The Revision War: Part 1

If you are a writer, then you have been asked to revise work in the past. If you haven’t, clearly you are a writing god and do not require a re-write because your words run smooth like calming waves and every thought you have is gold. For those individuals, well I hate you but you don’t exist. Why? Revision isn’t just for correcting mistakes and can improve a story and even inspire new ideas. In college, there were plenty of other English majors who took offence to revising work, including myself (I’m positive I was the worst when it came to doing this, mainly because I believed I didn’t need to revise as my words were gold. Thankfully, I got over that). Whether revising work is insulting or beneficial is a matter of perspective. This is not to say someone tells you your story is crap because their personal opinions are above constructive criticism, or else you can tell that person that your work is a story, not a physical piece of crap.

First, do not get offended by someone asking you to revise the story/work, especially if you trust their creative judgment. Someone may see necessary changes that you have missed. This is not editing, but looking through your work as a whole and seeing what works in the story, and what doesn’t. For example, is your Fiction story/novel suffering from too many characters, some of which serve no real purpose? Are there scenes that are random and maybe unnecessary? Is the dialogue underwhelming or (my favorite) completely unrealistic? Does every character have a back story? Does every character like the guy at the bookstore or random character number 27 really need a back story? Narrow things down and be sure the correct characters are getting the focus, back stories are provided if need be, and dialogue doesn’t sound unnatural (so many examples of books to use—not enough time. Ok, quick example. In Fifty Shades of Grey the main character says ‘Holy cow’ a lot. I read this book out of curiosity and never read the others because it wasn’t for me. No one says Holy cow and though the author is British and probably didn’t know any Americans to study, I believe the characters dialogue is used to support her innocent virgin personality, which is stereotypical).

This post would be futile without tips, so I have compiled a list from experiences, tips from other writers and the web to help you out.

  • Read everything out loud!

Write the synopsis of the current story and go back to the drawing board to rewrite the work.

  • Have plenty of trusted people read your work that has diverse interest. They have been honest as fuck in my life and have made me see other sides to my own work.
  • Have someone else read your work out loud to you.
  • Plan on multiple rewrites and be sure you know the current route of your story.
  • Be sure to keep a thesaurus and a book of favorite words and phrases (online or physically). This definitely helps.
  • Identify the issues you have with your story and strategize how to solve them.
  • If you are feeling overwhelmed and losing confidence, put the story away and focus on something physical. Make fake book covers or compile a list of songs for your book. Something fun that is still connected to your book will give your brain a break but not cut you off completely.
  • Identify unanswered question/loose ends. My favorite example of this is in one of the links in my sources section below. If you intend to introduce a character to help your protagonist (Johnny helping you find a friend in the woods), be sure to mention him later or else the woods was a black hole and Johnny is still in it. I have read so many stories where this happens and I’m like ‘Uh, ok, I guess they won’t ever be addressed.”
  • Read other peoples work so you can develop a better eye for revising your own work. I don’t mean the classics or published works but writers in the same boat as you.

-This post is by S. McClory

Sources:

http://thereviewreview.net/publishing-tips/strategies-revision

http://fmwriters.com/Visionback/Issue9/true.htm

How To Revise Your Novel At A Glance | Write to Done

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