There is so much more to the revision process than I ever thought imaginable. So much so that I’m dividing my extensive notes into two blog posts. I should have the second part posted in a few days. I hope you enjoy them, and take something away from them.
Craft Elements v. Writing Habits
-Craft elements are technical. For instance: Character, Setting, Voice, Plot, Structure, POV, etc…
-Writing habits are practical: the time of day when you write (if applicable;) song you listen to prior to writing; number of cups of coffee consumed while writing; length of time you force yourself to stay at the desk the first time you want to take a break. Also: the method of suspending judgment so that the rough draft keeps flowing; target page count; method of self-forgiveness when you don’t reach your page count goal. The list goes on…
The Idiosyncrasy Of Writing Habits
-You are the author not only of what you write, but of the routines that surround and support your writing.
-You need to be true to your needs.
-There is no one right way(s) to be a writer. To each their own.
There are a myriad of approaches to writing (just research the various rituals of writers, some more unorthodox than others,) and obviously they aren’t for everyone. Don’t be afraid to try different things. After all, you never know what might or might not work for you, and you might just be surprised, too. Once you discover the method that works for you, fully implement it.
-Some habits, like some techniques, are mutually exclusive-you can’t free-write and produce a polished draft simultaneously. However, both can lead to good writing.
-Revision awaits ALL approaches.
-Redrafting and revisioning can be radical. These two terms sound synonymous, but there are distinct differences. In fact, I had to define them out of curiosity (I love to learn new things,) and also to inform those that might think them redundant, and I loathe redundancy.
Revisioning is a module for the configuration of workflows to create, moderate and publish content revisions.
For more in-depth information, see https://www.drupal.org/project/revisioning
-Oftentimes, a novel must or should be layered. This technique builds up subsequent drafts in ways that enrich the story, making it more specific and visualizable, and creates emotional connections with the reader.
Through layering, a deepening of the narrative is frequently the result. You, the writer, will go through a long process of adding vital information about the characters, plot, etc…, followed by trimming down and polishing the whole. This usually takes the form of multiple drafts, ranging in length, brevity, and depth. The point is to write as finely and sparingly as you can, and if you believe the work has to be longer, every one of those additional details had better serve a purpose.
-“Deepening” is another way of talking about the process of discovery that’s inevitably a part of fiction writing, which is an opportunity that revision affords.
Revision Is An Opportunity
-To deepen the feelings.
-To discover what the story is REALLY about.
-To incorporate new inspirations. This can take shape in theme, a more intricate plot and a deepening of character development, to name just a few. Essentially, this covers virtually every aspect of novel writing.
-Let the work sit. In Stephen King’s On Writing, he strongly advises his Constant Readers to wait at least six weeks before you even look at the rough draft, let alone begin to revise it.
-Read it aloud.
-Get feedback from others and view constructive criticism as a positive.
-Try editing only one or two dimensions at a time.
-Don’t be afraid to radically revise and/or cut vigorously.
-Try changing the tense and/or POV.
-Learn when to stop and let it go.
Revision Is A Kind Of Questioning
-It goes by many names: drafting, editing, layering, refining, polishing, finishing, etc…
-Aside from formatting errors, research errors, typos and mistaken inconsistencies, revision is not about getting your manuscript “correct.”
-Revision can be imagined as a kind of dialogue between the writer and the reader.
-For illustration purposes, think of it as a series of ‘questions:’
Is your character memorable enough? Did you give enough backstory (but not too much) ? Did you “show” enough, instead of “telling” ? The questions go on and on, ad infinitum. You’ll find that the first question leads to the next, and the next. It’s inevitable. It is through this dialogue that the writer finds out what they want to do with the writing, the intricacies of character, self-expression v. theme. There is so much to the thought process alone that I cannot fathom it. It can be overwhelming. As Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins, Citizen Vince, We Live In Water (the last two HIGHLY recommended,) once told me, and I’m totally paraphrasing here: “more than anything, you’ll spend a lot of time thinking about the story.”
-Beta-readers are truly invaluable, but we can train ourselves to be more objective, too.
Where Do These Questions (and a plethora of others) Come From?
-As mentioned above, some questions arise with the spectrum of competing interests that stretches between self-expression and the needs of the reader. Others mark the writer’s current fluctuation between the uniqueness of his/her work, and the conventions established by works in a similar or related form, style and/or genre.
In conclusion, these inquires and the concerns behind them will evolve and become an essential part of your writing life, because ultimately, you are the author of your writing and the habits thereof. Your approach will be unique. In time, you’ll come to personalize the questions (or concerns) that encourage a second, third, tenth, twentieth draft.
As we uncover our artistic priorities, and as we find our vision, the personal rewriting process will help give the work the style, the depth of meaning, and the heightened effects that will result in our individual stamp.