Writing is rewriting
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Can you tell I'm in editing mode? Thought so.
What I find most challenging, though, is the number of ways a writer can revise. And no, I'm not talking about revising while listening to music, or drinking hefty amounts of alcohol, or while wearing tin foil wrapped around your head with the hope that aliens will send inspiration your way.
Here are the different revision hats I end up wearing, sometimes simultaneously, which can lead to snickers from curious onlookers:
Revising for clarity
This is finding those sentences or plot holes that make you go "Huh?" Those lapses in logic where your heroine appears in a Parisian cafe in one scene and then on a beach in the next sentence. Or, something I'm really good at doing, having a character react to something that hasn't happened yet.
Revising out the repetition
Yes, I'll admit it. I don't trust myself or my readers during my first drafts. If something really important happens, I'll mention it a few times. In fact, when I mention something a few times, I know readers will understand its importance. Of course, repeating important information can also bog things down and make a reader feel like you don't trust them enough to "get it" the first time around.
Revising for tightening
I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon with a published mentor (Kate Freiman) who, sentence by sentence, showed me how to tighten my writing so that every word counted. I ended up trimming nearly 1,000 words from the first 20 pages! Although some of those edits hurt a little (and I might have arm-wrestled her over some of them, but she won each time), what words remained were stronger and told a better story.
Revising for believability
I know that fiction is made up, but readers know when a character does something completely out of character. And if you don't have a good reason for them to do that, or even have your character admit that it's something they wouldn't normally do, you lose your reader. The spell is broken. They no longer believe.
Revising for voice
I'm not talking about your writing voice here; this type of revision refers to the voice of your characters in dialogue. Do they sound different? If you took away the dialogue tags, could you tell who said what? In one manuscript I had three, THREE, characters all use the same catch phrases. If they were triplets, I'd understand, but they weren't. And one was an old man. ;)
Revising for emotion
This is probably the most challenging of them all for me because its so easy to feel like you're going over the top. But, as someone wise (who I can't remember) said: "It's better to have too much than nothing at all." And he/she was talking about putting emotions on the page rather than cupcakes at a buffet table. At least I think so.
Revising for typos and grammar stuff
This is relatively easy for me to do, which makes it hard for me to revise in other ways. When you focus solely on the grammar, you can lose a sense of the information being conveyed and the voices of the characters. That's why I try to leave this revision step until the very end.
That about covers it, I think. Are there other types of revising that you do? Please share!