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.

What Exactly is Good Writing?

            The author of The Editor’s Companion, Steve Dunham, explains the marks of good writing: good writing is focused, has good content, uses precise language, and uses good grammar.[1] Good writing is concise; the writer should winnow away all needless words and expressions. Good writing is the result of clarity. Good writing is concerned with the reader: the writer uses words the reader understands. Good writing cares about grammar, for at least, the sake of the reader.

            I agree! I believe what constitutes good writing are the following: writing should be clear, economical, and sharp. In addition, to Dunham’s philosophy, I also think good writing embraces clarity as an even higher ideal than grammatical correctness.[2] The writer should strive for economy, clarity, and sharpness above all else.

“I am convinced the most effective way to learn how to write is through reading.” – W. Alexander

            I am convinced the most effective way to learn how to write is through reading; close-reading a specific, accomplished author or genre will teach the writer everything. What you will find is that good, no great writers, use, for example, paragraphs as literary respiration. Consider, Babel- Walter Morrison’s, Crossing into Poland:”

            “Fields flowered around us, crimson with poppies; a noontide breeze played in the yellowing rye; on the horizon virginal buckwheat rose like the wall of a distant monastery… The orange sun rolled down the sky like a lopped-off head, and mild light glowed from the cloud gorges. The standards of the sunset flew above our heads. Into the cool of evening dripped the smell of yesterday’s blood, of slaughtered horses.” [3]

            Reread that paragraph, slowly. Typically, like you, I have been taught to write in a manner that inhales at the beginning of the paragraph, and exhales at the end. This allows for rhythmic change or a perspective shift. Here is the beginning of the very next paragraph.

            Savitsky, Commander of the VI Division, rose when he saw me, and I wondered at the beauty of the giant’s body.”

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            Notice that shift? Notice how breathless the previous paragraph left you, but then abruptly the camera shifts? That to me is brilliant writing that can only be observed through close-reading. Of course, there are volumes of books on what makes good writing, and even more published works of great writing, but great fiction, like poetry, respects the power of rhythm.


[1] Dunham, Steve. The Editor’s Companion: An Indispensable Guide to Editing Books, Magazines, Online Publications, and More. Writer’s Digest Books. Cincinnati, Ohio. chp 2.

[2] Prose, Francine. Reading like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them. HaperCollins e-books. New York, NY.  pp. 44

[3] Prose, Francine. Reading like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them. ‘Crossing into Poland.’ Translated by Walter Morison. HaperCollins e-books. New York, NY.  pp. 65

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?