Posts Tagged ‘revision’

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

A week ago, my husband and I took a couple of days and drove to Santa Cruz, one of our favorite towns to wander about communing with sea lions and pelicans, eating clam chowder at Stagnaro Brothers, and people-watching throughout this wonderful community. The locals here were able to support their fabulous independent bookstore, Bookshop Santa Cruz and close the large chain one who moved in to close them.  Hurrah Santa Cruz! 

We stayed in a motel we often visited when our son was young, but we hadn’t been there in years.  Away from the bustling crowds at the beach, the motel is quiet, not outrageously expensive or especially classy, but it suits our needs just fine. 

Settling into the room, I began unpacking, but paused as I heard my husband chuckling. 

“Liz, take a look at this,” he said, gesturing to our surroundings. 

The left side of the room had been painted maroon with blood-red flowers stenciled along the top near the ceiling.  A print hung near the desk with matching colors; the bedding corresponded too.  But the sliding glass door’s curtain shouted bold green, along with its wall.  I swear I heard loud screeching in my ears just  like I did whenever I walked by a middle school band room during a practice session. 

“So the question is, did they forget or run out of money?”  I asked as we laughed at the look the decorator achieved. 

When you think you are finished with your writing, it might only be half done. Set it aside for a while.  Your eyes have grown accustomed to seeing it and you might miss those big, bold errors that are glaring to everyone else.  Later, read it aloud to yourself.  Print out the pages for revision.  A paper copy is tangible and real.   After that make your computer corrections. 

Do you have too much narration?  This technique works best for your less dramatic scenes.  When it’s emotionally important, slow-down-the-moment with your senses with action, reaction, thoughts and dialogue. 

Highlight your favorite parts of your manuscript.   Why are they your favorites? 

Analyze the rest of your piece to discover how you can make this writing as resonant as your best, favorite parts. 

Don’t over-use tags.  If it is clear who is talking, you may not need to say “he said,”“she said.”

Do you have “pet” words?  If certain words come up over and over again, get rid of them!

If you were reading this in published book or magazine, what questions would you have?  Critique it as a reader, not as you, the author.  This is where the “giving it time” will help you.  If you’re still too close to it and can’t revise, call in a trusted colleague or pay for a professional editor to help you.

And finally this from George V. Higgins from On Writing:  “Reading your work aloud, even silently, is the most astonishingly easy and reliable method that there is for achieving economy in prose, efficiency of description, and narrative effect as well.  Rely upon it; if you can read it aloud to yourself without wincing, you have probably gotten it right.”

Writing Prompts:

  1. Revise one of your older manuscripts you THOUGHT was already perfect.  How can you make it better?
  2. Meet with another writer and revise the other person’s manuscript.  Share some of your favorite revision tips.
  3. Write something new inspired by this time of year.  Look around you for ideas.  The first object you see outside – - the first word or photo in the newspaper – - the first page in a book you open that is near you can be a prompt for a story.  Write as many drafts as you need on your computer and then print it out.  Revise with a pencil and then go back to the computer for another draft.  Did printing it out help you find more ways to improve your writing?


For those of you children’s book lovers, here is a great link for you:

The Kirkus List of Best 100 Books for Children of This Year

Six Tips in the Art of Revision

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Rewriting becomes addictive.  Newbery winning author Lois Lowry says she can’t read any of her published books with a pen in her hand or she’ll start naturally editing them. 

When my son brought home teacher letters from school I’d find myself editing their words. 

So what should you look for in your revision process?  

1.  Ask yourself, is there enough reason for the reader to turn the page?  Enough suspense, emotion, or unanswered questions?  Can you begin with less explanation or more drama and conflict?

2.  Does each and every word need to be there?  Does it propel the plot forward?  Show character depth? 

3.  Your character dialogue should show tension, character and/or emotion.  If your characters are just talking to talk, cut their words.  Every line they say should have a meaning – - or even a double meaning.  They might say one thing while having a secondary agenda or thought. 

