Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A is for altitude - the Abcedaria of Revising

Altitude is the first word that popped into my head this morning as I considered this post (and yes, I'm writing in real time). Because that is the word that popped into my head I knew what my theme would be - the Abcedaria of Revising

And why altitude? Because my dear readers (and writers and revisers) we need altitude in order to revise. Some folks call it 'revising from the balcony' - others might say 'give it space and time' so you can see the big picture - how the rivers feed the ocean - how the plot line meanders here and there. How does it work in practice? For a first revision or second draft or whatever you might call it (all the numbers make me nervous especially this time of year) - it is usually a good idea to shelve your hot manuscript for a time - a month if possible - so that you will be able to see it in its totality. If you are further on in your revision process it means that you will probably have to accomplish the art of looking at your manuscript through foggy glasses to see if you can see the big shapes and then up close with a microscope. Back and forth between the balcony and the floor you must go.  To bring in another analogy you must step back from your painting to see what it looks like as a whole and then when you've noticed that something is wrong going in close to see which brush strokes are not adding to the whole thing. Altitude is not you being lofty and not caring - it is so you can see that each word has an effect on the big picture. And yes I said each word! That is why we must kill our darlings as has been said over and over (Faulkner). Because the darlings that you adore cloud your overall vision - they might be lovely but they stand out when you look at your piece from far and above. Like Marilyn Monroe might at a jumble sale - she is perfect but you are trying to tell a story about women fighting over a nice shawl and Marilyn doesn't fit there.

Okay! And here is a photo of altitude! Me coming to North West River the first time by plane...

5 comments:

Dee said...

"We need altitude in order to revise." - I like this! This makes a lot of sense, we do need space in order to revise, and I love how you used the term altitude to refer to this.

A Deecoded Life #AtoZchallenge

Margot Kinberg said...

I couldn't possibly agree more, Jan! Sometimes we get too close to our manuscripts, so that it's hard to see both the good things about it (that give us heart to move on) and the things that need work.

Susan Kane said...

Good title! Over from the A2Z!

Susan Scott said...

so pleased to have found you Jan! A bit of searching. Thank you for this lovely post on altitude et al ... and Faulkner's quote about killing the darlings!

Marion Ueckermann said...

Great blog. I just killed a 1200 word darling the other day, and on reflection realized that the chapter wasn't needed after all :)