for such an intro. I’m delighted to be here. I always enjoy your blog, posts, and visitors. I’m excited to be back.
There is only one answer to why I wrote the book: because I’m a terrible writer. I utterly stink. It isn’t until I’ve rewritten untold times that my work will withstand the eye of the professional editor.
When I first started writing I heard and obeyed the pros who admonish “write, write, and rewrite.” But my tenth rewrite wasn’t much better than the first. That’s because I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t understand the purpose of rewriting.
Its purpose is to clarify and organize, cut rambling and verbosity, switch from passive to active voice everywhere possible, and always use exactly the right word that electrifies your work. These basic necessities are overlooked more often than you can imagine.
When I got serious about studying the craft of writing I was shocked by what I didn’t know about polishing my words. Reading books on editing I found them lofty, using grammar terms that college level English students would have a hard time following.
So way back then I did exactly what I did with the examples in my new handbook, The Rewritten Word: How to Sculpt Literary Art No Matter The Genre—I took the sentences and paragraphs that were unclear to me and clarified, simplified, and shortened—rewriting until they to made sense to me and eliminating what didn’t relate and, in fact, distracted.
Many times this meant translating into words I could understand, and at times that required searching basic grammar books to find out what the heck the author had said.
What I didn’t realize was I was teaching myself to rewrite. It was years before I understood my own process, but this is what I did to my own work from that point. And, like most artistic types, I just wanted to share what I learned. Also I want to stress I’m not a professional editor, like you, Lillie, or English grammar teacher. Just a simple writer struggling to improve my own work.
Lillie: How does your book benefit writers? What do you want readers to take away from it?
Aggie: I hope they take away an understanding of the types of mistakes we need to look for in our first draft and the basic steps to correct them.
Lillie: One of the things that most impressed me was how short the book is. How did you manage to compress so much valuable information into so few words?
Aggie: I’m laughing because verbosity is my number one writing sin. I rewrote the book more than twenty times. The first draft was more than twice as long. And I think, subconsciously, I held the thought throughout of how much I dread reading most long, boring how-tos.
Lillie: There are a lot of words used for the process of taking a first draft and turning it into a polished manuscript. Rewriting, revising, editing (and a plethora of kinds of editing), and proofreading are just a few of the terms we hear to describe various aspects of this process. Can you tell us what the different steps are, who should do them, and how they fit together?
Aggie: I can only speak to my own process, and I use the same for my fiction and nonfiction work. First, of course, I just get it down. Sometimes that in itself is difficult, but not to be mistaken for the final draft.
I never purposefully set out to address one specific flaw in each rewrite like the lessons in the book do; it just happened that way for me. And it does keep me focused on one aspect at a time, such as using the active voice. It’s easy to get scattered if I try to zoom in on every type of mistake in one rewrite.
In the second rewrite I concentrate on, say, verbosity, and so on. Then I let it sit for a few weeks or a month and start all over with the same process. At this point I may be addressing several aspects in each rewrite because I have a much better handle on the whole after having rewritten it on several levels.
Each rewrite is left to sit for some time before I go back to it. Some chapters are rewritten more than others. I usually rewrite just one chapter at a time, rather than the whole manuscript. The last couple of rewrites I work straight through the book for cohesiveness and flow.
I do all the rewrites before I hire or submit to a professional editor. Of course, if an editor suggests I do another, I will certainly comply. They know what they are talking about, and I’m too close to the project to have their cool objectivity.
Lillie: What has been the reaction to the book from readers and/or reviewers?
Aggie: I’m humbled and honored. A few remarks have been:
“A tiny book that is big on great advice. This is not a dry read or boring guide. Villanueva entertains while she goes about demonstrating her points. A must for anyone looking to make his or her writing more dynamic.”
“The Rewritten Word is a brilliant little book!”
“I don’t write novels but do occasionally write short articles pertaining to a dish I’ve just created or some other food-related topic. So I had my doubts about the information pertaining to a cookbook writer like myself. I was wrong.”
“I have to admit something: This is my fifth draft of this review following all five lessons taught by this outstanding author in this great 60-page book.”
“Not everyone knows what it is they’re supposed to be doing when they rewrite a piece. Never fear! The Rewritten Word: How to Sculpt Literary Art no Matter the Genre, can help.”
“Villenueva takes the art of perfecting, sharpening and polishing your writing to a new level. I highly recommend this book for any writer, novice or experienced.”
My schedule of interviews and reviews can be found on my page at Promotion a la Carte. And just for fun, on the same page there’s a commercial I created for the book, heavy on the humor!
Because of the positive feedback, I now feel the book merits an updated version every few years. So you’ll probably see me back here telling you about the updates.
Lillie: Another of your many talents is book promotion. Tell us about Promotion a la Carte and what you offer to authors.
Aggie: The response to the new business doing promotional work for authors has also been overwhelming. We specialize in landing interviews and reviews. We offer other services too, but this one is the most purchased.
Another most popular feature is the Industry Reports written by the company’s vice president, Nanci Arvizu, and myself. People say we give industry information they never heard before. Many authors and promotional experts have even blogged about them.
Popular sellers are “Working Amazon: The Importance of Amazon Tags & How to Get the Most Out of Them,” “What You Don’t Know About POD & Self Publishing Can Ruin You,” and both our DIY papers: DIY: Interviews You Can Land for Yourself. And DIY: Reviews You Can Land for Yourself. These two aren’t how-tos, but actual lists of resources beyond the places we land for our authors.
Lillie: Where can readers learn more about you, your books, and your many other talents?
Aggie: Check out my staff page at Promotion a la Carte. You’ll find more than you could ever possibly want to know about me, including connecting with me at Twitter, Facebook, etc., and links to my photo art sites and videos.
Lillie: Have I overlooked anything that you would like to share with my readers?
Aggie: You haven’t overlooked anything, but if I may add something… As I said above, Nanci Arvizu, my vice president at Promotion a la Carte, and I write industry reports that have gained some great feedback, some authors and marketers even blogging about them.
I’d like to offer your readers a free copy of the report titled Working Amazon: The Importance of Amazon Tags & How to Get the Most out of Them. Just email me at email@example.com saying you got this offer from Lillie’s interview and I’ll email you the pdf file.
Lillie: Thank you for visiting with us today, and thank you for this generous offer. I’m sure many of my readers will take advantage of it. I hope you will stop back by to answer questions and respond to comments from my readers.
Aggie: Thank you so much for having me today. I certainly will stop by. I always enjoy talking with your readers.
A published author at Thomas Nelson before she was 30, bestselling author Aggie Villanueva published Chase the Wind, and Rightfully Mine, both Thomas Nelson 1980s. Her two self-published books Rightfully Mine (God’s Equal Rights Amendment) and The Rewritten Word: How to Sculpt Literary Art, No Matter the Genre each became bestsellers in three Amazon print and Kindle categories within months of publication, The Rewritten Word within weeks. She founded Visual Arts Junction blog February 2009. By the end of the year it was voted #5 at Predators & Editors in the category “Writers’ Resource, Information & News Source” for 2009. Aggie is founder of Promotion á la Carte, author promotional services. Villanueva is also a critically acclaimed photographic artist represented by galleries nationwide, including Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclosure: I received compensation from the author for editing, laying out the book, and creating the electronic editions. I have received no compensation for writing about the book or interviewing the author on my blog. I’m sharing with my readers because I love the book and think they will too. The links to Amazon.com are affiliate links.