Thursday, January 1, 2015

January 2015 — Revising Fiction

#1 Revision is a Process

When you race to get books up before they are ready, or not care that the manuscript is not your best work, that stuff stays around forever—and hurts you.  — Susan Meier, Author

Nothing causes more aversion, angst, depression, distaste, and frustration then having to revise and rewrite. Editing in all its forms seems like a never-ending torture. But here's the thing— clarity trumps all rules. If the story isn't clear to the reader, then you have failed to share your stories, your views, your characters, and your plot's twists and turns.

Readers are the judge, jury, and executioners of books and stories. Most writers realize this when their books don't sell, or they see one-star reviews that basically say, "there's a story here, but it's not well told."

So, if you're mindful that readers only have the words on a page to go by to visualize a movie in their mind of your story, you must face the reality that all manuscripts benefit from editing. Of course, there's the expense of hiring developmental and copy editors (who are worth every penny), but it is best to hire them after you've self-edited your story and made it the very best you can.

To be proficient at self-editing means taking time to educate yourself on the aspects of storytelling and learn all the craft, techniques, and devices of fiction you can. After all, writers are self-taught— and basically self-educated. How-to books on writing fiction, storytelling, and craft techniques abound. Notice I said books, not those blog entries and essays you'll find online. Those short pieces cannot delve into every aspect of a technique or device, but a book does. Knowledge is power— and it can help your work stand out to readers and give you an edge when submitting to publishers.

Such knowledge also means self-editing minimizes the aversion, angst, depression, distaste, and frustration because you can change your mindset and adopt the mantra of—

                         REVISION IS A PROCESS

That's right, "revision is a process." A logical, straightforward process where you don't try to fix everything at once. You break down the monumental task into component parts and work on only an item or two at a time.

Okay, so the reality is that creative people, especially writers, hate logic and straightforwardness. And it's a fact that logic and creativity have always been at war with each other. After all, creativity gives a writer a buzz, a high like no other. It's the fun part of writing and storytelling. On the other hand, revising, rewriting, and self-editing are linear, logical, objective— and absolutely no fun.

But writers can find a middle ground. Revision-as-a-process actually enables you to be creative because you not only create a one-of-a-kind (it works-for-you and only you) "Revision Master Cheat Sheet" or "Revision Master Plan," but you also employ creativity to fix problems, add depth to characterizations, and create better scenarios that wow a jaded editor or reader. In other words, let the editor-self point out the problems and let the creative-self solve them.

Revision-as-a-process starts with big items and works down to the final edits for punctuation and grammar. As I announced in December, each of the 2015 Writers Cheat Sheets' blog posts will deal with an aspect (or a how-to step) of the revision process.

However, there is one thing a writer should do before self-editing anything. And that is to develop a way to switch from a subjective, creative writer to a logical, objective, editor-mode. The best way, and the most recommended way, is to set the manuscript aside for a few weeks, maybe a month or longer. That's so the highly creative joy of the characters and the story's plot fades. You see, at some point, the creative mind will tire of the story and want to move on. Which means, the creative-self won't aggressively interfere with or shun the editing.

This also allows the conscious mind (the logical, editor-self) to objectively look at and analyze structure, flow, and the actual meaning of the words, punctuation, and grammar in the manuscript.

So, if you've been struggling with revisions or editing your work, how about setting your story aside and take time to put together your very own Master Revision Cheat Sheet? Maybe begin a computer file or, better yet, a three-ring binder in which you put a hard copy of this post (and the ones to follow) to refer to when needed.

The 2015 posts will be —

January 2015 — Revision is a Process — An Overview
February 2015  — The How-to of Revising
March 2015 — The Big Picture — Chapter by Chapter Revelations
April 2015 — The Big Picture — POV-Viewpoint
May 2015 — The Big Picture —  Plot
June 2015 — Characters Who Matter
July 2015 — Show Don't Tell —  What to Cut
August 2015 — Show Don't Tell —  Adding Essentials
September 2015 — Show Don't Tell —  Dialogue
October 2015 — Special Checks
November 2015 — Punctuation Pitfalls & Grammar Glitches
December 2015 — Read it Again

*** Questions and comments are welcomed and are always answered.

*** This blog is updated the 1st of each month and the next topic is "The How-to of Revising" 

*** Permission is granted to forward a link to this blog or mention it on any social media.

*** "Terrific Titles—and all inclusive guide to creating story titles" and other Writers Cheat Sheets are available HERE 

***@2015 by Catherine E. McLean, All Rights Reserved