Revision · WIP

Killing Your Darlings aka Revisions

As the saying goes, writing is rewriting. Or, to put it less delicately, I will quote Chuck Wendig. “Writing is when we make the words. Editing is when we make the words not shitty.” And, as an aside, if you are a writer and want to learn from someone who doesn’t pull any punches and has a lot of good, insightful things to say about writing as a craft and a business, check out Wendig’s blog. Although if you’re in any way offended by vulgarity, don’t. Here’s his post on editing.

Anyway, I digress. The first draft is fun. Ideas flow. Plots twist. Characters grow. Other characters die (at least in my books). Relationships form. Relationships die. Mysteries are investigated and solved. Justice is served and the main characters fall in love (again, this is in my books). And, if you’re like me, you let the words fly all over the page. I don’t try to edit much during the first draft. I live by the motto of BICHOK. No, not some new slang term. Butt In Chair, Hands on Keyboard. I work in sprints of 20-30 minutes (often on my break at work) and just write. Which gets me a messy first draft when I’m done.

So revision is necessary. Among many new writers, there’s a misconception that revision means finding typos or incorrectly used their/there/they’re. And of course that’s important. I think of revisions at coming in 4 levels. Macro, middle, micro and polish. Things like grammar and spelling and typos are polish. They’re the last thing.

Macro is the 1st thing, to me. Because if you don’t have the big picture working, the rest become unimportant. Macro is looking at whether the character grows sufficiently and logically. And are the main characters (for a romance, there are always 2 main characters, although each book usually belongs more to 1 of them) interesting people a reader will want to hang out with? Are actions well-motivated? Are plot events logical or contrived? Do plot events make sense or are there gaping holes? Does the conflict and tension build over the course of the book?

Middle is looking at each chapter and each scene. Does each scene work to support that main plot? Does each scene work as a mini-story with all the elements necessary to a scene? Is there enough conflict?

Micro is looking at word choices and sentences. Can I get rid of an adverb and instead use a stronger verb? Can I get rid of most of the 1000+ uses of “just” in the manuscript (“Just” is, by far, my favorite of the throw-away words)? This is the time to read the work aloud to find awkward phrases.

Then, comes the polish, the phase far too many writers think is the only part of revisions. This is the typo, font size pass.

And then it’s done. Or as done as any writer actually considers their work. Which is never.


2 thoughts on “Killing Your Darlings aka Revisions

  1. Great post – yes, editing does have to be done in layers, doesn’t it? Seems we’re never done-done, only done-for-now-done. Because once an agent/editor gets ahold of it, then there will be MORE editing!!!

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