Reconsider... and Revise

Saturday, November 24, 2018

How do I revise thee? Let me count the ways.

The first three words in one definition of "revise" is reconsider and alter. I love the idea of integrating reconsidering into the art of revision (because it is an art), since when a writer reconsiders, they weigh choices, they look at their writing with new eyes and they make decisions.

Some say I'm old-school. Many say I'm old. (They're all right.) However, imagine my surprise when I looked up an article on revision tips, and it turns out that what works for me are highly recommended strategies. Here are some of them:
  • Do a "find and replace." Do you worry you rely too often on "She raised one eyebrow" when adding gestures and facial expressions? If you look under "edit" (when it comes to Google docs) and choose "find a replace," you can type in "eyebrow" and it will highlight all the spots where that word appears. Recently Sue Bradford Edwards gave a tip about how we overuse the verb look. You know--"I looked at him," and "She looked down at the ground." Do a "find and replace" and change things up.
  • Print out the manuscript and read it aloud. I did this before I headed to a recent writing retreat because I knew I had hours and hours and hours of time to sit my butt in a chair and work on my NaNoWriMo mess from 2016 manuscript. Reading it aloud (quietly) to myself allowed me to hear what didn't work rhythmically. What words had I left out? Where were typos still hanging around?
  • Write in additional bits by hand. When I printed out my manuscript, I printed it with large side margins so there'd be plenty of room to make notes and write. I used a red pen so the notes and scratchings-out could be easily seen.
  • Keep a list of issues that need to be taken care of. I would type in notes and highlight them in yellow, so there was no way they could be ignored or forgotten. For example, I was reading Jodi Picoult's most recent novel. In it, one of her characters recalled some very specific memories about their father. I thought a bit of reminiscing--at a key spot--would be perfect in my manuscript, so I made a note: Include a string of memories about Dad, a la Jodi Picoult. Towards the end of my story, my characters leave with their red wagon. However, earlier, I didn't include what they'd done with their red wagon when they had arrived. I made myself a note: Make sure and do something with the wagon when they get there.
  • Beg a beta reader to read your manuscript. I have a few friends I'm going to entrust my manuscript to. The trust is not a component because it's such a valuable stack of papers. No. The trust is there because I am certain they will give me honest feedback. I don't need anything sugar-coated right now. I need constructive criticism.
  • Hire an editor.  I've already asked Margo Dill to edit my manuscript. Again. Her first go-around critique was disappointing  because I thought it was perfect and ready--right then--for publication. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Her first go-around feedback was spot-on because she pointed out major problems that, deep down in my heart I knew were there. Finally, her first go-around feedback pointed out the strengths of the manuscript and gave me specific suggestions on how to make those major much-need revisions.
  • Submit.  Oh. I'm supposed to send out my manuscript after I've revised it? Really? Actually, as I've been working on this story, I've compiled a list of prospective publishers. I made a separate document, and will begin submitting once the manuscript is ready. Otherwise, if I just let the stack of paper gather dust, I'll always wonder, What would have happened if...? Why put all that work into a manuscript, only to let it become a doorstop?
What are you revising these days? And do you have any secret revision strategies you'd care to share? Inquiring minds want to know...

Sioux Roslawski is a freelance writer who usually writes short slice-of-life pieces but has been working on a manuscript for the past two years... and hopes that someday, it'll get published. What does she do in her spare time (when she's not teaching middle school students)? Well, since she's a teacher, she has little spare time but she does manage to squeeze in dog rescue work and reading when she's not grading papers.


Angela Mackintosh said...

Sioux ~ This is a great list. I like to think of revision as "re-vision" - as in, considering another vision of the piece. One of my favorite things to do in my long-form writing is to print it out, cut it up, and rearrange/ juxtapose the sections for greater impact. For novels, you can take your scene purpose sheets and chapters (or if you have a lot of jumps within a chapter, then each section), and cut them up and rearrange them on the floor. I think it's a must-do, even if it's just to try it out to see the possibilities, because you will see your manuscript in a completely different light and will be able to strengthen the structure. You can also examine a lot more than structure (dialogue vs prose, protag vs antag, scene length, etc) if you reduce the font size, print it out, and use Darcy Pattison's Shrunken Manuscript Technique.

I plan to use these techniques and more for my memoir...if I ever have a solid draft; and if I'm being completely realistic about it, it will take at least a year, if not two. All the writing I've been doing during NaNo is pretty much pre-writing...just trying to get the memories down. I've only completed maybe 10% of what I need to write so far.

It's inspiring that your project started with NaNo because it gives me hope! When you find a publisher, you're going to have to add your novel and name to the published authors list on the site! You're almost there, Sioux! Keep going. :)

Angela Mackintosh said...

PS. I'm thinking of getting Scrivener. Have you tried it? (Or anyone else reading this?) I heard you can do something similar to that cut up process with it, but virtually.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Angela--I forgot about the shrunken manuscript technique, which is used for a former hot mess of a manuscript. (Even shrinking it down didn't help.)

You can use Scrivener for free during NaNoWriMo and try it out. Are you doing that? I tried it, but since I am a techno-nincompoop, I couldn't get the hang of it. However, people who DO use it love it.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Like Angela, I will sometimes create a shrunken manusscript.

In addition to look, I search for start, sigh, and chewing on her lip.

Revising and rewriting are the opportunity to create the ms I meant to create all along.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--I am glad to say I don't over use those other three. However, there's probably others--unknown to me--that I DO rely on too heavily.

I lovelovelove that idea of revision being the opportunity to create the manuscript you meant to create all along. It speaks to the idea that writing is the work of the spirit, the heart and the brain.

I plan on using that quote in the future as one of my favorite quotes on writing. And the writing expert who came up with it? Sue Bradford Edwards.

Pat Wahler said...

Yes! This is exactly the way I self-edit before sending the manuscript to a "real" editor. I also use an editing tool.

Someone described editing as the castles you've made after you shovel sand into the sandbox. So true!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Pat--The simile comparing editing to sandcastles? Wow!

Renee Roberson said...

Sioux--You'll be proud. I had an epiphany today on how I can fix my thriller/suspense YA manuscript (which is nameless now because someone else published a book with the same title). I am working backwards and creating an outline, and then I'll go in and rearrange the sections like a jigsaw puzzle. And add in another character's POV. It should be great fun. Ha ha! I have to do something while sending out agent queries for my other novel or I'll go nuts. I'm thinking about asking for a manuscript critique for a Christmas gift, so maybe that will hasten my progress along. Happy revising!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--A pantser-turned-planner-and-puzzler-and-multi-POV-er? I do love it. Isn't it fantastic when an epiphany comes our way?

I asked for the same thing for Christmas--a second go-around from Margo.

Happy planning and puzzling and POVing to you!

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