Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Redaction Action

The Spinning Wheel,
L. Campbell Taylor, R.A.,
oil on canvas, exhibited 1930.

News Advisories:

Dr. Durham, the author of The Lolita Effect makes a guest appearance on Ello's blog today.

Sweet Cindy has achieved a lovely three book deal with a Harper Collins imprint. If we go congratulate her, it will help her make it seem more real.

And BookEnds posted valuable advice on editing by request of an agent or editor before a deal. As always, the comments following that post include additional information and perspectives.

As I high-ball down the track toward finis, whistle screaming to clear the crossings, (pound, keys, pound) revision heads toward me like an incoming locomotive.

Logically, I suppose, one could revise according to a strict formula and go grimly through an MS with a check list focusing on a single element each time.

Micro edits for spelling and grammar and punctuation, the dangling phrases, the agreements of subjects, predicates and pronouns, weak verbs, vague nouns, useless modifiers, lengthy paragraphs, use of senses, impossible physical positions, sneaky cliches -- the usual WTFs.

Macro edits for plot holes, inconsistent motivations, entirely useless scenes, tension, suspense, conflict, character development, stereotypes, differentiation in dialogue...

While I admire the function and precision of that style of revisional process, I just can't adhere to the formula. Often, I feel guilty that I don't-- because its application, for all its rigidity, sounds so...well...objective.

Instead, with the above lists in mind, (as well as a secret inventory of my personal narrative tendencies and irritating weaknesses) I try to apply a cold and cruel eye to individual scenes and/or chapters -- in a hope that when I finish I will not Be Thoroughly Sick Of The Entire Sucky Story Which No One In Their Right Mind Would Ever Publish.

I tend to revise as I write. Frequent back-pedals to fix this and expand that, as if two programs run simultaneously in my head: one sweating over the scene at hand and the other critical of what has gone before.

And I have found that if lines one has written yesterday or last week intrude during the writing process -- as they are wont to do as one weaves themes and threads -- I should listen and go back to fix the sucker. Right then, not later.

Still, I like revision. It's so hopeful.


sex scenes at starbucks said...

I also do rolling revisions as I write, and so I find entire revisions tedious. However, if it helps and for what it's worth, here's what I do:

Put the book down for as long as I can stand. Go write some of those short stories nagging me. Research the new idea. Clean the house and spend quality time with the dog and kids. Read. Fret.

Then I print out the book in paperback format (two pages per sheet of paper). Even if I have to use a magnifying glass, it's worth it to get the format, the feel of my book as a book.

Go Somewhere Else besides my desk to read. Go where I regularly read, pen in hand.

I'm always amazed at the clarity that comes from this process. Good luck!

laughingwolf said...

thx for the reminders, bernita

i do things your way, back-pedaling to fix-as-i-go

a useful trick: record a paragraph on audiotape, play it back, and look for booboos that way....

Rick said...

Starbucks - I love the paperback format thing you do. I also have to do something to make the ms feel less like a term paper. If only formatting it with single spaced paras and double spaces in between.

Ric said...

Rolling revisions are best, I think. The computer creates many great advantages to edit, revise, and otherwise over-nitpick. Not like the old days when we had to revise, then retype the whole thing, over and over.
Ah, damn, showing my age again...

Bernita said...

SS, I can't do the paperback format, but I do find it helpful to print out.Lines/words do look different on paper.
I also like to print edit away from the desk.

Recording is a neat idea, Laughing, reading aloud is a test for rhythm and over-long sentences and such.

Really give one the sense of proper "space", wouldn't it Rick?
I wonder if book editors view MSS by that visual.

And carbon copies, Ric.
I wonder if editors were more forgiving of typos then.

haunted author said...

I have to be in a different frame of mind for revision-I try to put on my "editor" hat. Writing requires at least three main "hats." You have your creative mode hat- when your "pounding the keys", your editor hat for revision, then your salesman hat for shopping the thing.

I find that printing the manuscript helps enormously- I have to attack it with a pen. As anti-environmental as it sounds, you gotta waste paper. If it makes you feel any better, you can later shred the marked up manuscript- which can be very satisfying, and use the shreds as mulch- or plant a tree, or throw a few bucks at Greenpeace.

