Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Independent Writer: Part Two

This is a new blog, with only a few posts as yet. So, in order not to confuse the hundreds of thousands of followers sure to come I've changed the name of the blog before that happens. That way only a few of you will be confused. What? You didn't notice?

I'm not going to blog just about writing. That would get boring. But today I'm going to follow up on the last post, where I mentioned the dreaded "R" word, revision. Then I'll move on, I promise.

For me there are two parts to revision. The first part is revision of the draft. That's where you go back through everything, fix plot glitches, make sure all the characters are consistent, make sure chapter numbers are consistent, etc. etc. For me that's an ongoing process as I write. Each time I sit down at the computer I revise what I wrote the day before. That brings me back into the stream. It makes it easy to pick up the thread. Many writers don't do that, but it works for me. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about a line or a scene or a new plot twist or improvement. I put that in before I get on to the new bits.

A rule of thumb I picked up somewhere is second draft equals first draft minus ten percent. You have 80,000 wonderful words? Toss out 8000 of them (I feel your pain). As Stephen King says, "kill your darlings." His memoir On Writing should be every writer's companion. It's a true gem, full of things writers need to know, as well as a fascinating personal story.

Okay, you did that. The second part of revision (again, it's ongoing) is editing. Unless you are lucky enough to have a good, professional editor, you have to learn to do it yourself. Since Indie writers are self-published, it's essential to figure it out. Study books you like and learn from them. Unnecessary adjectives, almost all adverbs, long obscure sentences, unclear attribution, punctuation mistakes-they all have to go. Organizing and developing the characters' thoughts in a clear cohesive manner. Description that conveys sense and feeling. Smooth transitions from scene to scene and chapter to chapter. Believable dialogue. Knowing when to end a chapter, when to begin one, the sequence of the chapters (not always what you thought). That's some of it. I'm still learning, which I expect will continue until I fall over onto my keyboard and shuffle off this mortal coil with just one more revision in mind.

Oh, good. It's revised. Now print it out. Oh, oh. It looks different on the printed page. Revise and edit.

Then, after you've done all that, do it again. And again. And again. At some point you will realize you've done all you can. That's when you put it away for a month, take it out and do it again.

Still want to be a writer? I hope so.

1 comment:

  1. A recent article I read had the opposite view about using "said." That writer advocated abandoning other verbs such as "commented' "remarked" "interjected", etc., altogether in favor of using "said" and nothing else. I personally like to use other verbs for variety; otherwise the conversation begins to sound like a Sgt Friday interrogation: Just wants the facts, ma'am. And as deadpan as can be: he said, she said, they said, he said something else, etc.


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