I’ve spent a couple of weeks going on about rewriting my manuscript: trying to “get the words right,” deepening and sharpening my characters, dumping or rewriting my least memorable scenes. Along the way some of you left excellent suggestions on specific techniques you use while going through this process, so thank you for that. I hope others who visit will benefit from these contributions. I know I have. I’ve made note of all that you posted. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Now that I’m on my last round–I’ve started what I hope is my final read through of a hard copy–I thought I’d go over some of what I discovered on this rewriting experience, sort of a wrap up.
First, while I divided the task into three parts (prose, characters, scenes) that was only a way to make it more manageable. I found it really helped to concentrate on rewriting each part separately, but that sometimes one led to the other. I’d be focused on creating the best relationship of words or phrases and discover that my characters needed to do or say something to define them more clearly. It’s helpful to think about this task in manageable segments, but it’s important to be able to see the whole as you do it.
Second, “less is more.” This is a theme that’s been playing around in my head during the whole rewriting experience. Of course, once you’re concentrating on something you become aware of it all around you, so I’ve stumbled on that philosophy several times. I picked up a book on Bauhaus architect Mies van der Rohe in the library just to look through it and guess what? Clean lines, clarity and visual simplicity popped out of the pages I flipped through. When I needed to confirm a point of grammar I turned to my Strunk and White and here’s what I read: “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short or that he avoid all detail . . . but that every word tell.” Thank you, William Strunk. Yesterday I was tuned to PBS and an interview with Ringo Starr. Guess what he was talking about besides his new album? Yep! Making each musical add to the whole without cluttering the piece–no extra stuff.
Third, I’m no longer calling this process, rewriting. That word carries the idea of “correction.” From now on I’m calling it revision–seeing a manuscript again with new eyes. When I thought about what I started with several months ago and what I have now I appreciate all that sorting, selecting, moving, changing that I did. I realize I accomplished far more than correct; I created a piece of work that fits together into a better whole than it did before.
So let us know when you take on your own revision. Tell us what your experience has been. There are so many ways to approach this task and each writer has to decide what works best for her. Sometimes sharing an idea helps someone else, and what writer among us doesn’t need some help–even if it’s just the comfort of knowing someone besides you is in the revision trench.
Happy Revision Monday