Apr

18

2011

Are Revisions an Optical Illusion?

Filed under: Uncategorized

Right now my writing journey is focused on 1st round revisions for my editor and all weekend, when life is crazy busy with family and only snatches of writing, I find myself looking forward to Monday.  It’s when I immerse myself completely in my manuscript.  It’s become akin to waiting for a good show on TV–a really good show like So You Think You Can Dance or the Closer.  I‘m not going to lie, revision used to confuse the heck out of me.  It wasn’t a great TV night.  Okay–I dreaded it.  It was sort of like looking at this…

I could see two face and people kept telling me that there was also a vase.  Seriously–a VASE in the picture too!  And yet, I couldn’t find it.  Well–I could see the vase in real life–but not the revision vase.  LOL!   Then things changed and I started to notice the revision vase too.

How did I get to the place where I could do revisions and maybe even like them?  Here’s what I had to do…

I had to learn to be a better writer.  Period.  Just because this statement is punctuated with a big fat period, doesn’t mean that it’s a one-step kind of a thing.  Learning to be a better writer is a multi-step process.
        
 *READ-Read in your genre and read out.  Read for pleasure–to know what transports you into another world–but also read as a writer.  Study how the magic and the mistakes are made.  Lastly, read books on craft. I discovered so much about revision that I didn’t know from reading what other professionals in the field had to share.

*WRITE-Talking about writing is not the same as writing.  Just like talking about exercise doesn’t get you the same results as doing it.  You might have to put your manuscript in a drawer for a couple weeks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be writing a blog post, a poem, a picture book, a short story, a letter to the editor or a new book.  Just write, because the more you do it, the better you get at it.  For arguments sake, you should know that I do A LOT of mulling things over in my head.  It works for me, but you must still take what is going on in the old noggin’ and place it on the paper.  I simply think, that some people like to do their thinking with their fingers and some people like to do it in their head space.  The end result remains–lots of writing.

*LISTEN-Use your ears and a little bit more.  It’s so hard to listen.  I know, I’m a blabber mouth and you’ve got to be quick to get a word in edge wise with me.  I’m always trying to be a better listener.  It’s a struggle. But I also mean that you need to listen with trust.  I haven’t met a lot of people in the children’s lit business that are trying to cut me down.  I find that most of the people that I’ve bumped into on this journey have good intentions and they try to help each other out.  This doesn’t mean that their advice is always right for me, but it does mean that they may have something useful to tell me about my writing even if I don’t make that particular change.   I think there’s a big difference in how I take suggestions when I feel defensive and when I feel safe.  When I feel safe, I trust that all criticism is about my work and not about me as a person.  I feel like, even when I’m not on the same page as the person doing my critique, they have my best intentions in mind. Because I get so much more out of those kind of interactions, I really make an effort to try to listen with trust.  It doesn’t always work, but when it does, amazing things can happen.

*LOVE-I know you think I’m going to tell you to love your story; love your characters.  I thought about it, but I think that’s too easy.  You must do that and we all know it.  You can’t spend that much time with folks you don’t love. I think the concept of love is more than that–I think you have to love yourself.  Of course this is my freaky method of revision, and we know that everyone has their own little quirky ways that work for them, but writers are also thieves and in case you do want to steal a tip or two, this is the one that works the best for me.  Love yourself enough to be a little afraid of what you write…

What does that mean?  I think the very best writing comes when you explore the hardest to reach parts of yourself.  I use my writing to focus on a lot of things that I don’t have the courage to poke at in the light of day. I’m learning to love myself enough to believe, that the things I think, are worth having a voice.  The hard part of this is that at some point (Fall 2012) I will be throwing that voice out into the public, where I will no longer be able to completely control what happens to it.  Will the reader see two faces or maybe a vase?  Will the cashier at the grocery store analyze what’s in my cart with what’s in my book?  Maybe people will see something more than my words, something I never intended.  Or maybe I did know what I was thinking, but I didn’t let myself see it.  Perhaps they’ll love what they read, or perhaps they’ll want to ban it.  I don’t know what people will think and it’s scary.

But what I do know is that it’s even harder to write from a superficial place.  I know because I’ve done it and that journey led me to a place where I didn’t write at all. Having spent a significant amount of time in the “Land Without a Voice”  I know that there are bigger things to be afraid of.  So when you’re revising, love yourself enough to be a little afraid of what your write. If you do, your revision might take you from that black and white optical illusion to this…


…something worth talking about.

What’s your best revision tip?

  

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  1. Let's see…my best revision tip is "distance." I find, if I leave something I've written alone for a while (whether a few weeks, or a few months), the things that need work pop out for me. It's like seeing the whole thing with new eyes, and helps me tremendously.

  2. You let the boys in the basement do some work! *grin*

  3. Hmmm… I think that what helps me more while revising is making lots and lots of different Word documents, each with a different version, and I don't lose anything, because, in the end, I always end up using things that I thought I would never use again. And knowing I have everything backed up makes me relax 😉

    Awesome pics, btw… I'd seen them before, but the second pic never ceases to amaze me! 😀

  4. Computers are a beautiful thing!! I'm fascinated by that pic too.

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