Wednesday, January 18, 2012
I've been revising a lot this week, mostly for school. It's time to gather the pieces for our senior thesis: the three or four BEST pieces we've written over the past four years... while, not surprisingly, have all come from the past year, for me. Anyway, as I am now a writing tutor (and, more importantly, a writer) I've given the revision process a lot more thought, paying close attention to the steps I take to do it. Here's a few tips I have:
1) Start with the big picture. Every story needs a thesis: Yep, not just English papers, even creative works of fiction, though the thesis is usually not stated explicitly. You should, however, be able to clarify what a story is arguing or demonstrating with a short defendable sentence.
2) Every story needs organization: That's right, beginning, middle, and end. While the story doesn't necessarily have to progress chronologically, it should be progressing in someway. This could be in terms of theme, clarity of an idea, character development, etc.
3) If a scene isn't adding anything, delete it.
4)If a sentence isn't adding anything, delete it.
5) If a word isn't adding anything, delete it.
6) Try to get some distance from your work, and go in without judging yourself too harshly. The point of editing is to catch those silly mistakes without anyone ever knowing you even made them. I like to pretend I'm editing someone else's work when I edit, writing comments as I would to a stranger (ex: who is this character? why is she sitting in your kitchen? Even if I know she's my roommate and we always eat breakfast together) and then take a break before going back through and actually making necessary changes based on the comments.
7) When you're starting to feel good about the overall structure of the piece, it's time to narrow down. Focus on things like grammar, sentence structure, and word choice.
8) Get someone else to look over your work and make suggestions. (Take their suggestions into consideration, but by all means, if you don't 100% agree with them, don't make them. At the end of the day, your name is going to end up on it, and yours alone)
9) Edit it on your computer. Print it out and edit it on paper. Then on the computer again.
10) Stop editing. It's never going to be perfect, but when it feels like it's getting close or, more likely, when it feels like it will NEVER get close. Stop. Sit back, do something else. Don't touch it for a few days, and when you come back to it, you'll probably be amazed at how much better it is than you thought.