Monday, September 23, 2013

The Deeper Part of Revision

By Julie Daines

I've been thinking a lot about the revision process lately as I've been revising two separate manuscripts--one for publication and one for submission.

I both love and hate revising because while the process makes my manuscript infinitely better, it also makes me painfully aware of my shortcomings as a writer.

When revising, it's easy to focus only on the surface problems because they are easier to fix--awkward wording, things that don't make sense, poor characterization and dialogue. But often that is merely treating the symptoms and not the disease.

It's so important to consider the deeper issues when revising in order to successfully improve the story. Elements such as structure, theme, premise, and characters are crucial. The irony is that these things aren't often apparent in the first draft and it takes a preliminary write through before even we, the author, can see where all ends meet.

So before you start polishing the windows to an empty view, first make sure you understand what it is in your story that compels you to tell it. Make sure you can see the all-important beginning, middle, and end. Understand exactly what motivates your characters in all their choices. Make sure it is clear to you the deeper meaning within your text.

Set these in order first, or the rest of the revision will not be meaningful or helpful. This is where a good writers group in invaluable. I'm so glad I've got a group that forces me to look deeper into my writing and clean from the inside out.


Britney Gulbrandsen said...

What great advice! Isn't it so true though? Sometimes I truly hate revision because I feel a bit worthless. Like, why am I even trying to be a writer when there are so many problems with my writing? But it's those moments that make us better writers!

Bruce Luck said...

Good post. Kathleen Duey says a good writer is a good reviser. And somebody on this blog said the first draft is you telling yourself the story, The revision is when you consider structure, characters and other deeper issues.

Scott said...

I actually don't mind revision. It requires a different kind of intensity than the first draft, and can include just about the same amount of discovery about your characters and story. Problem is, I like it so much that it seems like I never stop. I do it over and over and over, and often put in more time revising than writing, which says something considering how long it usually takes me to finish a first draft.

Julie Daines said...

Scott, I wish I had a like button for your comment. I actually don't mind revision most of the time. It's just revision on a deadline that kills me. Creativity is hard to force.

Liz Sorenson said...

You said on your post that a good writer's group is invaluable. Where do you find one of these? Do you guys already have a post on it that you could direct me to? I don't feel like I can take my writing seriously until I can find someone other than my husband to critique it.

Scott said...

Liz, finding a group is often a combination of timing and luck. Ask around at conferences, or on blogs. Ask on the Utah Children's Writers email list if anybody is interested. Put a card on your local bookstore's bulletin board.

Then, when you find one, your group has to develop enough trust to be able to share work and ideas and to critique honestly and remain supportive, and be able to keep the group going through difficult times like summer and holidays (in my group, technology helps).

I've heard your question many times, and it's still hard to answer directly. Put yourself out there and ask around. Unfortunately, groups tend to find their perfect size, so openings in good groups are hard to come by. Often adding one person tips the scale too far when things are already working well. Meeting times and reading loads can easily become too much when one more person is added, so we're always hesitant to add another person.

I lucked into my group somehow. When you look at the make-up of the group, I am (quite literally) the odd man out, and was a little nervous about that at first, but we've found benefits in our differences and have developed into a great group that is starting to see some good things happen.

I hope you find one just as great.

Liz Sorenson said...