Alligators Overhead Trailer

Monday, January 18, 2010

Happy Revision Monday


I've spent a couple of weeks going on about rewriting my manuscript: trying to "get the words right," deepening and sharpening my characters, dumping or rewriting my least memorable scenes. Along the way some of you left excellent suggestions on specific techniques you use while going through this process, so thank you for that. I hope others who visit will benefit from these contributions. I know I have. I've made note of all that you posted. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Now that I'm on my last round--I've started what I hope is my final read through of a hard copy--I thought I'd go over some of what I discovered on this rewriting experience, sort of a wrap up.

First, while I divided the task into three parts (prose, characters, scenes) that was only a way to make it more manageable. I found it really helped to concentrate on rewriting each part separately, but that sometimes one led to the other. I'd be focused on creating the best relationship of words or phrases and discover that my characters needed to do or say something to define them more clearly. It's helpful to think about this task in manageable segments, but it's important to be able to see the whole as you do it.

Second, "less is more." This is a theme that's been playing around in my head during the whole rewriting experience. Of course, once you're concentrating on something you become aware of it all around you, so I've stumbled on that philosophy several times. I picked up a book on Bauhaus architect Mies van der Rohe in the library just to look through it and guess what? Clean lines, clarity and visual simplicity popped out of the pages I flipped through. When I needed to confirm a point of grammar I turned to my Strunk and White and here's what I read: "A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short or that  he avoid all detail . . .  but that every word tell." Thank you, William Strunk. Yesterday I was tuned to PBS and an interview with Ringo Starr. Guess what he was talking about besides his new album? Yep! Making each musical add to the whole without cluttering the piece--no extra stuff.

Third, I'm no longer calling this process, rewriting. That word carries the idea of "correction." From now on I'm calling it revision--seeing a manuscript again with new eyes. When I thought about what I started with several months ago and what I have now I appreciate all that sorting, selecting, moving, changing that I did. I realize I accomplished far more than correct; I created a piece of work that fits together into a better whole than it did before.

So let us know when you take on your own revision. Tell us what your experience has been. There are so many ways to approach this task and each writer has to decide what works best for her. Sometimes sharing an idea helps someone else, and what writer among us doesn't need some help--even if it's just the comfort of knowing someone besides you is in the revision trench.

Happy Revision Monday

6 comments:

  1. I like the less is more comment. In early drafts I think we spew a lot of stuff and repeat ourselves. Another writer said it was like talking with your mouth full. So I try to look at my lines that way: Are they bloated, redundant?
    I'm glad to hear you are moving along so nicely with your revision. I'm afraid I keep stalling and need to stop letting myself do that.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good luck on the revisions.
    I finally, finally finished my final revisions after months and months of critique groups, rewriting, and so on. My son is now my last reader. He found a mistake in the first paragraph! (one that I reworked for - I thought- the final time). The rest was mistake free so far luckily!

    ReplyDelete
  3. It sounds like you are making good progress. I'm in the midst of a big rewrite/revision/re-invisioning of a novel I've been working on for a few years. I find that my writing/revision process has been different for each manuscript. I'm taking a more structured route with this one than I have with the others.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "Less is more" has been my theme lately. I've been paring down excesses & those pesky dialogue tags!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sounds like you're coming along quite nicely. I think each writer has to find his/her own way through revisions. I'm kind of looking at it this way: The first draft is a bulldozed road through basically unknown territory. It's drivable, but it's rough. Revising is the smoothing out of ruts and potholes, the clearing away of boulders, and eventually, the laying down of asphalt that will make the road a highway.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love paring down to the essence, although at times I'm afraid I may be cutting out something I don't think is "useful" simply because I've read the ms so many times. It could be that those words are revealing character or something equally important. It takes a good eye and good judgment, which I know you have!

    ReplyDelete

Please say something to me, anything. Well, not anything, but a kind word will do.