I have also found it helpful to read a manuscript aloud. I read it to my dog, because she just loves every thing I have ever written. She just looks up at me with these big adoring eyes that just says to me- you are the most brilliant author I have ever heard.
(I'm the only author she has ever heard, but we won't go there.)

Robyn said...

Rolling revisions- now I know what to call it! That's what I tend to do. Trying to revise the entire story at once gets boring and my eyes start to cross.

Bernita said...

Haunted, we have a a nice blue box recycling program in our town.
I don't feel guilty about printing out. One might as well feel guilty about the electricity for the computer.

Me too, Robyn!Perfect phrase.

Jaye Wells said...

For me, once I get over the first act hump, it's best to roll with it and fix later. Otherwise, I become too focused on minutiae and less on a cohesive big picture. The minutiae comes in revisions.

Whirlochre said...

I certainly have a list of essential procedures, beginning with the fun first flush of unbridled enthusiasm, with all its toe-curling cheese.

So — that gets typed up and I use it as a template, excising the cheese, filling out details and editing the sections that seem to work and I know I want to go with.

That's usually where I leave it for a while, moving on to the next idea animation.

Weeks later, I pick everything up again, and in addition to the glaring horrors resulting from this process alone, I find the passage of time takes its toll — either because I discover on my blogly wanderings that heroines who say buggerbastardpants all the time don't play too well, or there's some misuse of apostrophes I've overlooked, or simply that my perspective has changed.

That's usually when I put the loud music on and cavort around the living room with the curtains drawn. And start redlining, as if I'm marking someone elses essay.

Beyond this, my 'system', such as it is, breaks down because I realise I'm dealing with a beast that has never lived and breathed before — a dynamic creature with its own inner life and opinions. And then there's the editing. That's where I'm stuck at the moment.

I'm with laughing wolf about the reading aloud. You can pick up a lot about the rhythm of it all that way — whether it sounds like a book or a shopping list of metaphors and dialogue. The downside with this is that it only takes one such reading for something to get stuck, and if I don't spot it, I can be held up for ages.

cindy said...

i used to revise when i wrote--but i stopped that during nanowrimo. (a reason i decided to try it.) i basically regurgitated the rough draft--writing through scenes i knew i'd hack out just to get beyond it. we find our stride and what works the more we write.

it'll be interesting with the second novel.

thanks so much for your link and good wishes, b. *hugs* i'm coming on one week and the befuddled amazement is perhaps wearing off a little. haha! maybe i'll believe it by friday. =D

Bernita said...

Jaye, perhaps when I become more sure of myself I can do that.

Damn those torpedoes, Whirl!

Cindy, I am so pleased about the sale. Your novel is a story told with great delicacy and skill.

spyscribbler said...

I'm a rolling reviser with two minds writing, too!

When I do the after-finished read through, I just read for flow. It covers all you listed because they all interrupt the flow. But because I'm reading for only one thing, it feels easier. I'm lazy, LOL.

Travis Erwin said...

From you description I'd say i write exactly as you do. I'm nearly done and right now I'd have no problem allowing an agent to read the early chapters though I will tweak and go over them a few more times before submission despite having already done so a hundred or so times.

Most of my revisions are taking out things that I hinted but never developed and adding bits of foreshadowing to things that were surprises even to me.

Bernita said...

I really like "rolling reviser/revision," Natasha. Captures it.
I will be so glad to get to the last "read for flow" stage.

"Most of my revisions are taking out things that I hinted but never developed and adding bits of foreshadowing to things that were surprises even to me."

And from your description, Travis, I agree. Our processes are near as dammit identical.

archer said...

My first drafts are raw quarried blocks of some substance that I hope is not what I think it is. I figure out the architecture in the second draft. By the third I can almost always do the interior decorating and paint without sniffing the walls for telltale signs that what I quarried was, after all, what I originally suspected it to be. Almost always, anyway.

raine said...

Love the phrase "rolling revisions". Definitely stealing it, lol.

