Writing is Revision

Moving house is stressful, no one can argue with that but just in case I wasn’t suffering enough, I’ve also got to edit the draft of the 20k word dissertation for my MLitt course and submit the final ms by the deadline of the end of August.

It was only after receiving comments from my dissertation supervisor that I realised that my draft was a rough draft with a capital ‘R’. The feedback was hard to swallow but once I’d nursed my bruised ego, I accepted that there was a lot of room for improvement.

The supervisor’s link to Necessary Fiction and a brilliant article, Thoughts on Revision, by Aaron Gilbreath which helped me accept that “good stuff takes time” and I agree with his view that “writing is revision”.

So in amongst the packing boxes, mostly still sealed up, I’m slowly (tick tock tick tock) but surely working my way through the edits, hoping that my changes are making it better and not worse! Editing is not easy, especially when you’ve gone over the same section again and again. And you have to remind yourself of William Faulkner’s classic advice to be prepared to “kill your darlings”; no matter how long it took you to write, if it doesn’t work, it needs to go! Be bold and get chopping!

But the one tip that I’m putting into practise is to read my writing out loud to get a feel for the rhythm of the words. There was one word used throughout my supervisor’s feedback and it was “awkward”, mainly in relation to dialogue. It was only when I read the dialogue aloud (it’s not unusual for me to talk to myself these days) that I could hear that the words were indeed clumsy and clunky.

I no longer look with critical eyes at my writing but also with critical ears, even if you feel like an eejit when you’re reading your work out to an empty room, try it and you’ll instantly hear if the sentence structure works then ALL you have to do is fix it!

How do you edit your writing? Are you willing to “kill your darlings” to make your writing stronger? What are your editing top tips?

6 thoughts on “Writing is Revision

  1. Reading out loud really helps me with the tricky bits. I’ve watched a lot of films with characters from the same places as mine (and of the same genre as my novel) to help with dialogue. I recently read Stephen King’s book, On Writing which has a few useful tips about editing (once you get past the first autobiographical bit). Another good book (which I’m sure you know about already) is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. Good luck! And hope you settle in your new home soon.x

    • Hi Anita, I’ve read Stephen King’s book and found it useful too but will also look out for your other recommendation. Good tip about watching films from your genre- must try that too! Thanks for your best wishes re the house move. Apart from a dodgy internet connection, it all went very smoothly x

  2. Totally agree that good writing takes time. I am developing my current MS with each draft; am on about the 5th or 6th draft now! Each time I think, “This is the one” and then when I get to the end, realise there is still more I can do – both adding and taking away. It’s a very long process of fine tuning. I marvel at anyone who can do it differently. Reading out loud is also good – but I think this is especially good for the ‘final’ draft, when everything else is right.
    Glad your move went well – wishing you happiness in your new home x

    • Hi Wendy, Yes, I agree that there are no short cuts to editing. I’m almost ‘finished’ my dissertation edits and I will need to stop going over and over it or I’ll be tinkering for ever. Thanks for your best wishes- I’m hoping my new home in the country will be inspirational! x

  3. I read everything of importance aloud–poetry, prose, reviews, even some emails–to check the rhythm and fluency. As for killing your darlings, it’s about putting the work ahead of one’s ego; when you’re able to do that, such rigorous editing becomes much easier.

    • Hi Carrie, I haven’t always read aloud my writing during the editing process but now I understand how important it is to get a sense of the rhythm etc. And yes, I agree, even if you love a piece that’s taken ages to research and write, sometimes you’ve got to be ruthless and think of the reader rather than a desire to show off with words and facts.

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