Saturday, January 23, 2016

From the Why-Didn’t-I-Think-of-This-Before Department for Revising

So I’ve been struggling to revise my second completed novel. Well, by “completed,” I mean I made it to the end of the first draft. It’s something like 110,000 words. Pretty cool, eh? At one time, I thought that WAS the battle. Writing a novel WAS: Writing. The. Damned. Novel. You get from beginning to middle to end, you were golden. Right?

But, no. Oh, it’s a great thing to do, and it’s essential to being a novelist, but it’s only the first part of the battle. Next comes the dreaded revising/revisions.

So why is revising hard for me? Well, it’s about making choices. Sure, you make some when you’re writing your first draft, but once the words are down, you have to decide whether to keep or reject them. And then, as you’re rewriting, you have to choose whether the new words are better than the old words or not. How do you know which ones to go with? And do the new and old parts fit well together? Or do they appear stuck together with chewing gum and tape? Will readers notice the “seams?”

Anyhow, one bit of good news recently: I read an article about using Google Docs that gave me a new perspective on revising. I will have to see if I can find the link, because I’d hate to not give the writer credit. He (I think it was a he) helped me quite a bit. I’m still struggling, but I’ve made some progress, and, what’s more, I have a new way of looking at the process that should continue to help me in the future.

EDIT: I found the link, and here it is: How I Use Google Docs for Writing

Here’s the gist:

First, he looks at it this way: the first draft is the author telling himself the story. The second draft is taking the story - that the author now understands - and writing it so that other readers can understand it. Simple? Probably, but it gave me a new way of looking at the two drafts. How to explain? Well, the first draft mainly has to make sense to you, the author. The second is perhaps less about writing the story again as it is translating it for someone who isn’t inside your brain to read/take in.

The second bit is that he opens two windows while revising - one for the new content, and one for the old. I have found that it works best for me to just rewrite the whole thing, even the parts that I’m keeping … I mean retype it in. That way, you’re running the new and old words through some part of your mind together, so you can get a sense how they’ll fit together.

I am still running into some problems, of course. I still have to make choices, but maybe just having the new and old side-by-side on my screen helps me make judgments. I’m not done yet, but, so far, it seems to be helping.

Another thing I'm doing with this novel ... not sure how much it's helping, but I am hoping at least a little ... is grabbing pictures from the Web which inspire me and are related to the kind of work I am creating (or jiggering with, as the case may be). Here are a couple I'm using:


Got any revising tricks/methods that help you? I’d love to hear ‘em!

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