Monday, March 28, 2011

Tips from the Tops - Revising help

Tip: Two check-lists to consider when revising - one of the macro-view and one of the micro-view

Top: Susan Bell in her wonderful book The Artful Edit, Norton, 2007

Beautiful, downtown Great Village may have been bustling when I was there this last weekend, but I don't think so. I was hunkered down in front of my trusty, if heavy, laptop revising True. I took along with me one book and one book only - Bell's The Artful Edit and I'm so glad I did. I am now going to list some of the items on the macro and micro views -just enough to give you a sense and also this wonderful explanation of why we can't seem to do this systematically, no matter what.

Ideally, we would first look through the macro-, then the micro-lens: view the big picture, then focus on details. But reading and writing are not systematic. In reality, a person switches from lens to lens as she reads, her eye catching a jumble of images at once. You may, when you edit, try to train the eye to see more or less in sequence. but never expect, nor wish to achieve, a rigid artificial system. Reading must remain as free as the imagination itself. If you control your reading too much, you cease to be involved in it. then what's the point?
Susan Bell, The Artful Edit.

1. Intention
2. Character: palpability, credibility, motive
3. Structure: rhythm, tension
(and three more)

1. Language
2. Repetition
3. Redundancy.
4. Clarity
(and four more)

How it Worked for Me:  Friday and most of Saturday I went into some places that I still felt weren't structurally sound and figured out what to do about it. The rest of Saturday and all of Sunday, I went through each chapter with these two lists in my mind if not in front of me like the lace knitting pattern had to be! I read the book in my breaks and as I've read it before it settled deeper into my mind. The panic I felt when I considered doing everything at once or one at a time like a bad short-order cook nearly had me nuts. The quote above released me from that. To go back to an earlier post- I read everything aloud - every damn word - and asked myself as I read, "is this in the rhythm of the work?".

here's a view from out the dining room where I worked mostly:

and here is something I just liked


Talei said...

I like this view, macro-micro-detail. Excellent advice, thanks so much for sharing.

And, lovely view you have for your writing! Have a wonderful week. ;-)

Margot Kinberg said...

Jan - Such a useful way to think about editing! Wow! Thanks :-) I'm going to have to think about tackling editing that way. If you break it down that way, editing's a lot less intimidating.

Liza said...

I have a hard time lifting myself up to macro view, though I know I need to do so. Thanks. By the way, I love the masthead here! It makes me want to sit down and start typing.

Jan Morrison said...

Talei = thanks for stopping by. Just to clarify - that was my view only for the past weekend - though my view here is pretty nice too!
Margot - I cannot express, adequately, my admiration for this book. I just tell everyone to get it!
Liza - thanks - it is a picture I took at the Elizabeth Bishop house and soon as I loaded it up, I knew it was my new masthead - so writerly, no?

Elspeth Antonelli said...

Jan, thanks for these lists - they've come at just the right time! Now I need to find that book...

Hart Johnson said...

You are so thoughtful in your approach. I'm not sure if I can make myself LOOK that closely... like I think my lenses are fused. I do BIG PLOT and then go to the micro level, but there are several middle steps in here that I think if I THOUGHT about them, I'd end up with something that sounded too intentional... or something.

Dorte H said...

Great point that you should never try to attack everything in one go. I try to tell my students the same when they write essays; proof-read content first and language later.

LTM said...

these are great guides, and more importantly, I am SO envious of your lovely writer's retreat! I keep threatening to et me one of those~ :D <3

Jan Morrison said...

Elspeth - you can get it from the link or find it through Abe Books...
Hart - hmmm...well, I think I sound that way because I'm trying to make the process as clear as I can - I think what you said is exactly why I like the paragraph before the lists - Bell recognizes that we don't opperate that way and to force ourselves to is to squash our creativity. I think, understanding the points on the list and holding them lightly as we go through is the way to go. So, like you do!
LTM - Oh, my deario, you should - I can't always go but I try to at important junctures - it just gives me that bit of a push (kick up the back side) so needed!

Faith Pray said...

This reminds me of years of training in classical music. Honing takes work, doesn't it? Lots of work. I love your tips on how you've focused both in small and big. And the sink shot has such nice lighting!

Jan Morrison said...

Dorte - somehow your comment wiggled in after I made mine! I agree and I think it might be like housework. If you don't dust before you vacuum you are wasting your time. I see no point in polishing something I may have to get rid of - it makes me less likely to cut as I need to!

Faith - it is astounding how much work it is. It makes me want to be very compassionate in crit work!

Alison Stevens said...

I recently took part in a revision workshop and this was the same approach we learned. Start with the macro, end with an evaluation of each and every word. Love the tips!
Alison Pearce Stevens