Thursday, May 19, 2011

What I Learned from the Muse (Part 2)


While at the Muse and the Marketplace, I went to a few seminars on Revision because of course, this is where the rubber hits the road as far as writing is concerned.

And it's also where things can get awfully muddled... especially if your original vision (see plot post) is a bit murky. It's hard to revise the big stuff, to hold the whole manuscript in mind once you are so firmly-- and emotionally-- attached to it. So I figured I could use a few pointers.

I attended Ann Hood's wonderful seminar (Aptly titled "Revision"). Ms Hood is so charming and witty, I swear I could sit and listen to her describing how paint dries.

But her advice was wonderful, and refreshingly specific.

Here's her technique:

Quit worrying about TIME. Stop rushing to get the revision over with and just figure it will be a long process.

Put your manuscript away for a month or more. Write something else.

Print out whole thing and take it on a "date"—somewhere like a coffee shop where you can work without interruption.

Read as if you've never read it before. Mark your manuscript using a Fix/Cut/Add strategy:

On your first pass through the manuscript, focus on the fix

Here's what to mark:

Word or meanings that are off: Awk.

Underwritten passages: More

Passages that get off track: No

Passages that are working but not done to the best of your ability: close


Oft-repeated words (She says you can only use the word "cocoon" once per manuscript)


Restructuring: move

Check facts.

Inconsistencies, e.g. changes made halfway through.

On the second Pass through, Cut ruthlessly

Here's what to focus on:

Repetition: The reader will get it the first time

Stage directions: Just get them into the car, already!

If your mss started in the wrong place, cut the beginning

Adjectives, adverbs, extra words.

Then focus on Adding

For depth—layers of meaning

For clarity

Sounds like a lot of work, right? But that's not all....

Then you focus on the big stuff:

1) Look at how the beginning and ending relate to each other. The last scene should be sort of opposite of the first 1st (I thought his was a really interesting idea.)

2) Setting. List settings as you read. they should reflect the main character's arc and should NOT be monotonous (10 scenes in a coffee shop are baaaad)

3) List the main characters. And develop an "Emotional timeline" for each. Look at each scene to make sure there is internal movement. You shouldn't hit the same emotional note in every scene. Mark each scene with a + or - to indicate emotional state. Each scene should move character from + to - (or - to +)


Check Grammar, Spelling Paragraphs, sentence variety etc. Use a highlighter to mark low level language glitches.

Find 3 beta readers who are not writers but big readers. Send them the manuscript. Buy them dinner. Listen to them talk about your manuscript and do not speak. Take notes.

Based on what they have to say, Revise all over again...


What do you think? What sort of revision techniques do you use?


Pam Harris said...

Wow, these are great! So helpful since I'm currently in Revision Land right now. :)

Jen said...

What great advice! Wow, I have a lot of work in front of me, but at least now I know how to approach it!

FranceRants said...

So generous to share this great advice. Thanks!

magpiewrites said...

Hey Perri
I went to the Pennwriters Conference last weekend and I also attended a revision workshop, but this one was specifically about revising from critiques - which makes sense for me since I'm part of a writing group. There were of course similarities between the Ann Hood workshop you attended and the one I attended lead by Becky Levine, but I definitely picked up some new 'tricks' from your post. I especially like the 'short-hand' for what to fix. I'm afraid I've got tons of 'awk' and 'more' to deal with!

Janet Johnson said...

Wow, you took great notes! And words of wisdom for sure. :) Thanks for sharing!

Laura M. Campbell said...

Great tips to add to my revision check list. I can't wait to unleash them on my short story as soon as my lazy fingers finish writing it! Thanks!