23 October 2011

Finding the Breaks in the Levee

I’ve covered a lot of different topics so far this year. Recently, I’ve concentrated on other’s writings. Through it all, of course I expected you to continue working on your own scribbles.

You’ve not forgotten your own writing, have you?

For this post, let’s grab one of your completed pieces. We’d prefer one that’s been percolating and away from your writing consciousness for a bit. I’ll explain why in a minute.

Now that you have all this writing, I’m going to take you through a very basic outline of revising your work. This won’t be the best way to work for some people, obviously, and I don’t claim this as the “only way to work.” With each unique journey, you can’t hope to get it right for everyone who writes. Take what I offer, use what works and trash the rest. I’ll understand.

To run through this task, I tend to have a pencil or pen and spare paper. Some people suggest that you use a specific color pencil or pen, like red. As long as it contrasts with your print out, meaning you can see your changes, any color will do. For me, the color has to do with my mood or the holiday. I edit in green on St Patrick’s Day.

My story print is a draft on standard copy paper, so I can mark it to my heart’s content.

Plus, it’s mine.

Now, why did I ask for an older piece? Here’s why. When writing, psychology has shown that a person immerses one’s self in the piece. That means that a newly completed piece will still rest fresh in your mind and you’ll have more difficulty poking it for problems. With a completed piece that hasn’t been looked at in a while, it’s easier to look at the words objectively.

I know – that will never happen. But one can always hope.

Another way to put this: It’s time to release the inner editor on your writing.

If you’ve read through my critique series, you’ll notice a similar set of steps. I’ve tried to create similar steps for easy learning and streamlined thought processes. It helps that revising and critiquing cover similar ground, as well.

Step 1: Read the story. If you’re home alone or have a quiet space, read it out loud. Just because you wrote the story, it does not mean you can skip this step.

Step 2: Use the pencil to note places of difficulty. I bracket questionable sentences. A karat ( ^ ) is added where I want to add a sentence or other note. This can be done while reading or once you’ve completed the reading. I find during more useful, because the inconsistency is fresh.

Step 3: Taking your spare paper, write out a revised version of your bracketed sentence that flows better for you. If you added a karat, write the sentence or sentences that would clarify the scene. Because you may have multiple instances of changes, it helps to number the changes and place the number with the corresponding karat.

Step 4: Enter your changes into the computer.

Step 5: Reprint.

Step 6: Repeat.

Nothing says these steps can’t happen on the computer screen. The difference is simply placing the changes directly into the document without writing them out. Again, this is personal journey dependent. Some people can revise on a computer screen and some can’t. I’m one who can’t.

Another important thing to realize – not everyone writes straight through to completion. Some people revise the previous day’s work before continuing with new writing. Nothing wrong with that technique, provided you finish writing the piece! Don’t get so hung up on revising the second paragraph of chapter one that you never write the third paragraph.

I’ve offered thoughts on how to do it, but not what to look for when revising. We again refer back to the critique series.

Glaring show stoppers, obvious plot holes, character inconsistencies, dialogue issues, information dumps. Anything that slows the pace of the story or otherwise impinges on the story’s readability, you’ve got to catch with revision. Oh, and things you look for here but don’t in a critique: GRAMMAR ERRORS!

Get back here. They aren’t that scary.

Obviously, your brain won’t catch every mistake on the first pass. That’s why I included that final step – Repeat. Brandon Sanderson has mentioned on his weekly podcast that he sometimes does as many as seven revisions before he’s happy with a book. Tracy Hickman mentioned that he revises at least five times. Stephen King does at least two passes as well.

This covers my brief overview of revision. Obviously, more details exist than I could cover in this short piece. Look for future posts where I expand on those details.

I’d love to hear from others on their techniques, maybe so I can fine tune mine.

Today's post was inspired by the topic “Revisions” as part of the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour, http://merrygoroundtour.blogspot.com/. This ongoing tour allows you, the reader, travel around the world from author's blog to author's blog.

Don’t miss tomorrow’s posting over at: http://suesantore.com/

If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour: http://merrygoroundtour.blogspot.com/

No comments:

Post a Comment