Writerly Notions: The Right Revision

I apparently struggle with revision.

So, it’s not hard to conceptualize a pattern of how to revise. I theoretically break revision up into multi-steps, to address more detailed attention. Like start with making sure the structure works, and so and so until you reach sentence structure. So, yeah, I get that.

But I realized there’s an aspect of revision that really throws me:

how do you know what the right order of a story is?

I can string events in order in my mind, especially if I write it out, but how do I know whether that order — event to event to event — is the best order for the story to unfold in? My criteria right now is whether it flows smoothly; does it seem as if it fits together and does the previous events seem to hook up with the following event. But how do I know for sure it’s best?

Some of this is probably predicated by how I feel writers (and creators) often operate on a “what if?” scenario basis. Which is really odd to me. If I write a story one way, that’s the way it is. Characters might change. Ambitions might change. Plot might change. If it changes as a result of discovering and revising the story, sure. But consciously sitting down to play out different scenarios is kind of…weird to me.

I guess what I’m getting at is that my impression of writers is that they mix and match events (or scenes) to get the best string of events (or story).

My question is then, how do you know which pattern is the best story?

And that gums me up in revision because I don’t know. Or don’t feel like I know. I wish there was a criteria to let me know when I’ve reached the best string of events for my story. That would really help. But I don’t think that exists.

As always, feel free to share your experiences or thoughts. I can’t guarantee I’ll respond quickly, but I wanted to extend the offer.


Writerly Notions: Revision & me

So, for awhile my approach to revising stories, be they short or long, was to either literally revise in-text or to re-write from scratch. The latter was not…the best idea. To wit, I rewrote a 68k word story, to make it fit better with where the story had gone (which is now obsolete), and it ended up at 111k words, having only made it to 2/3rds of the original plot. In other words, it became even more rambling than before.

Recently I came across a suggestion that for revision one should rewrite, not from scratch, but from the already written story. Which I took to mean following its scenes and its order, rather than letting the story meander on a completely new path. (Nothing wrong with letting a revision go to new places, I think, but not letting it just be a new story.)

I’ve always had a puzzle with revision. If I rewrite completely, with only a loose thread, I’m afraid it’ll be a new (worse) story. But if I do the rewrite I read about, it becomes the struggle of not rewriting each scene word by word from what I just re-read so I can remember what’s in the each paragraph/scene.

I wish there was a step by step procedure that would let me know I’m hitting the right “marks” to let me know when I’m revising my story in the right way. Or getting my characters right. Or whatever I need to do. It’s not very clear.

Continue reading

Sifting Revision

Day 9: Feb 9

I have renewed these in lieu of the Refugee Ban in the USA. Inspired by the-cassandra-project and their Every Day Challenge, I am writing every day to raise money for the Urban Justice Center. You can donate here or please spread the word. Thank you.

Thoughts, possibilities, and plots weave together in complex knots. They hang like an impenetrable mess. For every thread unwound or every untangling achieved — I have made progress, my consciousness sings — another new knot is found to bar the way.

[39 words]

Revisions & Me

The times I’ve tried revising a story it always seems as if it gets worst.

In one story, where it doesn’t really start until Chapter 3, in the revision the story doesn’t start until Chapter 9 because of all the additional material. And while adding to a story might be good, it has to improve and strengthen the story. These additions just took up space. 

I realized, after going through each chapter by scene in both revisions, that the first draft actually had a stronger story. Oh, there were plot holes and needless scenes, not to mention lots of room for improvement in dialogue, description, and character development. But the core of it, especially the end, did hold what I feel is the heart of the story. This aspect was lost in the additions of the revision. 

The reason for this was twofold: 

  1. The revision was designed to shift the narrative point of view from limited third person to first person. And the first person POV was a very cumbersome narrator. 
  2. The revision was supposed to set up an important thematic family correlation. This has since been refuted (to an extent), and admittedly always felt at odds with how I wanted the characters to relate via family

Some of the additional plot threads I will still use (there are two major additional story lines), but as for this particular story and its future revisions, I will use them only if they actually contribute to this story. Like I said, the revision should make the story stronger, not cumbersome, boring, or stunted.

I think honestly the problem was that I was trying to rewrite the story. And while, yeah, revisions can basically mean a complete rewrite, the story core should probably stay intact.

In another story, where the original draft starts out with a very clear problem and objective for the protagonist, the first revision went back to her birth and a few snapshots before the original drafts starts. While those scenes aren’t badly written or unnecessary, per se, I do feel that they halt the action. If anything, if I feel they’re necessary enough I would add them later as flashbacks or explanation.

Anyway, these are just some of my thoughts on my revisions. Has anyone else ever had similar trouble?