Revision, Start Learning to Love It

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

Eudora Welty

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.

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.”

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!

Related Posts:

Writing

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

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.

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 Writing: A Historical Fiction Sample

Below, my friends is a sample excerpt from my stories midpoint. Originally, I was going to keep this scene in my new novella, but I decided to cut it—I think—and write something different. As always, I want to share my hard work with all of you. Enjoy!

All Content Is Copyrighted and is prohibited to download, copy, and redistribute.

Ishaq ordered the diggers to work by moonlight, shovels scraped, hammers smashed, and picks stabbed stone. The work was difficult. The men were soaked; sweat and sand clung to their skin. Halfway up the northside of the tomb, above the crew’s silhouettes, Ishaq studied the valley. The night performed tricks; phantoms prowled the desert, lizards transformed into soldiers, and gusts became chariots. If pursued, he knew, the soldiers would stealth in the shadows until, at last, on top of his party. Four-vigilant hours passed, and by the time the men were spent, he heard rocks fall.

At the bottom, he found the diggers on the ground, their chests heaving, their eyes anxious. Bes was occupied with distributing each man his ration of water.

“It’s hollow there,” Bes said.

            “We’re too exposed,” Ishaq replied. “We must hurry.”

            Ishaq ordered the crew to build a fire and shield it with a thief’s chimney. Each man linked their sleeping blankets together and encircled the flames. Bes erected a fire inside the improvised wall. He warned if the faintest ember could be seen they risked discovery. Others retrieved the pots of water they carried from Thebes. They worked fast; one-by-one, the pots boiled, and then two diggers, juxtaposed on each side of a blanket, dragged the water. Ishaq helped them leverage each pot between two beams of cedar above the dig site and carefully tilt it over. The limestone absorbed each douse and hardened. They repeated the process until, at last, the stone cracked. One digger swinged his hammer in wide vertical arcs and smashed the stone where it split. His blows thundered across the desert before the wall collapsed, and a hole big enough for one man at-a-time to crawl through, appeared.

Ishaq ordered their cart and what supplies could not be carried into the tomb to be buried. They discovered soft ground west of the tomb, and there, beneath a sand dune, the crew hid their supplies and marked the spot with a pattern of rocks. One man started petitioning the Gods to not hide their marker before they had a chance to recover their belongings.

            “Stop praying,” Ishaq said. “The attention of the Gods is the last thing we need.”

            The diggers shared, between them, that rare conversation reduced to a glance which suggests each man is all the other one has left in the world. Ishaq knew that look well; he saw it often in the war.

            “You won’t need the Gods or anyone else once we’re done. You will have servants to wait on your wives, horses for your sons, and hunger only a bad dream.”

            Ishaq, as he spoke, wrestled with images of his father. The old man grew weaker with every sunrise, and, worst, the God’s his father loved, the very ones he faithfully fed their sacrifices, the ones he taught his children to fear, returned his faithfulness by removing his sight and with it, hope. He cursed how cruel the Gods were and vowed to hire a physician with his share.

            They were ready to enter at the blue hour; that in-between time where it is no longer dark, but not yet morning, when the desert holds its breath. The crew paused, and their eyes leveled on the stars; each committed the heavens to memory in case they’ve seen it for the last. One-by-one the diggers crawled through the hole; Ishaq went last. He wouldn’t risk one of the men not entering and alerting a nearby patrol, so to collect an easy ransom.

(630 Words)

To Be Continued

More from W. Alexander

Big Moments Count

“it felt like those moments in life where we sense magic; those days where every bone in your body feels good, and there is laughter and love overflowing, and you know how great that feels. I feel that.”

Keep reading

Worlds Apart, by W. Alexander

W. Alexander

I wrote this story in February, 2021. I consider it one of my best pieces, artistically. I talk a lot about writing, and I want to share my own short story. Here, is an example of my passion for fiction. Share with me what you think.

This story is my intellectual property, and I provide no provisions for anyone to copy or download my data.

Worlds Apart

By W. Alexander Dunford

The long, thin esplanade snakes between the brackish waters of the Charles and the city—Boston. Here, under a dogwood tree, Chris wrestled back and forth with his future. The late morning sun transformed these muddy waters into polished glass.

            The parkgoers beetled away, jogging and walking, stretching and splashing with the occasional laugh. Next to Chris, two dozen college students executed in solidarity a yoga class as couples passed with hands held, and others went about engaged in lively conversation.

            Chris noted an exception to all the commotion: an elderly man feeding a flock of geese. The old man laughed as he spread breadcrumbs in all directions over their honks, delighting in their greedy squabbles over his generosity. One bird chased a crumb to where a girl was posed upside-down, and inches from her mat, it hissed. The old man chortled when the girl screamed and chased away the goose by hitting it with her blue tin water bottle.

            It seemed months since Chris, too, laughed so hard. Today was a sunny Sunday morning and two white clouds snailed high above the skyline where a plane towed a banner advertising tickets for the Federal Theatre. Chris, for once, had nowhere to go and nothing he had to do this morning. Tomorrow, everything would change, and he may never see these waters again, or hear the city buzz behind him; he would begin his new life in Wyoming. It was God’s Will; the church declared this, but he doubted it. Watching the old man incite the geese, for a moment, gave him respite from the pain of losing his city, his identity, his normal. He closed his eyes, sat up straight, and let the sun touch his face. He began to pray. If only I could hear your thoughts, Lord.

