Write on Wednesday-Revision Redux

The revision process continues to be on my mind this summer – notice I said “on my mind,” meaning I haven’t done much more than think about it. The whole process of novel revision seems terribly daunting. I’ve been collecting other writer’s thoughts on their process of revision, hoping to get inspired, and it worked to some degree. I’ve started revising a short story I wrote last winter, hoping that by “practicing” on something smaller, I’ll be less intimidated by the work involved in revising the novel.

Here’s some food for thought regarding the revision process…as you will see, every author approaches it completely differently!

“I start on the first page. Then, I rewrite that page twenty or forty times until it’s right, and then it’s finished. Then, I go to page two and I do the same thing twenty or forty times.” Stephen Dixon

“I go over what I’ve written, but I’m not making major changes. I’m just fixing it by making minor changes that might have a big effect. I hardly throw anything out.” Jayne Ann Phillips

“I do twenty or thirty drafts. I’m a big reviser. I go back…and polish the beginning, then I force myself to go through page by page from beginning to end, over and over again.” Amy Bloom

“I go through with a very cold eye to cut out everything that can be cut without loss.” Thomas E. Kennedy

“I polish as I go along. My habit is to perfect individual sentences, individual paragraphs, and individual pages, and when I think they’re as good as I can make them, I feel free to go on to the next part. So when I write the last sentence of the last paragraph, I’m done with the book.” Kent Haruf

“I do a great many drafts, no matter what it is. This means letting it sit for a few days before looking at it again, then doing it again, then letting it sit and doing it again. I let my friends read drafts after the first ten or twelve. My early drafts are sketchy in the most important ways – everything vital is left out – and they’re wordy in other ways – there’s all this extraneous material that doesn’t matter. So the revisions are in both directions.” Andrea Barrett

“I do a lot of revisions in fits and starts. When I write, I barrel through from beginning to end, and then back up, and if the beginning isn’t working, start over. Once it works, I write through to the end, and start revising, and, if necessary, trash the whole thing, and start over.” Myla Goldberg

Writer Bug posted some great revision advice which she picked up at her last residency. She talks about picking 15 areas you want to work on in your manuscript, and then going through it 15 times, focusing on one area each time. Some things to work with include: verbs, redundancy, verbosity, vagueness. She also advises reading the story aloud, which is a great idea.

As I’ve begun revising my own short story, I’ve been taking one paragraph at a time, revising each sentence, looking for better words, paring down wordiness, then going on to the next paragraph until I’ve finished the page. Then I re-read the page and see how it flows. Once I’ve done each page, I’ll go back and re-read the whole thing to see if I need to make structural changes.

So, how about you? Anyone else out there in the process of revisions? If so, how’s it going?


7 thoughts on “Write on Wednesday-Revision Redux

  1. I call the time before diving into anything that needs revising, “sharpening pencils.” It’s the time I think about revising, getting the work out of the file, making a “tentative calendar date” with myself to do it, reading something inspirational to get in the mood. It’s killing time, putting it off until I can’t stand it anymore. I’m not doing any revision work right now except to do with my life and that is major!!

  2. My focus with revision recently has been with word choice. This was the area my students needed help with in the spring, then I decided I did also. I have been collecting words that I like so I can add them to enrich my writing. Strong verbs have been first and foremost.

  3. Wow! What great quotes you have there. And a great reminder that this process is so individual. All the revising I’ve done has been on the grand level, meaning chopping out scenes that don’t add anything, adding scenes in that explore the character/conflict more, etc. I’m still working on getting to the nitty gritty, word-by-word part of revision.

  4. I’m reworking a manuscript I did about 8 years ago and put away for a ‘while’ 😉

    I looked at it a couple of months ago and thought it was worth revamping and getting out there.

    Great post Becca!

  5. What a public service this post is…thank you! I have to admit I am not a good revisor yet–I am still working on it. I’m still working on finishing my Nano novel, so I’ll come back to this post in about, oh, five years. *sigh*

  6. I’m fascinated by all the unique editing processes and discovered a theme. You are never done editing. lol

    My over analyzing keeps me from moving forward. I’m a hopeless perfectionist. 🙂


  7. I’ve worked as an editor so it’s easy for me. I am ruthless at cutting unnecessary words and sentences that don’t make the story flow. I edit a page at a time, make the corrections, then go back and read the whole thing over again for continuity and flow. Then I make any final changes necessary – before handing it over to my editor for another opinion. Sometimes I hand things in not thinking they’re really finished; sometimes one has to just stop or the revision process could go on endlessly (I am a perfectionist and this is a curse).

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