Why You Need to Revise Your Work

It can take multiple tries to get the photo you meant to take, or the story you meant to write.

This week I’ll be blogging about some of what I learned at the revision retreat led by Darcy Pattison.  I know I’m seconding (or even thirding) what has been said by other writers.  If you get the chance to attend a retreat led by Darcy, do it.  She will change how you look at your work.

The first thing that Darcy asked us to do was realize that each and every time we write something we will need to revise.  Sometimes the revision is small.  Sometimes it is immense.  Either way, the reason that we need to revise is that the story we get on paper is never the story that we intended to write.

That’s a really important point.  Let me repeat it.

The story that you write down is not the story that you meant to write.  The story in your head is always different.  Maybe your setting is richer.  Or your characters are more artfully drawn.  Or your emotional arc is clear and well-paced compared to your plot arc.

The whole point behind revising is to make your story more than it is now and the only way to do that is to carefully assess what you have written down.   One of the tools that we used to do this was a shrunken manuscript — your novel reformatted so that it can be printed out on a much smaller number of pages.  You then mark whatever it is you need to study (the strongest chapters, dialogue vs action vs narrative, where and when various characters interact, etc).  With your marked up shrunken manuscript you can spot balance or lack thereof.

We also marked up full-sized copies of our manuscripts.  I marked dialogue — one color for my main character and one for his best friend.  The best friend is a total brainiac and uses all kinds of $10 words and phrases.  I needed to make sure he didn’t steal the show.

Whatever tools you choose, you need to find something that lets you look at your story in a different way.  Darcy is a very analytic writer vs my seat-of-the-pants approach.  Because of this, her workshop or her book, Novel Metamorphosis, force me to see what I have on paper in a different way.  Build up your own tool box and you’ll be ready to take your writing to the next level.