It has taken me far too long to get back to you all, my faithful readers, and for that I apologize.
Re-visioning what was written before, and through this long and arduous process, realizing what you now have before you, its potential to be great, etc… Essentially, you’re seeing the work through fresh eyes.
Novice writers are often apprehensive about the mere notion of editing their work (not to mention being overwhelmed and intimidated,) as if the rough draft is somehow the best, when in reality, it’s only the beginning.
Author Angela Flournoy is a self-proclaimed Trekkie, and gives this analogy:
“Resistance is futile.
“The more that you resist the need to revisit your work and see how it can be better, and how you can reimagine certain aspects of the narrative, the more that you’re crippling yourself, really. Because it’s not until later drafts that it’s really going to become clear what the narrative truly is.”
Many novice writers are also under the impression that they’re going to break their work by revising it. This notion is absurd. It cannot destroy it or make it less than it was. On the contrary, multiple revisions will only strengthen it.
According to Venise Berry, author of Colored Sugar Water, “Rewriting is the key to good writing…Every time I edit a piece, it gets better, it gets tighter, it gets closer to being polished and publishable.”
Q: Does it make a difference if you’re editing on a computer or via hard copy?
A: That depends on you. We all have our own techniques or preferences. The trick is to find yours. Try both and see which works best for you. Sometimes, depending on circumstances, you’ll print out a chapter, a scene, etc…, and work from the hard copy. Other times, if time isn’t an issue and you’re not tired of looking at the computer screen, you’ll work that way.
Criticism is ALWAYS a good thing. It’s essential to learn to view them positively. After all, being made aware of said flaws and striving to do better is how we grow and mature as writers. As with anything, opinions are subjective.
-Learn the basics of formatting: double-spaced, one inch margins, average typeface is Times 12 or 14. Following these simple tips says “professionalism” to any potential editor and/or publisher. If you can’t do that, why would they take their time to read your manuscript?
-Allow a minimum of one week in between each edit.
-Don’t ever delete anything. Over time, you may find it purposeful to use a certain scene that, in your mind, you’d discarded, or a character or even an entire cluster of secondary characters.
One suggestion is that prior to your first round of edits, print the story out (whether it’s a novel, short story or novella,) that way you have it. Or e-mail the scenes that aren’t work for you, to yourself and reexamine them at a later date.
-Do not over edit your work, do not under edit it. I think there’s a fine line between the two that we all must find.
In Part One of the revision process, I talked briefly about a technique called “layering.” Berry provides a more in-depth look below that I thought I’d share:
The first edit could focus on spelling, grammar, punctuation or wording problems.
The second: look for places to add more action, replace passive sentences with active ones, or scenes that “show” instead of “tell.”
The third: look to improve dialogue, description, or begin to pay attention to repetition and start eliminating repetitive elements.
The fourth: improve clarity, consistency, flow and rhythm.
These suggestions are merely that. You mustn’t revise in any particular order. You don’t even have to edit by way of layering. It is but one technique.
On a personal note, I am very interested in attempting to layer, as it allows you to really focus on a few areas at one time.
And if you’re still afraid to revise, then perhaps Vernise Berry’s closing quote about the important of revision might help sway you:
“…Ernest Hemingway believed that the only kind of writing is rewriting. And in a 1956 interview, Hemingway admits that he rewrote the ending of his classic, Farewell To Arms, about forty times before he was satisfied. His reason? He wanted to make sure it was right.”
“…You’re creating a synergy between yourself and the text. It’s sort of a secret relationship that you have with your book that nobody knows,” said Susan Taylor Chehak, author of The Great Disappointment. She likens this relationship to that of a mother toward her child. You’re affecting the text and the text is affecting you right back.
“For fiction writers, the reward is the writing process itself. It’s not the fame or fortune. It’s the problem solving itself, and that comes with revision. And that also turns out to be the path to mastery.”
She goes on to impart: “In the same way that you solve one problem in one area, you bring that knowledge that you’ve learned and apply it to other problems that come up.
“The act of revision then turns out to be the road to mastery in itself. More than just producing a perfect manuscript, you’re becoming the master of your art by going through the process of problem solving.
“Failure leads to mastery. The more problems you have to solve, the better you get at solving them.”
-Prior to getting to the real work that is revision, you should read your manuscript aloud. This allows you to hear every facet of the rhythm and flow, and you see what works and what doesn’t. As you’re reading, try to earnestly focus on every word.
-Beta-readers are super important. Never ask close friends or family to give you constructive criticism, as they’re likely to be biased and if they’re not crazy about certain aspects (or God forbid the entire work,) they might wish to spare your feelings. But if four or five impartial people complain about the same thing, there’s usually a problem. Don’t be stubborn. Their feedback is important.
-Once all your revisions are finished, you must be willing to let it go. This is most important.
Seven Steps To Revision
1.) Be willing to change the way you see things.
2.) Drop all of your opinions, judgments and beliefs.
3.) Step back and look for the Bigger Picture.
5.) You must activate your intuition.
6.) Invite higher ideas, and allow your new vision to emerge.
7.) Relax your eyes and look again, and if you want to rage and throw things around, feel free. But eventually you’ll want to step back and let go and see (truly see) what you have, and you’ll find that it’s a gift.
-Every problem presents an opportunity.
Thus concludes my series on revision. I hope you’ve enjoy it. Thank you so much for reading!