Behind The Rewrite With JL Peridot: Breathing Life Into A Flat First Draft @jlperidot

Behind The Rewrite With JL Peridot: Breathing Life Into A Flat First Draft @jlperidot

flat first draft

If you’ve ever skimmed through your flat first draft and felt as if it needed more depth to come alive, then you’ll relate to this Behind the Rewrite post from author JL Peridot. Below, she discusses rewriting her sci-fi romance novel It Starts With A Kiss.

JL Peridot’s Behind The Rewrite

I hate first drafting. But I love having a first draft. And while going over rough work can be tedious at times, the rewrite stage is where you get to really express your creativity and skill as a storyteller.

To date, my most popular book, It Starts With A Kiss (“Kiss”), is the one I enjoyed drafting the least. It took four rounds of reboots to turn it into a piece of work I was comfortable sending out.

Oh, gosh, my rewrites… Let me show you them.

1. Shaping Realistic Characters

Using archetypes can speed up the first draft process, because we’re so used to seeing them in fiction and the “economy of thought” saves us from getting bogged down by details early on. But these exaggerated personality profiles are just that—profiles. And depending on the kind of story you’re telling, they may hinder your ability to write characters that people can relate to.

Where this stuck out for me was when Celeste stood at the door to Eleanor’s quarters, deciding whether or not to knock. It was too easy to portray a “blameless protagonist”, free of vice and vitriol. But Celeste isn’t like that. She’s independent and strong-willed. And I needed to show her talking about Eleanor as well as to her in the earlier chapters, so not only does it make sense why she made that decision at the door, but the truth of her whole character emerges as well.

2. Writing Natural Dialogue

Once I connected my plot points together, I spent a lot of time fixing the dialogue. Workplace banter is easy if you’ve ever been mates with your colleagues. All you have to do is pay attention to what gets said and take note of the non-verbal stuff too, like tone of voice, facial expression and body language.

So, when re-written Owen mashes his hand into Celeste’s face, you can tell it’s because they’ve been friends long enough for that to be okay. When re-written Laks bosses everyone around in the function room, you know it’s different to when Eleanor does it. It’s evident in what she says, how she says it and, most importantly, how everyone else responds to it.

If you don’t have personal “banter” to inspire your dialogue in certain scenes, look for movies, TV shows and reality shows that match the genres, characters, setting, pacing or vibe of your story. In addition to my own workplace friendships, I referenced my friends, family and in-laws for specific social dynamics (such as Bettina’s dynamic with Dave), and Fresh Meat for how a diverse cast of characters could bounce off each other in a story-driven setting.

3. Fixing The Tone Of Voice

Even though “Kiss” was always intended to be a romantic comedy, the first draft prose was much too saccharine, taking away from the dramatic encounters and ruining the chances of emotionally connecting with the reader. Fixing this meant getting into the right mood to write in a particular tone of voice. My solution was soundtrack. Not just “a writing playlist”, but a playlist specific to the story and its unique setting. Other writers may only need to turn the lights down, or write only at certain times of day. Every writer will have different sensory needs for getting into the zone of a particular story, if not getting into the zone of writing anything at all.


4. Not Shying Away From Science

The first version of “Kiss” had far less of the nerdy stuff. At the time, I was trying to emulate the contemporary stories I’d immersed myself in, ones with broader appeal that stuck with general language. And it failed.

What makes a romance special is its characters. It Starts With A Kiss is a story about two engineers who came together through their work on a futuristic space station. The technical stuff comes part and parcel with who they are and the choices they’d made leading up to the start of the book.

So when re-written Celeste rambles about technical details, it’s because that’s what she sees when she looks at the world. As far as she’s concerned, this is the situation she’s dealing with, even if non-technical folk gloss over it or decide it’s nonsense because they don’t understand it. This is just who she is, and just who many of my sources of inspiration for her character are.

5. Building The Wider Universe

All of my stories are contained within their own worlds, but most of these worlds belong to a greater milieu with a timeline and interconnected events. “Kiss” is my third Alliance Worlds release, but the first event in the timeline. And this isn’t in any way relevant to the story.

So how do you pull off large-scale worldbuilding in such a way that it’s enriched by your existing lore while also contributing to the wider universe, when it has nothing to do with what your book is about? You drop hints.

For example, towards the end of “Kiss”, when Eleanor has her big spiel, I could have let her allude to other companies as an abstract concept. It does just as good a job at getting her harsh point across, if that’s all we needed to do. But in the final published version of the book, Elle named a specific company that’s tied to the wider universe. This serves the added functions of strengthening her character through dialogue, and giving familiar readers a richer experience of this story and all the other stories.

These particular revisions ended up breathing life into a manuscript I was on the verge of giving up on. Of course, I look back and wonder if I could do a better job of it with the gift of hindsight and these extra months’ worth of learning. I’d like to hope so, but may never find out. There are too many other stories still to tell.

This post covers the summary of this rewrite. Visit JL’s blog for the full deep-dive.

rounded characters

Want To Read The Book?

