Monday, August 31, 2015

Revising, revising, revising...

"We're asked a lot about how we write, but less about how we edit. How do you know what to change and when to stop?"

by Meredith Cole

The writing process can be summed up like this for me:
  • Attempt to roughly flesh out and outline my story before I start. Figure out if I have enough for a novel, or if it really needs to be something else (a short story, poem or one-act play).
  • Take a deep breath and start writing. I give myself a word count and goals (I love goals!). The pages start piling up. It does not go like my outline. It never does. I run into lots of issues and attempt to write my way out of them.
  • Reach the end (months later). Take another deep breath. Set aside the manuscript until I have some perspective (or can't stand waiting any longer).
  • Print out the book and read it. Write all over it. Despair. Throw out huge sections and figure out what needs to be there instead. Rewrite. Repeat previous steps.
  • Figure out what my book is really about. Despair. Throw out sections, revise, rewrite, repeat.
  • Have someone else read it. Fix typos, make more revisions.
  • Go through and look for passive voice and annoying words/phrases that I use all the time. (Must everyone shrug? Really?) Make sure I've fixed all the mistakes (Bill's name needs to stay consistent throughout the book, darn it!).
And then eventually I do stop revising. Why? Either because I have a deadline or I'm just changing stupid stuff now or I'm just exhausted. Maybe the book could be better. Maybe it hasn't lived up to its full potential. But it's not going to get better with another rewrite by me. So I declare it done. For now.


Paul D. Marks said...

Love your process, Meredith. And we do all have to come to a point where we stop. And then somehow we open the finished book and see that one goof that we missed or someone will be kind enough to point it out to us. :)

RJ Harlick said...

I sure know that feeling of despair. Good post, Meredith.

Rosemary Harris said...

Yup, that's pretty much the size of it. Although for this WIP I did something I never did before. I made Chapter 33 Chapter 1. We are frequently told to start the book as close to the end as possible. And this time that's what I tried to do. think about how many books and movies start that way. Is it better - quien sabe? We'll see what thye next reader says.

Susan C Shea said...

Truth. Question, Meredith: On the first draft, setting word goals is easy and so rewarding when you hit them. But in rewrites, what motivating goals do you set, markers of progress? I get discouraged when it seems my revising is going over and over the same ruts in the road and I don't feel I'm making progress.I get to the point where I don't even want to open the #@$%! manuscript file.

Meredith Cole said...

It's so good to hear I'm not alone!!! And even when I say I'm done revising... I'll go to do a reading or something and won't be able to stop myself from editing the text! Sigh.