Thursday, February 10, 2011

Revision Wisdom

I don't think Jesus was thinking about revisions when he called out the Pharisees for being so quick to notice others' flaws while being so blind to their own. But he was God, so it's possible he knew how his words would be twisted.

In a previous life, I was an editor for ten years, and I loved my job. Line editing was second-nature to me. I didn't even notice correcting grammatical errors as I read manuscripts, and like a good detective, sought out where they fell short or where passages overlapped or repeated. I could even suggest ways to fix them.

Why is it so hard for me to do this with my own writing?

I'm deep in the Heart of Revisions (which is like Darkness, possibly even west Texas), I'm also juggling near full-time employment, so my blog-rounds have been poor. But I see the light way (way) ahead, and I know it won't be long (maybe) before I'm finished and I can get back to normal human existence.

I can bathe, clean my house, rediscover friends and family, bleeps.

A critter gave me one of the best pieces of revision wisdom recently--maybe it was the way she said it, I don't know. I'm going to share my paraphrase of it with you now. She said, "Don't take for granted that your reader will intuitively understand this."

She was talking about a scene in which my main character chooses not to do something because of her background and location. Her background is she's a preacher's kid, so she's grown up saturated in religion and seeking God's purpose in everything, and her location is Smalltown, U.S.A., which has its own unique forms of social control.

Now to a secular reader not raised in church, living in Big City, U.S.A., why my MC makes the choice she makes could easily be baffling--and clearly is based on the revision letter I received.

My job is to make it clear.

That sounds really easy, doesn't it? (insert laugh track)

Your turn! What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever gotten? Besides "just keep writing" (or my version, "just keep swimming"?)

Have a great weekend, reader-friends. Even though I'm missing, as Willie and Elvis said, you're always on my mind.

Til Monday~ <3

30 comments:

Pk Hrezo said...

Hey there! Missed ya round the blogosphere.... but hey, we all understand when life has other plans for us.
I think your advice there is one of the important ones. Trust the reader to make intuitive leaps. And RUI. (resist urge to explain.)
My big ones are redundancy and showing instead of telling. I'm always surprised to find areas where I've done this STILL, after writing and revising knowing these things. I still make the errors.

Good luck with yours. Trust the reader A little "showing" goes a long way without having to explain.

aspiring_x said...

i'm a bit of the opposite. i tend to overexplain where it isn't necessary. so WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF HAVING THIS? is something i try to ask myself about every single thing i write. :)

Tracy said...

Best piece of advice I got on writing: Readers are smart enough to understand the basic laws of nature. You don't have to describe a character moving from one side of the room to the other, just mention that he does.

KarenG said...

I'm wracking my brain thinking of the best piece of writer advice...and it would have to be what you got as well, to consider the reader. This is everything. Put yourself in the reader's shoes/head/heart/eyes whatever.

Dawn said...

Although it doesn't apply to the revision process, the best advice I've ever been given is to sometimes say: I give myself permission to write crap today.
Sometimes I just need to let go of (perceived) perfectionism and vomit on the page. Holding too tight to creating "perfect" sentences gives me writer's block.
And drives me to drink...

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

The best advice I received was that secondary characters need to be as round as the primary ones. Even though most of what a writer knows about a secondary doesn't make it into the ms, the writer has to know his or her past, goals, fears, education, etc., etc. Otherwise, the character's actions and dialog will sound flat and unbelievable. Spend as much time crafting the little players as you do the star roles, and you're story will be all the more compelling.

Good luck with revisions, sweetie!!

Colene Murphy said...

Yep, I'm the opposite. Haha! I over explain. Again. And again. And often, again! But that is the joy of beta readers and critique partners. They tell you before you go and query! Have a great weekend!

Elle Strauss said...

I like your friends advice--it's easy to think your reader understands because WE know the situation so well!

Matthew Rush said...

I wrote about this (sort of) yesterday. It can be so hard to judge the reader you don't know yet. I mean you have no idea how many people could end up reading something, and people are SO different. Sometimes you have to trust the reader, and sometimes you have to lead them.

Hart Johnson said...

I think the one about dialog... that even though people really USE a lot of 'well', 'uh', 'um', and 'like' in how they speak, less is more to the reader--establish a character does it, sure, but sprinkle lightly.

Also had a GREAT plot save from a 'running a little high on coincidences here' that helped me think about plotting on a new level.