            Chris remained unmoved until something nipped his heel; he was alarmed to find several geese had, in fact, swarmed him—honking and hissing, prodding and squabbling, while he heard the old man laugh.

            “All right, all right, leave the man alone,” the old man said and waved off the geese. He placed his bag of breadcrumbs in his coat pocket and joined Chris on the bench.

            Chris shrugged his shoulders and willed his gaze on the river. His jaw was tight, his face flushed. He wanted to think; he needed to relay over and over how he got to this place. But no matter how hard he traced, he could not figure out why he felt punished. He wanted to be left alone.

            “Sorry about your coffee, young man.”

            Chris looked down and discovered his latte spattered over his shoes. He sighed and glanced between the old man and the geese that watched them both from a close distance. The old man offered him a napkin. Chris flung the napkin over his shoulder, stood up, looked around, and focused on each breath. He was in no mood to be grateful, so he started to walk off. When he stepped onto the esplanade’s path, a squadron of agitated geese confronted him. His face turned pale, and he slowly stepped backward before he bumped against the bench.

            “You’ll want to sit awhile longer,” the old man said. “Those birds won’t bother me, but they will make a sport out of you.”

            “Make them move.”

            The old man shook his head, “I’m not going to do that.”

            Chris turned to the old man; his mouth opened. He squeezed his fists and inhaled a deep breath. Lord, please don’t let me hurt this old man.

            “Now, that’s no way to pray.”

            “Do I know you?” Chris asked scratching his head.

            “You do most days, but I’m here all the same.”

            Chris would have walked away that instant if it were not for the, now, encirclement of waterfowl that restrained him. He glanced back-and-forth between the geese and the old man. He marveled how this man marshaled these birds; how they halted their honking and hissing and remained standing and guarding like sentries.

            “Sit,” the old man said.

            He wanted to go as far as his legs could carry him. The old man made a clicking sound, and the circle tightened. Chris obeyed. The old man smiled, pulled a pipe out of his jacket, and sparked a match; the smoke smelled citrusy and sweet. Chris’s body relaxed as the smoke filled his lungs: his stress, his fear, his anger all vanished. The troop of geese fluttered in formation and disappeared behind the trees.

            “It’s frankincense,” the old man said.

            “Who are you?”

            The old man dragged on his pipe, producing a glowing ember, and inhaled more smoke; he smacked his lips, smiled, and still holding the pipe between his teeth, he wiped the ash from his fingertips. The smell reminded Chris of Mass, and his delight when this scent filled the parish: children’s noses crinkled, eyes watered, and all the faithful kneeled. Then he remembered that this morning’s 7am Mass was his last. He had announced his reassignment as tears cascaded down his and the congregation’s cheeks. He had spent ten years serving and leading, teaching and learning, and he winced at the thought of restarting.

            “I am here to help.”

            “I don’t need any help.”

            “You did wish to hear my thoughts about Wyoming, did you not?”

            Chris felt like a statue; he found it impossible to speak. He ran his hands through his hair. I’m crazy, he thought. Wake up, wake up, wake up. But every time he opened his eyes, he found the old man smoking and smiling, as if reading and listening to his thoughts.

            “This is no dream.”

            “But that would make you God,” Chris said.

            “Nothing gets past you,” replied the old man.

            He noted to himself to later look into medication. The God of Abraham doesn’t just show up in Boston. The old man laughed again, delighted with himself. This is some kind of joke, Lord. Help.

            “What do you want?”

            “I already told you. To help you.”

            Chris resigned himself to playing this through and composed himself. He peeled his gaze from the old man’s face—blotted by blemishes, moles, and yellow teeth—and turned toward the river. Chris spotted a fleet of sailboats pilot the current, racing toward the ocean. Laughter and joyful shouts carried over the water. Scents of gasoline, saltwater and frankincense hung in the air.

            “Okay, why do I have to leave?” Chris asked. “If you’re God, help me understand why I have to leave a life that makes me happy.”

            “I am! And I don’t consider your happiness when I call. You are needed, and you are able, therefore you must go.”

            Chris let these words sink to the dark depths of his heart. He knew them to be true, but as he closed his eyes images of his friends, his congregation, and his accomplishments permeated his thoughts. How was he any better than the martyrs of yesteryear? They gave up everything. I’m afraid I will fail there, and I will hate it, he thought.

            “Worrying over the future costs real people the help they need today. My plan is mine alone, and Wyoming is where I want you,” the old man said, and inhaled another drag of his pipe.

            “Why?”

            “Because when you trust me to send you there, others will trust me to invite them to paradise. And besides,” he chuckled. “I said so.”

            The sun beat down on Chris as he mulled over the old man’s words. When he opened his eyes, he saw the old man had vanished; and above the trees, he watched the troop of geese fly east toward the risen sun. He exhaled. Amen.

This story is my intellectual property, and I provide no provisions for anyone to copy or download my data.

Revision, Learn to Love It

Join 717 other subscribers

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.

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.”

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.

Related Posts:

Writing

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?