Saturday, April 4, 2015

D is for Details

D is for those pesky details in the Abcedaria of Revising.

Details details details! This is the other side of Altitude - down on the forest floor, trees soaring above you, you are on your hands and knees sorting through the pine needles for some thin sliver of a fact that you are sure is in this duff somewhere.

(duff for you who don't enjoy the rural world I inhabit, is the fine residue of decomposing organic material one finds on the forest floor)
Details are the micro-view one must spend time in while revising. That means that every word (brush stroke) counts for the total mood you are after. This is no time to say in true Scarlet O'Hara fashion "I'll think about that tomorrow" for, my friend, revision is the tomorrow you've been putting off!

Here are a few of the details you'll be sifting through -

  • word choice (is it truly the exact word you need here or did you plop it in during your mad dash through the first draft to wait until now. This is now!
  • repetition and redundancy (both repeating words ad nauseum, and  hammering a single idea in the belief that the poor stupid reader needs you to, fall under this detail) 
  • clarity - this is the thin line between boring redundancy and being poetically vague. We, the reader, need to understand what is happening. That means you also need to. If you don't - believe me we readers won't think you are subtle and artistic - we'll think you're a chump. And we'll be right.
  • consistency with facts and character. If your character hates cheese in chapter two, don't have him tucking into a big wedge of Wensleydale cheese with gusto in chapter 17.
  • making it real - this is a down on the forest floor item of great importance. When you go through your manuscript go through with a nose to falseness. Would my character really say this or am I just trying to force my plot point through? Would there be a  taxidermist just idly wandering through the art gallery when my plot needs one or do I have to find another way to get them in the story? Like that only better.
  • Weed through any summaries you may have deposited because on your mad dash through the first few times you didn't have time to make it real. NOW is NOW! Less tell, more show.
Okily Dokily - that's D for today - have a nice Easter Sunday if that's how you roll and see you on Monday!

Here's a sunrise over our beach (think it might have been December - no ice now - just three or four feet of snow...


Marion Ueckermann said...

I am really enjoying your blog, Jan. It's interesting and informative, but most of all, it's challenging.

Arlee Bird said...

Word choice is one writing detail that I tend to pay attention to but don't know that I'm often successful. I've forever looking up words that I should know or searching for synonyms so I don't keep using the same words. Seems like I should have it all memorized by now.

Arlee Bird
A to Z Challenge Co-host
Wrote By Rote

Shirley Corder said...

Enjoyed today's blog, Jan. I'll be back. Enjoy the challenge!

Shirley Corder
A to Z Challenge "Out of Africa" (

Sue Travers said...

I'm unlikely to write a book Jan, but I appreciate the effort that goes into them, and it's obvious when the author hasn't followed your advice!

D is also for drained, which is why I'm not doing the challenge this year, but it's good to see it going strong!


Margot Kinberg said...

Oh, the devil is most definitely in the details, as the saying goes! You're so right, Jan, that part of revising work is looking at those little details; and to me, it's surprising the powerful impact they have on the final product.

Jan Morrison said...

I know I'm supposed to love the A to Zed challenge for expanding my readership but I really love it for reconnecting with old friends!

Trisha F said...

The trick is to not focus on the details too early on, too - e.g. before you've sorted out the general 'meat' of things ;)

Rob Z Tobor said...

I always just write and hope for the best. But I just write my little stories on the blog for fun so never worry about anomalies. If folk notice them I can usually find a good reason why someone can suddenly like cheese. . . . .MMMmmmmmmmm OK I cant right this second.

Keep up the good work.

Rob Z Tobor

Tamara Narayan said...

Great advice. It amazes me how I can read something 10 times in a row and not notice until the 11th that I've used the word "rumbling" twice in two consecutive sentences.

Your taxidermist in the art gallery made me laugh. Set this in the Corning Museum of Glass in upstate NY! While visiting this past Wednesday, one of my favorite pieces was a huge, ruby glass chandelier smashed on the floor with stuffed (real) crows perched about it. Very Poe.

Susan Scott said...

Been battling to get here Jan! What number are you on the A-Z list? Maybe that'll help me. Adverbs are supposed to be not overused, and I've found when I revise that taking them out makes for sharper writing. Tautology .. such an easy trap for me to fall into. Thank you for this great post.

Ann Best said...

I've got to do catchup with your posts. I love this stunning photograph -- such visual details. And I agree with Susan's comment above...don't overuse adverbs. I prefer tight writing.

A good D post...

ainehannah said...

Great advice and a lovely blog, I'll enjoy revisiting :-)

Karen Jones Gowen said...

I have to leave the details for the final drafts or I'd get completely overwhelmed!