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.

How do I know if one sentence works better than another one? How do I know if one plot point works better than another?

And if I can figure that out, how do I….well, I was going to say, how do I revise? But I think I just have to do it. It may be tedious and repetitive if I’m just rewriting what’s already there, but it’d be worse to rewrite a new story that’s worse.

I feel like my brain, because it’s so geared to “parroting” text or audio, will want to retain what I re-read in my story. Which might be why revising in-text is easier for me. I make the revisions directly in the text by how it sounds or flows in the immediacy of me reading it. The trouble with that, though, is it doesn’t let me… Well, I’m not sure what, but I feel like there’s something.



3 thoughts on “Writerly Notions: Revision & me

  1. Awesome post, and I think this is a wonderful question. This comment will be a little long as it will talk about how I discuss revision. If you don’t want to read it, I suggest heading over to the Hugo-award winning podcast “Writing Excuses” and listen to some of their episodes on revision.

    1. Rough Draft (mine are complete crap)
    2. Draft 2 results in me fixing major plot and character problems that I knew I had during the rough draft
    3. Draft 3 involves me adding in more depth to the characters, try/fail cycles for the plot, and improving description of the scenes.
    4. I give the work to alpha readers and they give me feedback in regards to clarity, pacing, and emotional impact
    5. Draft 4 involves me revising the story based on the feedback from my alpha readers
    6. Draft 6 is all about cutting unnecessary words and improving the line level flow and diction of the piece
    7. Beta readers read the whole work and give me feedback in much of the same way that my alpha readers did
    8. Using beta feedback such as “I felt sad in the scene” I try everything I can to amplify the emotions that they already felt. In addition, I try cutting sections they felt bored.
    9. Proofread: I use the text/voice feature and listen to the work in order to better catch any typos that slipped through.
    10. At this point I have a final draft and I send it out to one of SFWA’s pro markets.

    This is just my process, so it might not work for you. Good luck with your writing!


  2. Pingback: Writerly Notions: The Right Revision | Work-In-Progress

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