Monday, April 21, 2014

R = Revise, Revise, Revise

Consider everything you write as a first draft. Write with the intention of changing things later, for cohesiveness, details, consistency, and sensory input. Can you see it? Can you smell it? Can you hear it? Who’s talking? Can you tell by the dialogue? Is your dialogue appropriate to the time period or geological region?

Does your plot make sense? Does your first page capture the reader’s interest? Is your word count too big? Too small? Do you have clichés? Are you telling, or are you showing? Does everyone fit well into the big picture? Are there too many unnecessary characters?

Once that first draft is written, that’s when the real work gets underway. To take a good idea and turn it into a great manuscript is more than just a one-shot deal. The best of writers go over their work numerous times, and it shows. Their work may sound like it just flowed out of them, ready to go, but you can rest assured they worked hard to get it that way, and it wasn’t by typing “The End” and closing the file.

In the construction business, they say, “Measure once, cut twice.” I think in the publishing business, they should say, “Write once, sell once,” because if your first draft is what goes to print, you won’t have any repeat customers. You might fool them once, but . . . well, you know the rest.

52 comments:

  1. Revision is the heart of writing. I never see a piece as finished. It can always stand another tweak here a bit more description there. My novels go through many many revisions. First after I read it after finishing it, then after my beta readers then after my beta readers a second time. Then after I read it again, etc etc.

    Oh Lynda it is measure twice and cut once. :)

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    1. Perhaps I should have had someone revise my post...I knew it looked funny. I'll stand by it, though. Measure once, cut, cut, go back to the store and buy more, measure again...lather, rinse, repeat.

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  2. I am in the middle of revising right now. And it has me RETHINKING many aspects of this WiP.

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    1. It's amazing to me how much can change during the revisions. A friend of mine moved almost 20k words of her manuscript to the next book after deciding the plot needed to move in a different direction. That's revision for you!

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  3. I love that you left the “Measure once, cut twice." in there...way to drive it home, Lynda! Teach by example and all that, wonder how many will catch it...And revisions. Yes. That thing I do over and over while hating/loving/hating/loving my work. Complain about it, and repeat. Oh yeah....that. Very important for what we do. Sigh. I'm in the middle so...just send me coffee, okay? :D

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    1. Ah...yes...that "measure once, cut twice" was was totally on purpose. I had someone look over my posts for me, but obviously she had a lack of coffee while reading. I do love to lead by example.

      Coffee on the way!

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    2. Shhh just go with it . . . either way I don't know what you're talking about. All I know is: coffee is always the answer. Always. And if it becomes the question, then the answer is yes. Did I ramble enough for you to forget . . . stuff? No? Okay: chocolate!
      There. That should do it.

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    3. I just have chocolate coffee and be done with it.

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  4. Too many people think their work is ready when it's not. I think there's just the urge to say you've finished something that causes that.

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    1. Spot on! The people who want the claim to fame of "I wrote a book!" without realizing there's a little more to it (also known as a LOT more to it) than that.

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  5. So true! I bet I revised the manuscript that was accepted by an agent at least 100 times!

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  6. That's one of the hardest calls I have to make. It takes me forever to decide if when I write, "Final Edit" I'm right.

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    1. Huge commitment, writing "the end" or "final edit." Even when I'm editing someone else's stuff, I always wonder if I should have gone back through just one more time.

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  7. Too many people are afraid to take major chunks out of their novel. I say if it needs to go, then let it go. I'd rather rewrite entire chapters and have them shine than try to salvage a bad one just because I'm a word hoarder. That's right, I created a name for it. A word hoarder.

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    1. I like the name. Word hoarding takes up a lot less space in my house. In fact, if I were ever to choose hoarding as a lifestyle, or as a retirement hobby, that would be the hoarding object of choice.

      Nobody really *wants* to rewrite entire chapters, I'm sure, but it's sometimes necessary, and the better writers will recognize that. If the foundation's not right, the rest of it will always be off, no matter how much patching and juggling is done.

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    2. I wish there was a "like" button, just so I could like this post. Word hoarder indeed. :)

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  8. I prefer the revision part of the process because then I can see what I am doing. And I have no problems going over it a hundred times.

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    1. Revisions are where the real work begins!

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  9. So I agree to disagree...but only in one aspect. Sometimes perfection is the enemy of excellence. Im not saying not to revise, but don't get stuck in revision paralysis either. Get some partners and know when it is ready. I look back at my first novel and a part of me wants to do it over because with experience we can do it better. I employ the rule of three...make it the best I can in 3 revisions.

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    1. So all those "ignore that chapter; here's a new one" emails are the result of three revisions? Or three revisions of each revision? Or are those just little tweaks that don't count as true revisions?

      Whatever you're doing, it works, so I can't ride you too hard about it, I suppose. And your right, perfectionism can cause paralysis in some.

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  10. I forget who said: Writing is easy: editing is the hard part.
    Because that's where the hard decisions are made, what to cut, what to keep, again and again.
    Silvia @
    SilviaWrites

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    1. Just when you think you've cut all there is to cut, something else will stand out to your eye (or your editor's eye) as redundant.

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  11. Arg. This is hard advice to swallow, even though I know how unbelievably true it is.

    Then again, I've also fallen victim to the equal and opposite effect: over-revision. Isn't everyone like a miniature perfectionist these days? Maybe it has to do with computers. I doubt that people were as obsessed about every tiny detail when editing one letter meant having to re-type an entire page on the typewriter. Computers have made everything worse and better at the same time. :(

    Anyway, looking forward to the next post. You're almost out of letters, though. D:

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    1. My advice always comes with good chocolate to make it more palatable.

