Revision, Learn to Love It

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Anyone can write. Few revise well. Revision is essential. It is much more than spell-check and grammar adjustments. Revision is ensuring the story you are telling is clear. Rarely is misinterpretation the mistake of a reader. The job of writers is to ensure readers do not do any heavy lifting. Any skewed reading, comes from bad writing. How does the writer ensure the message they are conveying is interpreted clearly? You guessed it; revision. No one sits down and writes a novel by the seat of their pants in one long first and final draft. If they do, the writing will be garbage, regardless of talent. I would not count on being the exception.

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The Day god Died: Chapters I & II

“…I hated him and his kind. I hated his affluence, his expensive clothes, his chiseled looks, and the arrogance he was born too. But most of all, I hated the power he held over me, his assumption of authority, and the truth of his superiority.”

Revision is where the real magic happens.

Starting over sucks. I dread it. All who write dread it. My stomach turns at the thought. But understand this, the rewards of revising will outweigh the pains. You will be shocked. Learn to enjoy the process. Here are some questions you can ask about your work:

  • Why should my reader turn the first page to the second? Does the first sentence, paragraph, page introduce tension? If not, red alarm.
  • Is there unnecessary summary? Cut. Cut. Cut! I too often have the impulse to cover too much ground. It destroys energy and I find, I tell more than show. This is a bad thing. The whole premise of writing prose, is to show not tell. A concept I will elaborate on with a later post.
  • Is it original? Stereotypes are lazy. A good writer will extract any cliches and make a point to show the exact and honest.
  • Is it clear? Ambiguity and mystery are one of the pleasures of literature. But there is a fine line between mystery and sloppiness. I love characters rich with contradictions. That is the human condition. But I often have to start off with a more simple reality. Then I can build out the imaginative. Have your character answer these: Where are we? When are we? Who are they? How do things look? What time of day or night is it? Weather? What is happening? On how to create captivating characters, check out: Create Captivating Characters
  • Is it self-conscious? Just tell the story. Your style will follow of itself. But you have to just tell the story. If you get carried away dressing your prose with all your wit and insight, there is a good chance you are having more fun writing that the reader will have reading. Good writing is easy reading! Just tell the story.
  • Where is it too long? In fiction, you want sharpness, economy, and vivid details in telling. With every sentence, say what you mean to say and get out. Hit it and quit it. Use the fewest possible words. What does this look like? My advice, read the poets. Trust me, the poets will teach you everything.
  • Are there too many scenes? Try and tell your story with the fewest possible scenes. It is tempting to give each turn of plot or change of setting a new scene when fusing several together would proffer better effect.
  • Where is it too general? Look for general and vague terms. Write instead a particular thing, an exact size and degree. In fact, my short tip, cut the words very and really out of your work entirely. You are welcome!

“If you haven’t surprised yourself, you haven’t written”

Eudora Welty

Revision, revision, revision. Originality, economy, and clarity all come from thorough revision. These questions are just the start and short of taking a creative writing class, they will serve you well.

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I’m starting 2022 intending to grow. Help me grow as an artist and influencer and follow.

Remember in fiction, the goal is to show characters doing things. Never tell what you mean. I promise if the prose is clear and concise, the reader will not misinterpret. You write for the reader. If you forget that, you have lost your way.

My goal here is to share what I am learning with others. I would love for you to follow my blog and join my journey. I also wanted to ask you something. I am thinking of creating a photography page on my blog. I love urban photography. Let me know if you think it would be a good idea or not?

Want To Write? Get Use To Friction

I am a writer. And I think a good one. In truth, I work hard on my craft. But there is a monolithic obstacle in the way. My obsessive self deprecating tendency to care what other’s think. And by others, I mean family. My family (my side), perceive a life dedicated to the arts, impractical. My late father’s wisdom is one should make money first and follow dreams second. On the surface, that is sound advice, for you do have to make a living, but I have always seen it another way: I do need much to be happy. I just don’t have the ambition to spend a lifetime in debt, so I look like everyone else around me. However, I too easily fell in with comparing myself to others. Over the years, how I responded to their apprehensions influenced my craft. Mostly injuring my creativity. At thirty-one years old, time appears to be running out.

