Revision, Start Learning to Love It

Join 718 other subscribers

“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.

Excerpt: Scene II, Act III of Novella—by me

This excerpt is not a stand-alone scene. However, I haven’t shared anything in nearly two-weeks, so, I thought, why not share today’s work, raw and unedited. Read the story from the beginning by reading this post first:

            Ishaq panted against the wall. The men screamed their prayers.

He shouted,“SILENT.”

They collected themselves, their breathing relaxed, and with unexplainable death, now, no longer imminent, the party started scanning the room. The air was thin, and their torches were barely embers. Ishaq scraped forward in the dark. The men were transformed into floating mouths. Their eyes veiled beyond their torches’ reach. Then he crashed into onyx eyes. Inches from his face, suddenly, out of the black, he snagged himself and his head found stone.

            Everyone squeeled at plates made of gold and bronze plates tumbling to the floor. The event relit fires-of-greed in the diggers’ eyes because any proper robber knows the clanks of treasure.

            “Was that gold or silver?” A dizzy Ishaq heard someone shout.  

            “A leopard,” he said.

—End of Chapter—

            Ishaq walked through the first-opened-gate back in Thebes. Bes avoided eye contact with the guards. An elderly tax collector appeared to brood over ordering them searched. They had filled their wagon with sand, and that, Ishaq did not forsee, would attract attention. There is plenty of sand on both sides of the wall. The thought, Ishaq could see, was painted on the man’s brow. They were fortunate when the old-man started to raise his hand, a dispute, further down the line, interrupted him, and saved them.

            The days passed slow. Four walls become cells of madness for those in hiding. Ishaq emerged the evening of the fifth day. His supplies wore out, followed by his spirit, and he went to market as if he had been there every day. He confused many shopkeepers with inventions of old-conversations whenever a guard was near. He considered this the right decision when, buying tobacco, he heard a temple priest tell a guard captain to follow anyone purchasing with gold or bartering jewels, plates and Ishaq quit listening when Nefari tugged his arm.

            “Oh, where have you been hiding?” she said. “I just left our magistrate’s house, I told him to put out the word to find you.”

            “Why would you do that?” he said.

            “Why? It isn’t like you to disappear. I thought,” Nefari hesitated. “I feared you were hurt.”

            That night he dug up the gold he hid, in the earth, under his pillow. He sneaked through his city’s quarter’s shadows. Hidden under the rampart’s shadow, Ishaq spotted the priest he eavesdropped from earlier. Two men emerged into moonlight. Their daggers shined. These men weren’t temple guards.

Please follow me for more writing and witty content:

Join 718 other subscribers

When Creativity Is Exhausted

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Pexels.com

Most writers will face the existential crises of writer’s block. It is, perhaps, the most painful and draining season in our lives. The words won’t come; the blank page taunts you. Writer’s block is demoralizing, and, if like me, you already battle mental health issues, like depression, O.C.D., and anxiety, the struggle is ten-fold. I know, I know, there are writers out there, very successful ones, who claim writer’s block is a made-up-excuse. For example, Stephen King argues he has never struggled to concoct a sentence. I call bull sh!t!

For me, writer’s block often appears when I am in a season of performance anxiety. I live in the United States, and, here, the culture is toxic for creatives: if you are not producing, you are failing. I think anyone who discounts how hard it can be to write through these struggles are certainly not writers themselves. So, one way, and it may not be for you, I crawl out of writer’s block is to disregard the end goal; I focus on the process and not the ambition. In other words, ignore the noise.

This is a fact: stress kills art. Sure, there are those who are exceptions to this rule, but, again, focus on your process and stop comparing yourself to what others can do. Some writers will write and publish fifty-books, and some, probably me, will only publish five-or-six, but who knows the future? When you stress volume, you are actually inviting that little devil who goes by the name Capitalism to handcuff your creativity. No real artist, regarding any medium, goes in it for material success—yes, even though, it is natural to day dream money and fame. We do what we do, because it is who we are. There is no plan B option for those called to entertain or educate readers.

Truly, I tell you, you can easily spend a whole-life feeling behind everyone else or below their expectations, or you can embrace who you are and accept your whole self and not just what others accept about you.

So, I want to encourage you, dear follower, to remember why you write. Maybe write down a note about why you love writing and stick it to your computer or desk. Remind yourself that, first-and-foremost, the number one goal is to have fun. Leave your bitter haters to themselves, and cut from your life anyone who tries, even those who love you, to get you to compromise who you are. Art demands sacrifices.

You can do this; you can write today. Now, sit down, set a half-hour timer and force something—anything—onto the page. Trust me, if you do life “their” way, you’ll fail to write, and, ultimately, you will fail to live your true self. You are created to do this; your gifts are part of your identity, and don’t put yourself—and your art—second to anything.

I pray all of you, even the non-writers, have the courage to be yourselves. Truly, I tell you, you can easily spend a whole-life feeling behind everyone else or below their expectations, or you can embrace who you are and accept your whole self and not just what others accept about you. Now, write!

God bless,

—W. Alexander

Join 718 other subscribers

More from W. Alexander

N.L. Blandford: On Writing

Writing a story, of any length, can be scary. It can be particularly scary when the subject matter may be considered “dark” or “sensitive.” Questions arise: “Will people appreciate what I am trying to say?” and “Will I accurately portray the real world through my fictional characters?” and, of course, the one all authors ask themselves: “Will people like it?”

I had all of these questions, and more running through my mind as I wrote The Perilous Road to Her. The story is set within the world of human trafficking and follows Olivia in her search for her missing sister, as she becomes a victim herself. 

