Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I wish I could say that I were revising like a madwoman, but the truth is, I'm only doing a little bit. Writing new scenes in my notebook, making some minor changes for clarity, but mostly getting to inhabit my characters again. I see three or four big things I need to change, and although I would've tackled the big things first because they involve some structural changes, I find that too daunting to do right now. It's easier to focus on the smaller things. I still have a household to finish organizing (because we have too much stuff) and what's really dumb is that I actually want something -- like a swing-bed for the back porch! Talk about being extravagant, but like my manuscript, it's a big thing and I'm not even going to think about tackling it. I'm doing the small things -- tidying up a corner, reorganizing the kitchen so that everything I need is within reach, etc.

When I was at Ruth Schiffman's blog, I came across a very helpful article on revising. Having seen La Buffadora in Mexico myself, I connected with the analogy immediately. The idea is that you let your analytical mind take turns with your emotional side so that when you are revising, you are again in that zone of wanting to tell the story. The author, James Scott Bell (author of Plot and Structure and many other books), says far more than that, but this is what I realize is missing in the way I'm attempting to do my revisions. Too clinical. No heart. Just a faint pulse. Onwards.

Today, help arrived in the way of Second Sight by Cheryl Klein. I already want to sit down and scribble down some things in my notebook in response to some of the questions she poses. I have enjoyed the books she has edited immensely and have read her blog on a regular basis, so I am thrilled to have this book, to have her talks all in one place, to help untangle some of the spaghetti mess in my head. What's funny is that even though I've never met her, it's like curling up with a good friend to talk about books we love.

Here's my cat sitting on the hard copy of my WIP, chirping at a bird that makes its home on the oak right outside my window. As you can see, my feline writing partner plants herself exactly where my attention is, and meows at the appropriate times.

Do you have favorite revision tools? Do share.



Ruth Donnelly said...

I love Second Sight too!
Thanks for posting the article link--I bookmarked it. The advice about recapturing the feeling is great; it's easy to get so caught up in the analytical side of revision, you forget what's at the heart.

MollyMom103 said...

CK is cool. I can totally imagine y'all hitting it off. :) M.

inluvwithwords said...

Oooo, thanks for the link Vijaya. I'm off to click on Cheryl Klein's Second Sight and her blog link now =)

Mirka Breen said...

I have an idea: I’ll write, and outsource the revision. You think that could work?

I admire all who enjoy revising. I love solving specific problems. But when it comes to general fuzzy notions, (coming from critique partners, editors or self) I’m the unhappy reviser.

Faith E. Hough said...

Wow, I really needed to read that. I always hate revising because I don't "feel" my characters the way I do when I'm just telling the story. I guess remembering that revising IS still part of telling the story the way it SHOULD be told is important. Thank you!

Marcia said...

I'm still barely into Second Sight, but I'll get there one of these days.

Favorite revision tool -- you mean other than a cat?

Vijaya said...

Ruth -- I'm glad I'm not the only one who struggles with recapturing the feeling.

Molly -- I think so too. And I met AL a year ago and he was great too.

InLuv-- thank YOU for the great link. I'm a great fan of James Scott Bell so the article was timely.

Mirka -- you make me laugh. My critique partner and I would say *exactly* that. She could revise my book and I would do hers. I used to love revisions, but that was with short stories and articles and short books. A novel is daunting.

Faith -- CK suggests that when you are ready to revise, try telling the story again to a friend so that you capture that feeling.

Marcia -- kitties are the best revision tool (I took a snooze with mine today) and naps definitely boost the creative side of my brain. But yeah, I am looking to fill up my toolbox.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

This is so helpful to me, Vijaya! Thank you! Yes, I need to remember to keep the heart in my revisions.

I hope your revisions go very well and that eventually you are able to have that swing-bed for your porch. :)


Vijaya said...

Thank you Amy.

Mary Witzl said...

I agree wholeheartedly that you need to use your heart AND your head to make revisions.

I love revising and rewriting -- finding things that need rethinking and making the dialogue tighter. For me, it's a puzzle, and doing a good job on it makes me see how far I've come. When I first wrote, I could never see what didn't work. Now it stands out like a sore thumb (provided I leave it for 2-3 months). What I really DON'T like is the rejections, but perhaps after time I'll come to see those in a different light.

Vijaya said...

Mary, I wish I could love revising a novel as much as I do short stories. The sheer length (50-60K) makes the process daunting.

I can say that I'm happy about my rejections (esp. for the earlier stories). They're best to keep in an old box or used for scrap paper :)