I can't go through a whole ms without backpeddling occasionally and making adjustments. Simply not part of my makeup.
But then, I find that I'm usually so relieved I could actually FINISH the bloody thing, the thought of revisions doesn't seem so awful.

BernardL said...

I'm with you. I do extensive editing as I go along... not that it helps any. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Great point about revision being "hopeful." I write very much like you do. I go forward, then back to fix things that let me go further forward, then forward in a rush of rough draft, then back to polish rough draft. It works for me, although sometimes it is slow.

Demon Hunter said...

I am no fan of revision, but once I get into it, I really learn to appreciate it. :*) Sometimes I backpeddle, and sometimes I don't. It depends on that intrusion you referreed to.

Bernita said...

Archer, the three draft model is a good one.

"Relief' is my main emotion too, Raine.

" not that it helps any."
Pardon me, Bernard, but that's bullshit.
I've read your story about the ABC crew.It's a wonderfully funny, delightful, GOOD story!

We both like a solid foundation for our plot elements, Charles.

My Demon,a lot depends on the particular project.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like such a good way to revise, the meticulous method. But I cannot just focus on one thing, and if I get an idea or notice a problem, I have to fix it. I distract easily, lol.

But, whatever works, so long as you get the job done!


Jeff said...

I tend to be an "edit as I go" writer myself. This applies to my short story writing, however, once I begin work on my first novel that process may change. It will be interesting to see what develops as I move into unchartered waters. :)

Bernita said...

Yes, WW, getting the job done is the prime directive.

Jeff,revision style may reflect on whether one is primarily a plotter or a panster. But as WW says, the product/result is what matters.

SzélsőFa said...

Rolling revision sounds the way I revise, too.
And the advice about doing revision in a completely different place is quite helpful, too. As if we were in someone else's seat, quite logical from psychological point of view.

But as for reading aloud: I would not be able to do that.
The voice would carry me away.

And with poems, I find it best not to revise at all: poems I revise I tend to revise over and over again and the endproduct might become something completely else.

Steve Malley said...

My only hope right now is to one day soon be done with these darn revisions!

I've never been one for micro-edits, either. For me, it's a more sculptural process: something over here needs to be filed down, something there built up. And along the way I pick up more problems with grammar, punctuation and weeks with two Wednesdays in...

Congrats on seeing the end in sight!!

Bernita said...

"quite logical from psychological point of view."
That's exactly it, Szelsofa.The psychological distance.

Steve, I'm pleased to report - though the last scene is rude, rough and needs considerable "sculptural" work - I finished about 15 minutes ago!

Steve Malley said...


ChrisEldin said...

Oh, GOD! Your list is exhaustive!!

The light is nice. Warm, welcoming. Bask a little before diving into revisions....

Plus, a wise Snark once said to put your ms away for a month, then come back to it. That should be enough to bask.

Bernita said...

Beaming, Steve.

It's only a partial list, Chris...
A month? Mileage may vary.
Best thing is to go write something else.

writtenwyrdd said...

You need to get the book out of your bloodstream, out of your head. The roots need to retract so you can look at it like a reader, not it's mommy.

I think that writing something else is like sherbet to cleanse the palate. It works well for me, anyhow.

I still think that going through with one general thing in mind is probably the best method, but I doubt anyone can ignore a fix when they spot it, ever, lol.

Lisa said...

Yesterday, Hannah at The Writers' Group had a wonderful post on revision with a short list of some things I hadn't quite thought about in the way she'd written them. I bookmarked it, I thought it was so good. You may find it helpful too:

Bernita said...

"but I doubt anyone can ignore a fix when they spot it, ever"

Exactly, Written!

Thank you, Lisa. Good guidelines there.

Chumplet said...

I'm a back-pedaler too. I go back and make changes as soon as my sieve-like brain tells me to.

Otherwise I'll forget my brilliant epiphany and it'll be lost forever.

I like printing mine out, too. But as my books get longer, I can't justify the amount of paper I'm using just to edit. Two to a page is nice and compact.

Bernita said...

"Otherwise I'll forget my brilliant epiphany and it'll be lost forever."

Ah yes, Sandra. And if I scribble a note, I often have no idea what it means later.