Monday, October 8, 2012
To Revise Is Not Failure
If you were halfway through a Scrabble game with lines of words and random letters on the board in front of you, do you consider yourself a failure? Of course not. You stay in the moment, organize the letters you have before you and summon potential strategies to choose your next move realizing there may be no exact right or wrong word to be chosen. For example, the word initially played commanding the most points may lock out subsequent words that will garner a greater sum.
Each joining together of separate alphabet letters is not a failure. So too, the combination of ideas, thoughts and emotions written in a first draft may fill a page, but not express the volume of ideas, thoughts and emotions that will be sculptured into a greater vision.
Revision is not editing. It is not changing a comma to a semicolon or any other similar grammatical correction task. Revision is to bring forth from the initial draft the essence or understanding or desire the writer wishes the reader to come away with. Consider the initial draft as raw material. It is the iron ore that will become steel and frame the tallest skyscraper that touches the sky.
Therefore, the first tool for revision is to jettison a focus on grammar and read the entire piece, aloud works best, with particular attention paid to the substance, rhythm and evoked emotion. If desired, have a sheet of paper to jot down any reaction. The key word is jot, not an extensive writing that keeps you away from continuing with the read-through.
It may be hard, but trigger your subconscious to visualize the scene created by the raw material.
Pay special attention to the ending. Does it satisfy the ongoing theme? Was the most important element of the raw material highlighted and fully explained?
Are there underlying themes? Do they choke the main theme or add fashionable jewelry to an already stylist outfit. For example, a romance element can be either a distraction or a spotlight on a character’s defining trait.
After, and only after, the first complete read-through, is it time to focus on specific parts. Do the same technique with the parts as with the whole, i.e., read the entire part.
At each reading, cut the distractions and everything else that doesn’t fit in, mold the ambiguous into a recognizable shape and sharpen the feel and expression of what strikes you as being on target.
Jettison the notion that there are set number of revisions to be accomplished. There isn’t. Your heart and gut will tell you when the best is achieved.