I wonder if anybody has concerns about whether they truly know how to revise. My first experience with an actual editor, as opposed to kindly readers who had comments, was like stepping through an open elevator door in the dark: is there support there or am I stepping into an empty space?
Luckily, I was working with an editor who was both kindly and skilled. Over the course of several books and working with three editors, I’ve picked up some useful revision techniques. These are the ones I try to incorporate before a manuscript hits the editor’s desk:
I look for places where I’ve stepped away from the heart of the character and now I’m observing more than living the part. I use the search feature on my word processor to find “I thought” or he, she, or it thought, or decided, or worried, or wondered, or saw, or knew, or heard, or believed, or smelled, or tasted, or felt, or did anything else that is an internal or sensory process that might go undetected by an observer.
Sometimes it’s a big revision effort: I saw that she knew that I’d heard. . . Whew. Hard to miss the fact that sentence is going to need a fix.
But this problem usually shows up in a sentence that reads: "I thought I’d look in on Grandma, see if the Big Bad Wolf has been bothering her"—and that can be harder to spot in reading our own work.
Sentences with this hesitant structure (hesitant because it’s working up to a statement of the action we intend) can nearly always be improved by going right to the point with an interior comment that is more active: Why don’t I stop by Grandma’s? See if that wolf is making a pest of himself again.
Hesitating: I believed I’d done the right thing, and I knew I could defend my actions.
Right out there: I’d done the right thing. “You can’t bully me.”
Hesitating: He saw she’d stopped before she said something she’d regret.
Right out there: She’d paused, most tellingly, to choose her words carefully.
Hesitating: She felt her old fear of public speaking creeping in again.
Right out there: As she stepped up on stage, her legs were trembling so hard her silk pants shivered.
That technique always leads me directly to the one
i'll talk about next month, showing emotions. This isn't meant to be a "if you show up next month. . . " It simply occurred to me how long it took me to incorporate this technique with any effectiveness. I had to learn to see this mistake in other people's writing, as well as my own. So that's what I recommend you do this month. Look for this error, or the lack of it, in everything you read.
Audrey Couloumbis, who is usually on time, is late today. I've plugged in photos of various more or less messy reading corners (more messy being the trend), hoping they entertain while you think about how to use this suggestion.
meanwhile. . .
Audrey Couloumbis is the Newbery Honor-winning author of Getting Near to Baby. She sometimes writes sad stories with a happy ending, and she's published by St.Martin's Press, G.P. Putnam, and Random House. Look for her books at your favorite bookstore.
Or look for her. She'll be the one in her pajamas.
Meet the Wednesday Blogateers
First Wednesdays will feature Orel Protopopescu, multi-published award -winning author and poet.
Follow our Blogs!
Join our Tribe
and receive 7 Steps to Creative Happiness, access to free webinars, and lots more!
Your email addresses are always safe and respected with us.