It Starts With A KissCeleste is a talented engineer who doesn’t realize her job’s going nowhere fast. She’s a little naïve. She’ll cut code and solder cables forever as long as Owen’s around. Owen, on the other hand, knows exactly how badly things suck—he just doesn’t care. Sure, his skills aren’t what they used to be, but they’re still better than what Halcyon Aries deserves. Then it happens. The company’s toxic management team finally crosses the line. As both techies race to upgrade the station and to free the team from their oppressive contracts, they come to learn that life—and love—can only ever be what you make it.

Strap in for a steamy office romance in space, because sometimes It Starts With a Kiss!

More About JL Peridot

JL Peridot writes sexy love stories and more instead of using Arduino kit she insisted on buying when the conversion rate was slightly better. Her latest book, “It Starts With A Kiss”, is a nerdy, sci-fi office romance—a little HEA for her fellow ladies in tech. Right now, she’s working on a futuristic romantic suspense novel, washing her hands, and playing a lot of video games.

Subscribe to JL’s mailing list for periodic updates, teasers, free reads and banter.




Opportunities For Writers

Are you an author interested in writing a Behind the Rewrite guest blog post? Get the guidelines here.

Are you a writer who could use some editing tips? Check out Stacy’s free resources:

Line Editing Made Simple–5 Days to More Polished Pages  – Free e-mail class packed with line editing tips

Shortcuts for Writers: Editing Made Simple Facebook group – Download the guide, 7 Simple Steps to Nailing Your Book Blurb in Unit 1.

How To Name Your Characters: Tips Every Fiction Writer Should Know – Check out this extensive post on naming your characters, an informative video tour of 7 character-naming sites, and a free PDF guide that summarizes all the information.

Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable – Learn how to streamline the editing process in this affordable, self-paced online course that will empower beginner and intermediate writers to think like an editor so they can save time and money. A steppingstone to hiring an editor.

❌❌❌What Editors Can Tell From Your First 2 Pages And How it Affects Your Wallet

❌❌❌What Editors Can Tell From Your First 2 Pages And How it Affects Your Wallet

In this video, I’m going to show you what flaws jump out at me on the first couple pages of an unpublished manuscript. You’ll get a glimpse of how editors will evaluate your writing and why it’s so important to your wallet that your submission is polished. I haven’t read these pages— these are just observations that caught my attention as I glanced over them.

Agents and acquisitions editors can tell a lot about your novel in the first two pages. Your opening pages can entice them to keep reading or elicit an instant rejection.

What if you’re hiring a freelance editor to help you get the book ready for indie publishing or for submitting to agents? Giving you editorial feedback and/or making corrections is their job, right?

Yes, for a price. And that price is most likely hundreds of dollars per editing pass. It may even be over a thousand dollars: FOR ONE ROUND OF EDITING. Most beginner and intermediate writers need multiple rounds of editing.

Some freelance editors charge by the hour. According to the Editorial Freelancers Assocation, the average cost of hiring a developmental editor is $45-$55 an hour, which is for about 1-5 pages per hour.

Many editors will ask for a sample and give you a price or an estimate. They often charge more for a less experienced writer as the edit will take more time.

Did you know they can assess your writing and editing skills in just a couple pages? They’ll probably skim through more just to make sure, but editors don’t need to read many pages to determine your skills and come up with a price.

Learn how to self-edit your work so that you can make your manuscript as strong as possible BEFORE investing in a freelance editor or submitting to agents and publishers. It will save you money and you will look much more professional.

Watch how I assess two pages in this video. This is an example of the issues that I see in many clients’ manuscripts. Then check out my free self-editing course Line Editing Made Simple: 5 Days to More Polished Pages. Sign up here. 

If you want to really learn how to think like an editor to save time and money, check out my online course Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable. This course demystifies the editing process, giving you a practical, step-by-step blueprint for evaluating, rewriting, and polishing your manuscript. Find out more here. 



Free 5-Day Line Editing Class! Learn Self-Editing Tips For Your Novel

Free 5-Day Line Editing Class! Learn Self-Editing Tips For Your Novel

Does the thought of revising your novel seem overwhelming? If your manuscript could use self-editing, sign up for my free email course on revising and editing strategies: Line Editing Made Simple – 5 Days to More Polished Pages. It features bite-sized self-editing tips and assignments to help you kick-start your line editing, even if you feel as if you’ve been getting nowhere.

Here’s what you’ll learn inside this revision course, aimed at fiction and creatiive nonfiction writers:

* Lesson 1: The one thing that will jump-start your editing.
* Lesson 2: Three mistakes you may be making and what to do instead.
* Lesson 3: Five little words you need to start cutting now.
* Lesson 4: The truth about editing.
* Lesson 5: Struggling with wordy sentences? This will help.
Bonus: The ten-step checklist you need in your editing arsenal.

Sign up here.

I’m a fiction author, award-winning journalist, freelance developmental editor, and the founder of Shortcuts for Writers. My motto is “Let’s make editing simple,” and my signature course is Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable. I’ve taught workshops for organizations including Savvy Authors, RWA, and Sisters in Crime.

Also check out my free Facebook group, Shortcuts for Writers: Editing Made Simple. There are threads in the group where you can post your short homework assignments from the line editing course.

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