And since you aren't really getting around this week, I accused you publicly of having charisma. So there.

Jessica Bell said...

Oh, jeez it's too late to think! Um, I'm just going to say good luck on the revisions and I know you can do it! ;o)

DEZMOND said...

this is an age old question - why do the hairstylists usually have the worst hairdos, why are the fashion designers often badly dressed, why are editors unable to edit themselves :))

Old Kitty said...

Mine was something like "keep your adjectives/adverbs to two or less per paragraph". LOL!!! I tended to waffle and be in adverb/adjective overload when I first started writing stories! LOL!

Take care
x

Summer Ross said...

Being close to your writing makes it harder to see it objectionably.

Whats the best advice so far: Write up a character sheet to get to know your characters :)

LTM said...

It's always great to hear your thoughts--I can always use additional wisdom... :D I emailed those I could~
@PK--that RUI was a biggie for me on DN, and then it seemed I over-corrected! *snort* Now I'm hearing "more explanation, please" :D <3

@Summer--It's so true. I'm trying to get better at getting the 3-D, technicolor image that's in my head onto the page. ;p

Thanks, guys!

Anne said...

:D my best advice has been: polish polish polish. It got me my first request for a full.

LTM said...

@Anne--Yay!!!! So excited for you~ :o) <3

DL Hammons said...

This is an area where I feel CP's can accidentally trip you up. If you have five CP's and one of them is confused by a passage you've written, the tendency is to revise for further explaination. I feel you need to resist that urge because one in five of the reading audience will miss the point, but if you over-explain then four of five will read to much explanation. Make sense? :)

Carolyn Abiad said...

Someone I know gave me a good tip: "We waited 300 pages! You need to give us more!" *ahem* in the EQ department, that is! :D Late again this time, sorry! <3

Donna Hole said...

Wish I could spot the flaws in my writing as easily as I spot others :)

I'm afraid I've read mine so often I see how it should read, not how it does.

Good luck with those revisions and the return to humanity.

..........dhole

walk2write said...

Maybe writing for the reader is like preaching to the choir. It usually doesn't accomplish much if redirecting someone's train of thought is what you're after. I guess the best question to ask is what am I trying to do with my work? Entertain? Inform? Instruct? Shed some light on a dark situation? Make a difference? Just sell a load of books?

Ella said...

Great advice; My best advice so far is show don't tell, which is easier than it sounds. What else is new...
anything that sounds easy, is not!

YOU can do it!!! 555 xXx

LTM said...

@dhole--*snort*, great moniker, btw! I hear you about reading so many times. I've read MINE so many times, I think "is this still entertaining to someone?" But that's where our dear dear critters come in and save the day~ :D Thanks for visiting~

RaShelle said...

Hey Leigh - find reaaly good crit partners. *ahem* I have one really, really good partner. I'm looking for two more. *ahem* I was wondering... well how many partners do you have? xoxo

Anyhoo, I agree though. When writing, we need to write for thousands, not just a few.

Lynda Young said...

yep, I can't seem to edit my own work as well. lol. I think it's because I'm too close to it so I'm not only reading the words I've put on the page, but I'm also reading the images that have remained in my mind. Oops. Therefore, the best advice I got? Get a critique partner. They are great for finding those murky sections in the ms.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I got the opposite words of wisdom. Trust that your reader gets it. So naturally I spend a lot of time debating with myself whether or not the reader is going to get something. ;)

Lydia K said...

Ugh...revisions! I'm in it now. So painful. I'm always afraid of dumbing down the story so sometimes I don't explain enough. Well, all I can say is thank god for betas and crit partners!

Vicki Rocho said...

No one gave it to me personally, but the thing that really hit home is when I read that passive sentences were a way of distancing yourself from responsibility. Kinda an act of diplomacy. I had been chastised for YEARS about passive sentences but I never saw them until I read this tip. Now I slay passive sentences for breakfast.

Lisa said...

I do this all the time! I can never catch my own mistakes, but I can spot them in other people's work a mile a way (I'm an editor now, too!). That's why great CP's are so valuable.

Oh, and your WIP sounds awesome. I love books with religious themes.

Kittie Howard said...

I agree with Karen G; it's all about the reader. I write Southern stories. Hub's from New Hampshire. When I read my story aloud to him, I keep a corner of my eye focused on his facial expression. If he furrows his brow a bit, I know I'm speaking another language.