Revision Process

Why hello there!  I know, I’ve been missing for a long time.  I’m bad at this blog thing…  Things have been busy here.  I’ve been doing a lot of work for my crochet small business, Squee! Productions.  I have  a few commissions and several gifts that I’m working on.  It’s rather exciting.  I kind of feel like a real artist rather than just a writer who poses as an artist every once and awhile.

This past week has been rather trying.  On Tuesday we received a call from my sister.  She ended up needing emergency gallbladder surgery.  Needless to say, it was stressful few days, moreso for my mom than for me, but pretty tough on both of us.   Thankfully, she is recovering nicely.

My main issue is financial.  I work 10 hours a week.  This is barely enough to sustain myself WITHOUT loan payments.  My loan payments start next month.  I’m terrified.  I have an application in at the library for a data entry position, but my hope on that wanes with every day they don’t call.  Sorry for the melodrama, but seriously, I’ve had a lot of job rejections and my hope disappears pretty quickly.  Lets all hope that they get back to me this week!

Lets get down to business…

So I’ve finally decided to start work on my Opus Aria revision.  The draft I was working on during the school year is a good start to where the novel is going.  But I’m starting over with the backbone the incomplete draft is providing.  Because I’m starting over with a new outline, I figure its a good time to start talking about the revision process.

To be honest, I’m pretty new to the NOVEL revision process.  But I’m pretty familiar with the novel process in general.  I’ve done extensive revisions in short fiction and poetry.  I’ll talk a little bit about what has worked for me in the past 🙂

In General

The first thing to do in revision is to look at the word revision.  Re vision.  Re see what is going on in the story.  Many wise professors have told me this.

I’ve primarily worked in a workshop setting, so I’m used to writing a poem/story/whatever and bringing it into a small class and receiving feedback that way.  For awhile, this bugged me.  But now I love it, it really teaches you to detach yourself emotionally from your work (read: you don’t get horrendously offended when someone gives you harsh critique).  Because I’ve mainly had a workshop setting, the first step of my revision process in anything is to consider the feedback of my peers.  Of course, not all of the feedback is as useful.  For example, in my first fiction writing class comments would vary from, “Some of the language was a bit awkward.  It was hard to follow some of the reasons things were said.  I don’t understand why Eli was the way he was.  Was it the sleep that made Eli such a douchebag with a superiority complex?” to, “I really like the story.  I honestly cannot think of anything that really needs to be changed aside from the few things I marked.  characters well developed and good dialogue, choice and change in character.”  It’s all about weeding out the “not helpful” comments and finding the gems that really hit home.

After you’ve decided WHAT is “wrong” with the story/poem/whatever by looking through the comments, its time to figure out what is going to change in the next draft.

Short Fiction

What I looked at in comments for short fiction is pretty simple, at least to me.  Character development, point of view (now called POV), continuity/believability, dialogue, story arc/pacing, and setting.  Simple! =P  Normally, the comments will point towards one or two glaring problems, and for the sake of the blog, lets say character development and POV.  So, in the next draft, you will focus in on character development and POV.  Of course, the comments will also point towards minor issues in everything.  But while you’re not primarily focusing in on those aspects of the story, they may get ironed out by the big issues being solved.

We would usually pick one thing that needed to “change” drastically in the story.  It’s a good revision exercise.  Examples of this would be switching the POV from 1st person to 3rd person, or switching the setting of the story from day to night.  As with any writing, if the second draft isn’t as good, go back to the previous draft =P  This is why you ALWAYS have multiple save files.  ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS.

The main thing to remember with revising a short fiction piece is to start in a new word file.  This way you aren’t copying from the original draft.  This is a new draft.  A new start.

Poetry

Poetry revision has always felt a little different to me.  This might be because of my refusal to revise my poems for several years.  That was silly of me, now that I think of it.  A first draft of a poem is kind of a silhouette of the thing or idea behind it – the drafts following it allow it to come into focus and take shape.

Like with fiction, there are a few things I take into consideration for revision, but these are a little different. For poetry I look at voice/speaker, figurative language, “tightness”, clarity of meaning, and form.  There are a lot of other things to consider as well, but these are the ones that I focus on.  They help with my style the most.

Again, the comments will point towards the glaring problems in your poem.  However, unlike in fiction, they usually point towards whatever is against the particular person’s style.  Poetry is a lot more subjective than fiction.  So the first thing to take into consideration is how the comments work with your own style.  This is why I look at the things I do, they usually permeate through all forms of poetry.  It’s just made it easier in the past.

Moving towards revision!  Like with fiction, you will want a new file.  Or a fresh piece of paper.  Depends on how you write poetry =P

I consider the poem and what would be best for it.  What would really make the poem something unique?  How can I make it shine?

My poetry professor gives several revision tactics that can really help out a poem.  Working backwards is one, where you reverse the line order, putting poems in forms, slash and burn (cutting 50% of the words away),deconstructing poems…I just say keep the poem in mind.  What works best for the poem should always be in mind.

Novel

Now this is where things get a little awkward.  Novels are long!  How can one POSSIBLY revise the whole thing?!  That’s about how I felt when I was going into my independent study in novel revision this past semester.  Needless to say, I’m really new to novel revision.  But I can give a few tips on what helped with constructing my second draft.  This was the only one that wasn’t really a true “workshop”.  There were two of us, but we mainly worked on our own with the Professor, but it was great to be able to bounce ideas off of each other.

The first step we took was creating an outline of every single chapter in the book.  As in, reading through the book and summarizing each chapter into about four sentences.  This helps with plot inconsistencies.  It allows you to see lack of continuity and redundancy throughout the novel.  I also allows you to see what is really important to the novel.

The next step was writing the outline for a second draft.  Like with poetry and short fiction, you start with a blank document.  You keep important events, but you restructure the novel.  Make it more coherent.  When I wrote the first draft of my novel, I didn’t really use an outline, and it showed.  There was a lot of redundancy.

That’s all I can really give you.  You write an outline for a draft, write the draft, then see how you like it.  Read, critique, repeat.

Conclusion

These are things that work for me.  They might not work for you, but I hope they can at least shed some insight on everything 🙂

~Laura

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