Revision: A Dirty Word

Thursday, March 09, 2017
Revision. It's a filthy word.

Sometimes we fall in love with our words, we've toiled and sweated over them, so to delete some is admitting they're not sheer perfection.

Currently I'm working on a historical fiction WIP. It's the best thing I've written so far. Perhaps "best" is not the most accurate assessment. (and it's all relative, right? I mean, just because you discover an unaltered kernel of corn in a pile of poop, does that make it a gem?) I do think this piece will require the least amount of revision once it's finished (which is another dirty word, pardon my French). I think this story will be easier for the reader to "get," to understand, than anything I've written so far. I also think it might have the straightest route to getting published, if I can succeed in drugging an editor enough so they say "yes" to it.

You might ask, "What has Sioux been smoking?" and maybe I am high on the fumes of my words. But I'm going to enjoy the momentary buzz while it lasts...

photo by pixabay

I'm not completely delusional, however. I know that once I've typed the last word of my first draft, the real work begins. After reading this article, I wondered if my beginning is too slow. Actually, I've wondered that as soon as I typed it, but it was the only way I knew to wade into the subject. Later, I can recraft my first page...

As far as words, I know I'm going to have to snip and slash. I've been reading about revision ('cause if you can't do because you're not finished yet--you can at least read about it). After I digested this checklist, I realized I might have issues, especially when it comes to #5,  #6, #9 and #11... along with a few more I might be trying to avoid seeing.

Since I found that checklist, I found several more, including this one. I'm struggling with #11 now. How can I find a balance between slang and making the characters sound unintelligent? The 14th one makes me rabid, however. Nobody puts the ellipsis in the corner. Nobody. I love em dashes as well, but those dot-dot-dots are the best thing ever.

I ordered a few books recently from (If you're looking for an affordable way to get used books, this is a great resource. This site, along with the Half-Price Book stores, has allowed me to create my classroom library for only hundreds of dollars, rather than thousands.) Several are nonfiction and cover the same historical event my WIP does. This piece has grown dusty over the past month or two--I've been stuck in a rut. I'm excited to dive in and do some more research, which inevitably means I'll have to revise.

Revision. It's a dirty job, but somebody (all writers) has to do it (if they want their work to improve).

What's your most frustrating/rewarding story about revision? What articles/checklists/books do you recommend?


Angela Mackintosh said...

#11 is one of my pet peeves when reading historical fiction--it's very easy to go overboard with dialect, but when done right, the voice really sings. These are great links, Sioux! I really like Margo's article, "After NaNoWriMo: Revising and Editing Tips to Keep You from Going Insane" and all the connected links in the article, including Annette's "Red Pencil Round-Up: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers."

Margo Dill said...

Oh Ang, thanks! :)

I love revising.
I hate the first draft.

I know that sounds crazy, though, so maybe you and I are smoking the same thing.

But what is frustrating is when you change one minor thing on like a 3rd or 4th draft and you realize--oh this means I'm going to have to change a lot in this draft just because of this one change.

But we all know it's worth it in the end.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Angela--I liked Margo's post, too. I don't think I checked out all of the links, so I will be sure to read the "Red Pencil" one.

Margo--I love revising too, just because it's so heady to take a piece that stinks to high heaven and revise it into something decent. I feel like that practice of craft is the same whether it's a sculptor or a painter or a writer. Chipping parts away... dabbing on some other colors with a paintbrush... embellishing with additional details... It's all revising.

Mary Horner said...

An editorial writer from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said he cuts about 25 percent of his writing when he rewrites/edits. Rewriting is a lot of work, but worth it.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Mary--That percentage makes sense. Sometimes it's whole paragraphs/sections and sometimes it's word-by-word. I definitely find it rewarding.

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