Am I going to be a father whose children see as an example, someone who never gives up, or one replete with regrets? How can I raise them to be individuals, when I myself have been afraid to be myself? It is amazing, is it not, how children put fire in our hearts?

My record of trying to please everyone is no secret. I have rarely taken a job I truly wanted. But I have been successful. Whether I worked in finance, management, or retail, I did well. I am competitive by nature, and outwork everyone I can. My biggest and therefore most hurtful failure is, recently, sales. In my early twenties, I was a dominant salesman. Everywhere I turned, money followed. Overtime I developed a disillusionment toward this line of work. Sure, I struggled at times, sometimes teetered on poverty. But usually I outperformed everyone I knew financially. And to everyone’s surprise, I hated myself. Everyone around me dreamed about buying BMW’s, and I would calculate how long the same 40,000 would last me if I stopped to write. Soon it proved impossible to be successful at selling anything. Not that the selling is bad; not at all, it is good work. But I would keep a Bible in my desk, King Lear downloaded onto Kindle, and wanted to talk French Revolution at the water cooler; everyone else wanted to talk about which office girl was easy, etcetera. This might be why I have always connected better with women.

“There can be no happiness in achieving someone else’s dream”

— W. Alexander

Ever since I was a child, I had a mind for the arts. My father felt it was a weakness and a rejection of his hard earned values: it was not. In high school and college, I recall fond memories of performances in theatre. Not as some might expect, my semi-successful boxing career; something I did to please my father and other toxic masculine traits. But even in that, I outworked all I could, and got quite good. I always felt who I truly was must be second in order to be accepted. Therefore, I spent my entire twenties, pursuing the life everyone else wanted. If I got the big house, nice car, hot wife, 100k saved, etcetera, I’ll be loved then, right? Turns out, the philosophers were right all along. There can be no happiness in achieving someone else’s dream. “Either way you decide to live, true to yourself or wear a mask, you will be criticized. You might as well be criticized for what you are, than what you are not”- Grandpa.

Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh

Despite this revelation, being your true self is to often be condemned a black sheep. A frustrating character in your family’s drama. They don’t get it and despite their honest efforts to understand, I realize they never will. How can they? They are predisposed to think a certain way, according to their own triumphs and failures throughout life (we all are). A person who sees life as black and white, will struggle to see life through more flexible patterns. For me, life is a twisted construct of contradictions, exceptions, and explanations. It often-takes a few strong drinks to sort them out. Think Van Gogh’s, Starry Night. My closest influencers are realism. Even this metaphor, which to the creative is like two+two=four, might confuse other styles of thinking. To them life is a linear set of actions and achievements. I have seen a lot of death, friends get locked up for years, and addiction take over a few persons, I once thought destined to lead this world. So, to me life is a fleeting moment. Focus on things that matter. Of course I want to make everyone happy, but I cannot on their terms and I need to be okay with that.

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Often when I write prose or poetry, I write to them. As if my work is in constant need to defend itself. My characters are always in conflict with their influencers (mainly male figures). My characters are always misunderstood and feeling rejected. Not because their influencers are openly hostile, but because of a myriad of micro-aggressions. I grew up in an abusive home, underneath an alcoholic patriarch. From grade school to college I was bullied at school and beaten at home. So I struggle with feelings of unworthiness and other’s disapproval has real consequences for me. This ultimately developed into a tendency to pacify and seek approval for my own survival. In adulthood this manifests itself in seeking approval through accomplishment and assimilation. But I have to find a way through life that puts me first for once. I am worthy of what I want. Even if it looks like a pipe-dream. These pulling forces plunged me into a deep depression nearly a year ago. But I have walked through that valley of the shadow-of -death. Displeasing my family still bothers, hurts, and stifles me. Yet, I manage to keep moving forward.

