Learning How To Revise

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway‘s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question to write about on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

This week’s topic: For many, December is a post-NaNoWriMo revision haze! How do you approach editing/revising? Any tips or tricks or resources you can share?

When I was younger — I’m talking, like, 13 — I used to be a nightmare when it came to revising. I would finish a paper for school, call my mother up to the computer room and say, “Here, can you read this over for me?” Cue my mother’s frustrated tears. Why? Well, I, my friends, used to be a wham-bam-thank-you-m’am writer: IE, bang out a story/essay/poem without really finessing or putting in much effort, and immediately seek approval. Yes, that did sound dirty.

Over the years, I have grappled with this very same issue while writing everything from blog posts to full-length novels, but now, working on my first YA book, I’m employing a lot more restraint — and a lot of that comes from my brand-new writing/revising process. Said process is three-fold:

1). Think: Ink-stained wretches just love to cite Ernest Hemingway’s famous quote: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Truer words, kids. Truer words. Yes, my outline is extremely helpful when it comes to actually getting to the bleeding point, but, in the end, I’ve found that all the time I spend thinking — on the subway, in the shower (especially the shower, for some reason) — is pretty integral to my writing process.

When I was little, I used to sit in the car during long trips, staring out the window. My sister would always marvel that I was able to occupy myself for three hours doing what essentially looked like nothing. Well, sis, little did you know — I was usually, 1). Planning out what I would say if I ever met David Bowie, 2). Deciding how many horses I would buy if I won the lottery, 3). Mapping out the perfect crime (worrying, I know).

If you’re stuck on what to say next in your book, maybe you should take a three-hour car ride to Vermont. Or, you know, put down your book for a trainride or two.

2). Bleeeeeed: One trait I retain from childhood is that when I write, I don’t agonize over every word, I just basically word vomit all over the place — getting out all those thoughts and scenes I conceived in the shower/on the train/in the midst of planning the perfect crime.

2.5). Take A Break: Do not go back and read what you just wrote immediately after writing it. It will be bad. You will hate yourself down to the roots of your very soul. Other people — like my mother — will also hate you if they are inflicted with the torture of wading through your blood. So, yeah, take a walk or go to a show or watch an episode of terrible TV that’s not too schadenfreude-inducing.

3). Get Weedy: My journalism professor always said that when editing, you should “get into the weeds of a story.” After spewing blood everywhere and taking some time out, it’s time to start wading (into a realm of mixed metaphors, apparently). Read through all the muck first without touching it. Then step away from the ledge (and slap me in the face for all these cliches). Now comes the fun part of writing: Molding everything you’ve spilled onto the page into something alive. Something real. Veins for that blood to run through and power and revivify.

Now, excuse me while I go revise this post.

This entry was posted by admin on Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 at 6:40 pm and is filed under Uncategorized . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Comments

  1. Alexis Bass says:

    Bleeding – the best way to describe a first draft for sure. Hemingway had it so right.

  2. Miss Cole says:

    Why are showers such great places to get ideas? I need a waterproof notebook for such times.

    I take breaks too. If I don’t, I get so frustrated nothing gets done.

  3. I agree — you absolutely need a break from your work before revising. I try to go in with a clear mind and pretend I am revising someone else’s work.

  4. admin says:

    Wow, thanks for the comments, guys! This blog has been collecting spam comments for a year now. Nice to have real ones.

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