the how of writing

the typing phase and some editing symbols

My goal today is to begin the worst part of revision for me:  typing in the changes.  One of the best bits of advice so far in this One-Pass Revision process is Holly’s advice for the typing phase.  She says (I’m paraphrasing here), if you find a better way of saying what you’ve written or have a new idea for dialogue that fits with your story, go with it but…

…Do. Not. Add. Characters. Or. Plot.

Back to me… you know that feeling.  Your manuscript is covered in red ink from all the revisions you’ve made.  You’re typing in what you’ve decided will be the final version and it occurs to you the story could go in an entirely different and awesome direction!  Instead of the mysterious stranger turning out to be a death god, he could be an assassin who completely fools the princess into thinking he’s a god.  It would work!  The dialogue leads toward that and isn’t it kind of old to have a chick meet up with a supernatural being anyway?  Oh, and it would be great if we dug a little more into the backstory of her brother who’s put her in this miserable situation and wow!  Look at that!  It brings up a whole new idea regarding a new theme that really should be added to this new plot twist with new characters, so, you start ripping the story to bits and pieces and adding page after page and now… you see where this is going right?

What’s happened is that you’ve gotten an idea for a second story.  It’s similar to the first so that’s what makes it tricky.  You can only choose one path, one direction, at a time.  And you only have so many years to get your stories written and, if you choose that path, sold.  It took me two years to write the novel I’m currently revising.  It took me six months of on and off work to revise it.  And now, I feel I’ll be lucky if I get the thing ready for submission inside a month.

If you want to publish your work, you have to decide on a direction.  That’s true whether someone else publishes it or if you’re the one publishing your own stuff.  The story must have an ending that feels right to you.  If it doesn’t feel right, absolutely you should change it.  In the first pass.  You shouldn’t finish that first pass until you feel comfortable with the direction your story is going.

On a related note, I once read an article by Isaac Asimov about revision.  It’s in an old Writer’s Digest book somewhere.  In it, he describes two friends he doesn’t name (though it isn’t hard to figure out who one of them is).  He says, before he talks about these friends, that he would only revise once.  He would write the story, go over it once, mostly for punctuation and spelling, then send it out.  Usually, what he wrote was basically what he sent to the editor.

He mentioned this style to Friend #1 who was appalled.  Never revise, his friend said, unless the editor asks for it.

Because he respected this friend and thought he was a good writer, he tried it.  And hated it.  It caused him too much stress plus he felt he was sending out garbage.

He told his problem to Friend #2 who was appalled.  Never send out a story unrevised, his friend said.  Polish it until it gleams and you can’t polish it any further.

Because he respected this friend and thought he was a good writer, he tried it.  And hated it.  His submission rate plummeted because he was spending all his time working on polishing his story.

So, he went back to the way he had always revised and stuck with it.

My point?  I thought it was a neat story.

Back to my offline life.  And typing.  [insert joyous giggle here]

Oh, and here’s some editing symbols known and not as well known for future reference.

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