      The over-revision probably is worse with the ease of it all these days. I remember (back in the Stone Age) when erasable typing paper became available and I wanted to shout HALLELUJAH! from the highest hills. It saved many a term paper.

      Running out of letters will be both a blessing and a curse...I'll have to reprogram myself to stop thinking of everything in A to Z terms.

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    2. Haha... or you could just keep on going. Find ways to incorporate the rest of the keyboard... there's still the numbers, the punctuation marks, and all the other extras (^, *, and ~, for example). There's probably a whole extra month of posts still left with that stuff... though how anyone could do that, I have no clue. I'm just here to read what you write, yeah?

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    3. "Today's post will focus on the oft-misunderstood ^ character."

      Or I could do them all at once !@#$%&* and people would think I was swearing. I'd lose my family-friendly blog status and bring in a whole new, edgy crowd.

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    4. But... if you did them in the proper order, people would think you're talking about emoticons. "Today's blog post features the following characters: *_-"

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    5. Oooh...I may have to feature you as a guest blogger...

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    6. You want me to write about emoticons? Well... I'll have to think about that one...

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  12. For me it's a balance--I can be guilty of over-revising and never being satisfied with my final product.

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    1. There comes a point where you might need to have a friend step in and tell you to stop. Manuscript intervention, perhaps?

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  13. Are you telling or are you showing really is an art form. The amount of characters can influence what one hears, sees and smells in an epic story . i remember reading 'Slowly, deliberately, Starr crushed out the butt of his cigarette' which made for an epic read really because I enjoyed the 'experience' so much.

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    1. I love reading authors who are good show-ers. (I had to add the hyphen because it seemed like I prefer authors who shower...and I probably do, but...) It really is an art form, it seems, because some people do it so skillfully that all the information just sneaks right in there.

      There are a few authors I like a lot because I feel like I'm really there, where they're describing, smelling tobacco smoke or fresh grass or body odor, hearing murmurings or crickets.

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  14. And revise and revise and revise. I almost wish I was at that point, it would mean my first draft is finished.

    Brandon Ax: Writer's Storm

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    1. Revisions do imply progress, don't they? You'll get there...you have to, or we'll all storm your house to read over your shoulder as you work.

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    2. Lol, not sure if that would help, but I'd enjoy the company.

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  15. Very good advice! I must excuse myself as a multi-reviser-reviser since I'm not in it for the publishing...although I think that would be icing on the cake. I am a panster writer of short stories. My attention span is short and I get bored with idea of putting a character or story through more than a couple of episodes. It works for what I write in my Blog, so that's my story and I'm sticking to it....for now. However, if ever I change my mind...I'll be back for more of your valuable re-visionary writing ideas.
    Sue at CollectInTexas Gal

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    1. As far as short stories go, I don't know how often you could revise without getting sick of your own words.

      And you should always stick to your story. If that's what works, you're doing just fine.

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  16. Hi Lynda,

    Some very notable notations by your good self. Your advice is certainly something that can be instilled in writers both published and aspiring.

    The one thing I try to do, or Penny the pawblishing dog, tries to do, is try to make the first sentence an attention grabber. Our writing is purely experimental and we write in several genres. In so far as editing, have no idea what that is. We just write when we want to write. Hopefully, whoever stumbles upon our writing think it's almost bordering on legible.

    However, I'm working on a new character named, "Ann Tagonist."

    Thanks for this, Lynda.

    Gary

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    1. Ann sounds intriguing...I think I've heard of her type.

      Some of my favorite books' beginnings will stay with me for years, verbatim, just because they had a butt-kickin' first sentence.

      One of my favorites is from C.S. Lewis (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader), and it made my children burst into laughter when we read it to them for the first time: "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."

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  17. I needed to hear that good writers keep revising years ago. I almost gave up because I thought a good writer should be able to spew gold in the first draft. I was losing faith because it takes me several read throughs and I figured if I had to work that hard it meant i had no talent. Fortunately, I am still a word junkie and walking away from words is like trying to lay down a crack pipe. (for the record, I have never done crack...just using it as an analogy!)

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    1. I think it's a common thing for people to assume the final product (published book) is what came straight from the author's brain through the pen, first time out. Until you start to write and get to know other writers, that is, and you realize none of them do it that way.

      So glad you overcame your addiction to crack. Your secret is safe here with me on my public blog, lol.

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  18. Revising is the most fun part of writing in my opinion. I absolutely love it. Revising takes me much longer than actually writing, but it makes a story really glow.

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    1. Kim, you are probably in the minority as a revision-lover! Everybody loves the end results, though. Who wouldn't want their story to glow?

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  19. Revise, revise, revise sounds like my current life. Great advice.

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    1. Always tweaking to make sure we're on the right path. Yep, sounds about right.

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  20. I love tweaking. Figuring out when to stop is where I have problems! lol!

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  21. I don't measure at all. That's the art of tameshigiri or 'test cutting'. You roll a mat of straw around a bamboo pole and soak that in a tub of water for five days, then take it out and let it dry in the shade. By then, it has the size and consistency of a human neck.

    Then you stand at a few paces away, step forward and draw your sword and cut while you make the next step that gets you within the right distance. If you cut well, the blade will pass right through the straw mat at a forty-five degree angle and the pole will appear whole until you sheath the sword. Only then should the top be separated from the bottom and slide onto the ground.

    Basically, the preparation of the tameshigiri poles is a drag, so now I just stand on the other side of the street and behead any jaywalker.

    Oh, I'm sorry, you were talking about writing? Yes, revise revise revise...

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    1. [Head in hands]

      Those poor jaywalkers. Thank goodness you're skilled at the whole beheading thing. They most likely never saw it coming.

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    2. How come your head is in your hands? Were you jaywalking?

      *evil laughter echoing down tiled blood-smeared corridors*

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