I cannot recall exactly how human trafficking came into play, however, I knew that was the world in which the story would take place. Honestly, I was scared to write it. However, I was passionate about the story and hoped my fictional story would bring awareness to a prevalent issue. Human trafficking doesn’t just occur “somewhere else.” It occurs in all of our backyards, and I hope the more we read and hear about it, the more likely we are to recognize and help prevent it. 

N.L. Blandford‘s debut novel: The Perilous Road To Her

From the outset, I knew that I did not want to glamourize or hide what happens to people—in this case women—who are trafficked. 

Real World Portrayal and Sensitivity

As much as I wanted my fictional account to stay true to the real world of human trafficking, I did stray from how people usually become victims. During my research phase, I learned that the number one human trafficking myth is that people are kidnapped and forced into prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation. I acknowledge that myth in my book, however to keep the story moving at a rapid pace, and to get characters from Point A to Point B, I used that myth as a transportation vehicle. To balance that, I tried hard to give all of the women Olivia meets in Los Angeles a backstory which represents actual victim experiences I had read or heard.  

I also worked hard to make some of the “bad guys” be represented as humans with their own problems. Characters you love to hate and hate to love. I have not met or read the stories of traffickers, thus, these characters are my own creation. However, criminals are humans and I can only imagine what could be going through their heads. 

Setting my story in a devastating world meant that dreadful experiences would occur. I wanted to ensure I was sensitive when I articulated the violence that the characters experienced. For me, removing that aspect of the seedy underbelly of human trafficking would not do the subject matter justice. On the flip side, I also had the question in my mind about how the story would be received by actual victims or those who worked closely with them. A story like this had the potential to be a trigger and affect people’s mental health. As such, I advised readers about the nature of the story in a Letter From The Author at the start of the book. Additionally, I included Human Trafficking Resources at the back to support readers if they found that they wanted to learn more or needed help.

The good news is that I have received amazing feedback on my ability to portray a gruesome world with sensitivity. In particular, someone who works with victims of sexual exploitation said, “I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to read it, as a significant part of my job has been…to develop programs for children who are being sexually exploited. Your book was real for me for sure. It was a great read. I will be recommending it to my colleagues.”

Dark Subject Matter 

Human trafficking is only starting to become a talked about social issue, and, often, when I describe my book, a common reaction has been: “Wow, that’s dark!” It could be considered that; It is not a light-hearted read, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

When I was talking to W. Alexander about guest blogging, I loved that he defined ‘dark’ as ‘truth’. It is very relatable. People can shy away from topics because they are hard, and it can be easier to call them dark, rather than truth, or an aspect thereof. I believe that it is in the dark that we can really start to understand the true nature of our world and its people. 

The story is not for everyone and I respect that. There are books out there that aren’t for me. In the end, I wanted to create a great story that people couldn’t put down, while bringing awareness to a social issue, and maybe giving a voice to those who may not be ready to speak their truth yet. 

Based on the feedback I have received, I believe I have done just that. Which means: bucket list item number one for writing is complete! 

What’s Next for N.L. Blandford?

The Perilous Road To Her was released on May 4, 2021, and with that I am in full swing to get the word out. If you, or anyone you know, is interested in a riveting story that can’t be put down please check it out on Amazon! Part of a book club? Contact me via my website if you are interested in a virtual Q&A, after the group has finished reading the book.

Future writing projects for me will continue to be fictional accounts of real issues. I have many ideas that include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), prejudice/judgement and the equity of persons. 

As I continue to write, whether it be in Olivia’s world or not, I want to create compelling stories that pull readers in. I hope by doing so those same readers, whether they realize it or not, learn about a topic they may not necessarily explore outside a fictional world. 

—N.L. Blandford

If you would like to learn more about me and my writing you can find me at www.nlblandford.com; on Twitter/Instagram @nlblandford; on Facebook at N.L. Blandford and LinkedIn at nlblandford

Bio

N.L. Blandford’s poetry was first published when she was thirteen, and, recently, her drabble titled “Love of a Lifetime” won the Arlene Duane Hemingway Unconditional Love Drabble Challenge. She loves to travel and has enjoyed exploring Canada, however her favourite spot is a tie between Hawaii and Jersey, Channel Islands. N.L. Blandford resides in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where she has built a life of dream exploration with her husband, mild mannered dog, Watson, and stubborn but lovable cat, Sebastian. 

Book Review: Reading Like a Writer

Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

This book is another one of my adventures into books about writing written by actual writers. According to Francine Prose, creative writing, ultimately, cannot be taught. She encourages the would-be writer to, instead, learn through a form of literary osmosis: study the masters. She believes the rules, usually, taught in writing classes are all too often arbitrary and restrictive. Prose shows how the great writers—masters whom stand the test of time—broke with the conventions of their day.

Keep in mind, Francine Prose is not only an accomplished author, but has experience teaching creative writing at the university level; she has seen and done it all.

“It is time for writers to admit that nothing in this world makes sense. Only fools and charlatans think they know and understand everything. The stupider they are, the wider they conceive horizons to be. And if an artist decides to declare that he understands nothing of what he sees—this in itself constitutes a considerable clarity in the realm of thought, and a great step forward.”

Anton Chekhov

Of course, there are better craft reference books out there. If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of building sentences, pacing, etcetera, this book is not for you. However, if you are new to writing, and want to just know what the hell it is you are suppose to write, suppose to notice, suppose to build, suppose to engage, then this book is a must-read. Learning how the masters told their stories is never a dull undertaking.

Happy Reading!

I recommend, if you found this review helpful, you read this post, too.

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.”

Related Post

Loading…

Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.

            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