4.  Read your story like you’ve never seen it before.  Are you showing and not telling?  Are there senses and specific details?  How can you incorporate these?

5.  If you are stuck in your rewriting, call in a trusted writing friend or critique group. 

6.  Put your work away for a while.  Time may be your best friend.  Looking at your piece with fresh eyes sometimes is the best possible revision advice there is. 

Writing Prompt: 

1.  Change weak verbs in your manuscript to active verbs.   

2.  Read or re-read Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style for reminders of how to write “tight.”  Get rid of any unnecessary words that simply take up space.  How short can you make your manuscript and retain the meaning?

3.  Purge your manuscript of adverbs when possible.  The same if you’ve piled on too many adjectives.  You don’t want to be accused of over-writing.

Great Advice for ALL Writers!

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

Words on Writing and Books on Writing

Monday, November 9th, 2009

I have difficulty sitting down to write. How can I make myself write?

Writing is a habit. It might be difficult in the beginning, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. In the morning or evening, do you think about brushing your teeth? No. You just do it. Same thing with writing. If you set aside a certain amount of time or word length to write, you’ll just start automatically writing if you get used to it.

So in the beginning it will be more difficult. That’s why it’s the easiest the more you write.

What are some good books about writing?

Bauer, Mary Dane What’s Your Story?
Bernays, Anne What If?
Joselow, Beth Baruch Writing Without the Muse
Koehler-Pentacoff, E. The ABCs of Writing for Children
Mette, Stephen Blake How to Write a Nonfiction Book Proposal
Newman, Leslea Writing from the Heart
Rodale, J. I. The Synonym Finder
Smith, Michael C. and
Greenberg, Suzann Everyday Creative Writing: Panning for Gold in the Kitchen Sink
Spence, Linda Legacy

What else should I do?

Read! Write! And know that it’s hard work for little money. At least for awhile. The famous advice is don’t quit your day job. So make sure you have a college education with a good, solid back-up plan. And have fun. Writing is a passion and lots of fun. You’ll meet wonderful people and have a rich, rewarding life.

Students Groan Over Rewriting

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

This question from Fatima:

Did you like rewriting as a student? Or did you start liking to rewrite as you became an author? Students at school start groaning when we have tp rewrite as essay or story.

I didn’t like rewriting as a student. But usually I wasn’t ASKED to rewrite as a student. (Which means the teachers weren’t asking enough of me!) I only liked rewriting after I had been writing awhile. This is very common. In the beginning, rewriting is VERY difficult. It’s only after practice that it becomes fun and addictive.

I don’t blame students for groaning at all! Most of the time it’s because students don’t know HOW to improve their writing. Another reason is that they may think their story is just fine the way it is. Another reason is they have tons of other work to do too.

I KNOW students have tons of other work to do. However, the “just fine the way it is” reason is NOT true. Lois Lowry, author of THE GIVER and NUMBER THE STARS, says she never reads her books after they are published. Why? Because she starts rewriting them even when they are in book form. She isn’t satisfied even with her award winners! That is a typical reaction from a writer. We are never satisfied our work is good enough and ALWAYS want to improve upon it.

Writing Exercise: Rewrite a story of yours. Ask a trusted teacher, writing friend, or critique group member to read and offer suggestions.
When can you put in the main character's thoughts, reactions, or senses to slow down an important moment?

When does your story need exciting action? Does your story have a complete beginning, middle, and end? Does your character have an epiphany? An "ah-ha" moment where she learns something? Doesn't have to be huge. But your protagonist should change in some small way.

Exercise 2: Enter a contest for a genre you like to write. This is a good way to help your rewriting skills, especially if it has a word limit and your piece is too long. Then you will discover the fewer words, or writing tight, is the best way to write. Each word needs a reason to be there.

Note: I am under a time deadline at the moment so I am rushing to write this blog. I first answered this question under the comment section VERY quickly. Next, I copied and pasted that answer here. I reread it and I thought how I could improve upon my writing. This is a quick example of rewriting. If I had MORE time, I'd rewrite it ten more times!