Tag Archives: Revision

One Writer On Revision

I’m in between projects at the moment (literally; if I don’t get my critiques back this evening I’m going to pull a writing prompt and start a new story), so I wanted to share some thoughts I had on revision. I like my revision process. I have two elements of writing, the muse, whom I often envision is a blip of fuzzy blue light (she has no voice, just an overbearing presence at times), and the editor, he is also intangible, but he’s got this enormous red pen wherever he goes, so it’s easy to draw him in: I just pick up his red pen.

I love revising. The second draft is where the story truly comes alive for me. My subconscious did a lot of work during the bang-it-out-fast first draft, and this is where I go picking through the treasure. The step is read the story, and this is where muse and editor dance, sometimes in unison sometimes in the most discombobulated imitation of a pre-k dance recital. Amusing, yes, but not productive. That’s because not every story really works. Some stories can’t be fixed. Those stories were practice. But I still do this process for those because it’s experience I can learn from. (That doesn’t mean I spend the week inputting those changes: it’s the analysis that’s important).

Back to the reading: as I do, I outline each scene on a sheet of notebook paper, just using the left half of the page. As I’m reading, I realize where the scene went wrong or missed something, so on the right side, I record/outline what the scene should be, aligning it to fit the story I wanted to tell, rather than the story I told.

During this read-through, I’ve got my red pen and I circle grammar and misspellings; paragraphs that cover the right material but need to be rewritten because the writing is crap, those paragraphs get a vertical red line in the ride margin. I don’t worry about fixing these until the input phase because I need the muse to put the puzzle back together. The editor is just telling us what’s wrong.

I prepare another sheet of paper, unlined if possible (lines are too constricting for this part). Ideas are coming to me–the muse is starting her dance–things that needed to happen that didn’t, mentions that were never born, or elements that repeat throughout the story. I number these down the page. It can be something as small as “change hair to long and blonde” or “foreshadow the tools she needs for her self-rescue”. Anywhere in the manuscript this needs to come up, I write the number in the margin on the left and circle it. I’ll refer back to this sheet during the input phase. I should mention that this kind of stuff, story elements rather than writing mechanics end up in blue ink. The manuscript is so marked up, it bleeds.

It keeps the muse happy, just as the red keeps my editor happy.

It takes me about 2 – 3 hours (about 2 writing sessions) to get this part done. The inputs take about a week. Then I pass it on either to a crit group if I’m feeling good about it, or to a friend or two if I know something is off but can’t quite figure it out. Reader comments often shine a light on something I missed, so it’s helpful. Then I can go in, fix these items, then present the story to one of my crit groups or buddies.

While I’m waiting, for feedback, I’ll either work on another smaller project or work on doing critiques for other people. But when the feedback comes back, I print the clean manuscript, and mark it up with the comments (or just circling). I then get to see where the holes are and were something bothered a lot of my readers. I take a few days to make, brainstorm, research, and polish. I have a checklist that I review during the polish to make sure I reviewed my weak areas plus a reminder of short story basics (sometimes those disappear if I’m too excited – it’s good to make sure they stay in the story.) Then I submit it. I do like to wait a day before submitting. Sometimes something will jump out at me or hit me overnight in my sleep.

I thoroughly enjoy the process. It’s the perfect balance of analysis and creativity that doesn’t exist any place else in the world for me.



I had decided not to write the short stories until Nighthunter was submitted, and that’s when I got the idea for Hunting the Reds and wrote it yesterday. And then again today, SAD #2 came to me. I had to dig into it, and work through the characters more thoroughly, but I’ve got the story and the resolution and just need to type it out. And again, my muse has shelved my story for revision.

So I am politely thanking her for her help, but suggesting she take a nap, or think on story #2 a bit more while I get Nighthunter in order. Lunchtime is here: I’m jumping onto the revision before my muse can throw anything else my way.

returning to balance

Life is balance. My metaphoric balance of responsibilities is about as bad as my physical balance: it needs work. So I’ve added fitness goals back into my routine, which consequently means I’ll be losing writing time, but getting better sleep, and maybe better able to wake up early for those AM writing sessions.

I’m using lunchbreaks for weights, classes, and running, and tonight is the first weekend day that I’ve managed to fit any exercise in. I’m up to 20 minutes on interval running. I think it’s a good start.

But now it’s off to the writing. I’m still working on Nighthunter and want to have it done soon so I can submit it.