Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tips from the Tops - back to revising

It is Thursday and time for Tips from the Tops -- I do hope when you read this that you sort of sing that phrase in a cheesy fifties television program way -- and I'm in revising mode. That means I have my editing bible at hand and am reading it like a novel to keep me in the mode. The book? The Artful Edit by Susan Bell -- one I've talked about a fair bit on this blog.

I'm in early stages of revision. I'm in a different state of mind than I've been with other novels I've revised. Why? Because for the most part this one is really done and maybe I was fooling myself with the others. By done I mean that this first draft has a whole entire story beginning to end. Not that it is in any way ready to leave my hands. Except for the person who helps me edit (for the stuff I cannot see) and my writing group which will be looking at it in chunks. I've already received my first crit from them on the first couple of chapters and believe me when I tell you it was helpful. My first chapter rang true but my second wandered and had way too much back story in it. Why is that? Because the second chapter was my original first one. Appears I can't just move it about - I have to pare it way down. Also it was suggested that a big piece of information that I gave out in that second chapter should be held for a big chunk of the book - that I was feeding motive (no not a mystery but we all have motives!) way too early.

All this to say that I'm circling my story like my dog circles his sleeping mat before getting down to it. I am revising from two lists - the macro-view (or what I call the balcony) and the micro-view (the floor). I don't do them separately but kind of dance between the two of them although I try not to get too micro at this stage because I don't know what is staying. Micro-editing at this stage would be like painting the trim in a room you're renovating before you know if the wall is going to stay.

My tip for today is simply to give you the two lists:

TIP : Macro-View
1. Intention
2. Character: palpability, credibility, motive
3. Structure: rhythm, tension
4. Foreshadowing
5. Theme: leitmotiv
6. Continuity of tone

1. Language
2. Repetition
3. Redundancy
4. Clarity
5. Authenticity: image, dialogue
6. Continuity: visuals, character
7. Show and tell
8. Beginnings, endings, transitions

Top : Susan Bell

How it Works in My Life : As I work through each chapter I think about these items. Intention is a big one - it is the goal of each piece of writing and the writing as a whole. My intention for each piece is for it to lead the reader to the climax and have them understand all the forces that lead the characters to make their choices in the story. So I keep asking myself these questions: "What am I trying to do here? Does this bit contribute to the story? Who is this for?"
Right now I'd say that  intention is foremost in my mind. I'm slightly paying attention to foreshadowing at this point and structure - especially rhythm - but I'll get further into those later. As to the theme I have been teasing it out but that is something that I will go back and fold it in with further revisions. Of course as I work I can't help but notice micro-type thingys - language, transitions, clarity, repetition but other than cleaning it up as I see it I am not HUNTING for these things yet. I will though I will. Because most of us have to do both at once - we are simply programmed that way.  Bell says "As you examine your work, turn the lens, and check how your writing looks at each setting." I have to be careful not to get to micro-like right now and put my time into the bigger things like structure etc... and trust myself to take the time for all of it.

How about your revising? Any methods that have helped you?


Hart Johnson said...

So glad you feel like this one is a DONE book... and I know what you mean. I have a few books I'm not sure will ever be DONE, even though they went through a lot of revision. We all have a learning curve, don't we?

My own revisions are not quite so... intentional... and I am wrestling now... Stacy would call them Developmental Edits--the PLOT round. I read it all and marked where scenes needed to be added, made notes on stuff I wanted to change... now I'm doing that, along with cutting stuff that doesn't move the story. Then I will start back at the front again and do the word/sentence/punctuation piece.

Liza said...

My baby is sitting with a reader right now...someone who read it in an early stage and had suggestions. Now I've asked her to read it again, and afterward address questions I have. Have I fixed this part? Does this scene make sense? Is this character credible? All these things are based on feedback I received from readers earlier. Now, I'm kind of strumming my fingers. I'm forced to wait, and yet I want to jump into it one more time. The wait will be good I'm sure, but patience is not my strongest asset. Good luck, Jan!

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I *do* hear Tips from the Tops in a 50s TV way...ha!

Sounds like you've got a really good feeling from this finished manuscript. So excited for you!

I love these tips and the way you've implemented them. :)

Margot Kinberg said...

Jan - I can just picture TV credits flashing across the screen :-). And thank you for the ideas to think about while revising. Sometimes revisions have to be major and sometimes just 'tweaks.' but I think if one doesn't go into them with a plan, the whole process is messy and haphazard. I think the final product is better if the revising has been planned. No wonder you're circling your manuscript carefully...