Monday, January 20, 2014

Revision, Re-Vision

Revision, Re-Vision

I think revision is a very personal thing among authors.  Everyone has their own method, and I actually vary my method depending on what it is I'm revising.  One of my books was about halfway done when I decided I didn't like the direction it was going, so I scrapped the whole thing and started over.  Sometimes minor changes are all that a story needs, and I'll just make small adjustments.  I tend to suffer from what Alice Munro and Rollo May describe as "a big relief" or a "breakthrough of ideas", the "eureka!" moment that Isaac Asimov described so well in his essay.  I usually find that taking a long walk helps me get my best ideas, but I also have another tactic.  I find a movie or TV show about whatever it is I'm writing and watch it just before I go to bed; when I wake in the morning to write, I usually get that burst of inspiration that I need, fueled no doubt by my unconscious mind's interpretation of what I watched just before bed.  

That said, whether I completely start from scratch or modify what I have depends on the story I'm revising.  Some stories can be saved, some need an overhaul of Frankensteineian proportions, and some just need to be like Jesus and take a 3-day hiatus before they are resurrected in a new, more powerful way.  One story I'm working on right now has failed me in many ways, and I'm considering a complete re-do.  As many have said before, writing is easy; revision is a murder faker. 

So here are some things I look for during the revision process:

On first read, I look at Story

·         Story Arc
·         Structure
·         Plot
Conflict, Crisis, Resolution
Will the plot Entice, Engage, and eventually Satisfy readers?
·         Theme or Message

On second read, I look at Characters
·         Dialogue
·         Appearance
·         Action
·         Thought
·         Author's Interpretation
·         How another character sees each character

On third read, I look at Setting

·         Location
·         Landmarks
·         Metaphor
·         Weather
·         Population (number and type)
·         Time (of day and year)

Finally, I check for the following little things

·         Does the story start with tension?
·         Have I answered the "Why" questions?
·         Is this the best POV to tell the story?
·         Sentence structure variation
·         Word Choice (avoid complex words, vary words, vary conjunctions)
·         Am I clear and concise?
·         Am I using any clichès and/or idioms?
·         Am I showing rather than telling?

·         If it is a short story, are the characters' names or descriptions too similar?