Thursday, April 3, 2008

Lesson 6 – Revisions

Our final lesson concerns the revision process which puzzles me because I’m still trying to figure out the fundamentals like setting, character building, characterization, POV, dialogue and plot. Other than that, I think I’ll graduate with honors.

Apparently there are way too many things one needs to consider when entering Revisionville and being ruthless is a necessity. Our reading assignment provides some guidelines for the revision process.

1. Structure
Goal: Develop a clear and compelling plot
What to look for:
1. Scenes that are too passive and dialogue scenes with no tension
2. Scenes that don’t build or are anti-climactic

Basically you’re checking that the plot events are in the correct order and each scene builds towards a satisfying climactic payoff.

2. Texture
Goal: Sharpen descriptive passages to make characters, setting and action more vivid.
What to look for:
1. Too much or too little description
2. Clichéd word choices
3. Too many adjectives or adverbs
4. Research information dumps
5. Background or setting information in wrong place

3. Dialogue
Goal: Elicit character personality through conversation
What to look for:
1. Too many or too few tag lines
2. Tag lines in the wrong place
3. Taglines that contain too much information
4. Information dumps
5. Bland or melodramatic lines

Remove any unnecessary tags. Read it out loud to see if the dialogue sounds natural. Have someone else read it to see if they can distinguish each character’s voice.

4. Editing
Goal: Tighten the pace and continuity
What to look for:
1. Repetition through implication
2. Slow passages

Cut, cut, cut!

5. Blending
Goal: Find and destroy any weaknesses
What to look for:
1. Soft spots
2. Unclear character motivations
3. Actions that seem contrived

Find the problem area and add new scenes or expand old ones to fix anything you’ve missed.

6. Go back to step one and start over again until you’re satisfied.


The final part of our reading assignment is a review of basic grammar and punctuation – 48 pages worth of review. Because this is an important part of writing, I shall summarize these in future posts starting soon with Phrases and Clauses.

Be afraid. Be very afraid!

15 comments:

Demon Hunter said...

AW,
Thanks for sharing this with us. Informative, as I will be working on revisions after my betas get done. :*)

Erica Orloff said...

Hi Anti-wife . . . it was interesting to read this spelled out like this. When I graduated from college, my first job was as an editor. I've edited for 20 years now and it's seamless. I never "think" those things you spelled out. At all. I just . . . whatever . . . do it/fix it. So eventually, the rewriting and editing becomes second nature. And eventually, you self-edit a lot in your head until the first draft pretty much resembles this. But great post for really making it more clear.

E

The Anti-Wife said...

Demon,
You're welcome. How lovely to be up to the revision process!

Erica,
I'll be so happy to reach the point of revisions and editing. How wonderful to be so comfortable with the process that it becomes second nature. Maybe someday, she sighed!

Mary Witzl said...

This is one of the most useful posts I've ever read. I'm guilty of at least half of these sins, in particular, the ones in 'Texture.' The one entitled 'Research Information Dump' made me cringe: I do it, I do it!

Now that I have a name for it, I'll be watching out for this tendency in myself, you can bet.

I've just whittled a (formerly) 120,000 page manuscript down to 80,000, and am I pleased with myself.

Bernita said...

Oh, excellent outline!

The Anti-Wife said...

Mary,
I think one of the biggest lessons here is, don't be afraid to cut the crap. You can always go back and fill in or add new material but the mediocre or bad stuff needs to go. Good for you for being ruthless.

Bernita,
This class has provided lots of really good information.

Maddy said...

Tags? What do they mean by tags? I thought you only had tags in blogging!

Sounds like [damned!] hard work to me.

I think the trouble for me at least is to be objective - how do we do that do you suppose?

Maybe they'll be a tutorial on 'how to be objective about your own work?' [here's hoping in any case]

Cheers

p.s. I'm still working on 'dazzle' but at least my teeth are still in my head!

The Anti-Wife said...

Maddy,
Objective? About our own work? Impossible! We just do our best then allow our beta readers and editors to rip it to shreds.

As for the tags, until I started writing seriously, I thought they were things you put on your luggage. I'm still trying to figure out how to use them properly.

Mary Witzl said...

I've hung on to my original wordy manuscripts. When I get published (if I'm still alive by then), I plan to contrast them with the new, trim versions. Honestly, the difference is astonishing. The message is the same, but it just leaps out at you in its sharp-focussed clarity. It's a like conversation. When you're talking to someone who takes ages to get to the point, you start edging away after a while unless you're terribly patient and kind.

wordtryst said...

Interesting to see the things you do intuitively all set out like that in logical sequence. Helps to sharpen up the focus. Thanks for sharing.

Josephine Damian said...

"being ruthless is a necessity"

Goes along with "killing your darlings."

Great craft post, AW!

Travis Erwin said...

Share this quote with you instructor.


Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.
~Colette

WriterKat said...

It's hard to believe you're close to graduation. :-) That course really took you through so much in such a short time. I admire your jumping in.

The information here is great - I am going to use it in my work - it gives editing a new direction.

Thank for all you've shared.

Britta Coleman said...

Great post, and informative. The revision process is such a formiddable beast it helps to have a clear plan of attack.

alex keto said...

your lesson summaries are very good. I'm reading them with great interest. Sort of taking the class without having to take the class