The Fine Art of Revision

Dear Readers:

My blog postings lag behind my self-imposed schedule because, of late, I am devoted to improving my manuscript in preparation for some form of publication: an established publisher via the agent route or self-publication and the many choices that path currently offers.

Having read a number of reference books and having received some sage advice from an experienced agent, here are my goals:

  • Eliminate my dreaded “tell” writing, replacing it with sentences that “show” my reader the same thing but in altered format. Two publications by Dwight V. Swain have been tremendously enlightening. He postulates that my reader is a smart cookie who is complimented when I convey hints of my characters’ motivations that their thinking minds can then assemble into a cogent assumption. Voila, they know what I intended to tell them without my actually telling them.
  • Settings do not thrive on meandering descriptions. They need to zing with significant details concerning all the senses. So look at each character’s strengths: acute hearing, sensitive olfactory nerves, sensual awareness of tactile details, etc. Take these things and make your setting another character in several action-verb-filled, current descriptions and walk on.
  • Keep things current by writing in the here and now. In scenes, eliminate references to what has or had been by slicing out offending words such as “had” or “was.” Have you ever tried to say something totally in the now? It’s tough but I seem to be overcoming it.
  • Make certain each action gets immediate followup by reaction, preferably in two adjoining sentences. Don’t make your reader postulate what reaction that set-back-on-your-heels statement had on the other people in the scene.
  • Flesh out your characters so you privately know every detail of their lives. Then you can infuse their behavior with the unique, flavorful quirks that make that person seem real and interesting and empathetic.

It is a comfort to know that even great writers spend time revising  five times or fifty times before they have what they consider a draft suitable for other eyes. The plot thickens.


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