Thursday, July 8, 2010

Short on Time, Long on Revisions?

When it's time to revise your draft, do you start at the beginning of your piece over and over again? Do you spend hours revising paragraphs, and then like Dali's clock on the left here, realize your writing time is gone? Do you read what you've written, and with a general idea that it doesn't "read well", start shuffling sentences, words, ideas and story flow?
That would be me.

Here are a few ideas that have helped give direction to my revisions after the first draft is totally finished.
From Donald Maass' book, The Fire in Fiction, Chapter Three, Scenes that Can't be Cut:
*First, determine if the scene has a point. In other words, make sure it's not a candidate for cutting entirely. Once you know the point of the scene, then Maass suggests that the task of the author is to draw the purpose out. He cautions writers that changing the words on the page won't help. If a scene is not working, it may be because the scene needs to be "re-seen". (I'm so witty, oh so witty.) Maass states: "Scene revision is, to me, less a matter of expression and more a way of seeing."
*Once you've determined the scene needs to be in the story, Maass suggests to begin by asking: What change is taking place and when exactly in the scene does the change occur? Ask yourself how the point-of-view character is changed. Maass says what we should be looking for here are the turning points.
*When the turning points have been identified, the scene suddenly becomes easier to see. I read Maass' suggestion and tried it in my own stumbling work-in-progress: he was right. It was like adjusting the focusing wheel on a pair of binoculars to finally bring the image to clarity. From then on, Maass states, "Everything else on the page either contributes to, or leads readers away from, those changes." All of your wonderful writing, your descriptions, characterization, transitions and choice of diction are either expendable--or tools that help "enact the scene's main purpose."

Several people commented after my last post, also based on The Fire in Fiction, that they bought the book! Building a writer's reference library is always a great idea, in my opinion. I have over a hundred books on writing craft; this is one of my favorites. Next time, I'll blog about revision ideas from another excellent craft book, The Writer's Portable Mentor by Priscilla Long.
Don't let your writing time melt away!


Jacqueline Seewald said...

Again, thanks for sharing these excellent, helpful suggestions for novel writers. It's much easier to maintain point of view and know if a scene is working if you're writing a short story, but with a novel, we tend to lose our way. I think that's why I try to keep a working outline, to see if I am on track or have inadvertently wandered in the wrong direction. But edits and rewrites are all part of what we must do to create quality fiction.

Anonymous said...

I agree, Jacqueline! You know the old saying: Writing is re-writing!

Patricia Stoltey said...

I took the Donald Maass workshop based on "The Fire in Fiction" held the day before Bouchercon 2009. It was excellent, even better than the book. He's an amazing speaker, so if anyone gets a chance to take one of his workshops in the future, go for it.

Anonymous said...

He is amazing, isn't he? Lucky you that you got to take the entire workshop!

BDTharp said...

Great suggestions. I look forward to your sharing more. Thanks Rebbie.

Anonymous said...

Rebbie, you know what I take from this post? HAVE A PLAN. You can't go into revision, thinking - gosh. I need to make this better. You need a clear-cut attack method. : ) Maass's is obviously a tried and true one. Thanks a mill for the post!