“I am worthy of what I want”

— W. Alexander

Only a creative can understand being born into a world that doesn’t appreciate their gifts. For ten years I submitted to everyone else’s expectations. I worked my ass off. But with every new trophy came a deeper emptiness. It wasn’t the goal I wanted. I envied those walking around with pink hair, paint under their fingernails, and gages in their ears. They are themselves and fuck everyone else. In secret, I thought they were the bravest of us all. I still do! Naturally, when I hit my depression, a true rock bottom, I coped and decided to live; I would say yes to myself. I wanted to be brave too. At thirty years old, the night before thanksgiving, I got my ears pierced. Over the next couple months I got a couple tattoos (my wife is attracted to tattoos). My writing flourished and I am again a student, majoring in, you got it, creative writing. My father, if living, would not approve, but his ghost cannot control my future. I tried his way with all my heart and soul, and failed through success. God made me a watcher of hearts. My way is not wrong; it is only different.

W. Alexander is a Creative Writer and Blogger. He attends Liberty University.

Is everything better now? No, but life is on my terms and that is something. I have little desire to play life safe. Arriving into my old age, rich and comfortable scares the hell out of me. I would much rather die contributing to this world, than carving a quiet place to die in it. If I can do both, great! But the mark of an artist is the spirit of a contrarian.

P.S. I don’t know if writing this blurb was for me or you reading it. But I hope it helps anyone who shares these frustrations to know they aren’t alone. It is not self-pity to be honest with yourself. It is only self-pity, if after you come to terms with your true self, you keep the mask on and blame your circumstances. It is never too late to shake off this world’s materialism and create. Iron sharpens Iron; friction makes perfection.

Sincerely,

W. Alexander

Please follow my blog for writing tips and other heart wrenching posts.

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Create Captivating Characters

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You are writing your novel, screenplay, short story, etcetera and need good characters. But how do you go about building characters? I will be blunt, there is no definitive answer. Building character is part of the magic in the creative process. But do not fret, there are four essential qualities that go into making great characters. In order to create good characters, you must dig deep. You are going to build the very foundation of their lives.

Here are the four essential qualities that go into making good believable characters:

  1. Your characters have a strong and defined dramatic need.
  2. Your characters have an individual point of view.
  3. They personify an attitude.
  4. Your characters go through a change or transformation.

Write that list down. Put it somewhere easily accessible to reference when needed.

What works for me is writing one-two page biographies. Start from their childhood to when the story begins. You can keep these bio’s as a reference when writing from that character’s point-of-view. Doing this will prevent your characters from doing as they please.

Related Post

The Day god Died: Chapters I & II

“…I hated him and his kind. I hated his affluence, his expensive clothes, his chiseled looks, and the arrogance he was born too. But most of all, I hated the power he held over me, his assumption of authority, and the truth of his superiority.”

Some “general” things you will want to write down:

  • Childhood relationship with parents and friends?
  • What was school like? Was he/she bullied, popular, a wall flower, etcetera…
  • What was high school like? College? What did he/she major in? Did his/her parents approve of their major?
  • How was his/her’s romantic life? Does he/she tend to have lots of sex, none, or somewhere in between? Does her parents/friends/society approve or disapprove of his/her love interests?
  • What does he/she like about themself; hate about themself?
  • Politics?
  • Rich or poor?
  • Does he/she like her job? Does her partner approve of his/her work, religion, etcetera…
  • Much, much, much more.

The goal here is to find tension.

Building character is part of the magic in the creative process

W. Alexander

This may sound strange, but the characters you create cannot be you. Sure, by all means insert your unique experiences into your writing, but your characters cannot be you. You are writing from another point of view, in someone else’s shoes. And don’t worry if you want to change things later. This exercise is to help you build deep, relatable, and believable characters. Whatever changes you make, write them down again.

Wherever in your character’s life the story begins, it is important they go through some kind of incident. A change or transformation. Like Harry Potter finding out he’s a wizard or Bilbo finding the ring. I will go deeper into incidents in a later post.

Remember, have fun creating characters. Push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Happy writing and good luck fellow authors.

I would love to have you follow me and learn more writing tips 😊

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I’m Published in The Closed Eye Open

Hi, friends and readers, subscribers and first-time-site clickers. I have big, beautiful news to share with you. I published in The Closed Eye Open, which is an impressive literary journal boasting beautiful art and great writing. If you’re looking for something new, creatively speaking, to delight and inspire you, I recommend reading The Closed Eye … Continue reading I’m Published in The Closed Eye Open