Step 1: Revision–An Expose (post 2 of 4 on Writing Revision)

I'm Back!
I’m Back…Baby!

Apologies Because BABY!!

I apologize for being AWOL for a few weeks. Work has been extra busy and my daughter had a baby. I had to decide: blog? baby? Hmmm. Guess who won? Sweet little Payton Annabelle! But as Arnold Schwarzenegger said in The Terminator, “I’m back!” Of course, if Payton starts smiling…

We’re Still Revising

I want to explain the parts of revision in more depth. Perhaps you’ll recall its three steps: Revise, Edit, Proofread. Today we’ll tear down the walls and expose step 1.

It is confusing that both the process itself and its first step have the same name, but English has many worse conundrums, like why enough, through, plough, dough, and cough all pronounce ough differently, and why we don’t have a pronoun for hisorher. You know what I mean—for those instances in which people say, “An individual should always do their best work.” Drives me crazy. We just have to get over it.

As I explained in June, the entire revision process is like renovating a house. Step 1 in the house reno process means making major structural changes—moving the walls around. In writing then, revision involves assessing content and meaning—checking whether you have said what you meant to say. Continue reading Step 1: Revision–An Expose (post 2 of 4 on Writing Revision)

Revising Writing is Like Home Renovation: Structure, Finish Work, Cleaning

Home Renovation
Writing Revision is Like Home Renovation

Caveat: Writers Must Revise

Let’s assume you accept my position from last week’s post that writers must revise their work. Exactly how do you make your shitty first draft better?

Many writers wish for a magic wand Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 1.10.56 AMto wave over the pages or the keyboard. Sorry, but Harry Potter has moved on to bigger and better projects. I can’t even give you a single, quick-’n’-dirty operation that will do the trick. Because revision isn’t something you do when you finish writing. Revision is really another stage of writing, itself, and can’t be rushed or superseded—or as we saw last week, skipped.

Writing is Revision

Writing isn’t simply the act of spewing ideas from your brain and printing them onto paper. It is the art of choosing just the right words and arranging them into the most appropriate syntaxes and rhythms, and then organizing those ideas into just the right structure to accomplish your purpose and connect with and move your reader. Writing is revision.

So I can’t offer you a quick fix. What I can tender is the time-tested revision process loved by writing instructors everywhere: Revise, Edit, Proofread. Continue reading Revising Writing is Like Home Renovation: Structure, Finish Work, Cleaning

If First Drafts Are Shit, Why Do Writers Hate to Revise?

Shitty First Draft

                                                                  Shitty First Draft?

So Much Poopy

“The first draft of anything is shit.” Attributed to Ernest Hemingway, these words have inspired admiring riffs by other writers. Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird, wrote, “The only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.” Caleb Ross, author of Stranger Will, advised writers to “write your novel when you feel like shit; edit when you feel great.”

It Wasn’t Always So

So if your first draft is shitty, you must write a second. This idea is largely a construct of the modern era, something I didn’t know until reading “Revising Your Writing Again? Blame the Modernists,” by Craig Fehrman. My university students must have been throwbacks then, as they did everything but pay me to avoid revising. Continue reading If First Drafts Are Shit, Why Do Writers Hate to Revise?

Description Details: Let Your Phrases Multitask

Do your detail phrases multitask?
Do your detail phrases multitask?

Part 3 of 3: Add Detail to Your Descriptions

Here’s Part 3 of 3 on adding detail to your descriptions. Part 1 taught you the importance of using detailed sensory images, motion verbs, and concrete nouns to evoke a reader’s emotions. In Part 2, you learned how to layer details in appositive, noun, and verb phrases.

Phrases Multitask (Do Double Duty)

Today’s post continues the layering, showing you how to add adjective, adverb, and prepositional phrases. You’ll see that phrases often multitask, acting as one type of phrase in one sentence and a different type in another sentence. Continue reading Description Details: Let Your Phrases Multitask

Layer Details Like a Police Sketch Artist

Police Sketch Artist

Boise, Idaho, Police Sketch Artist Tonya Newberry

Part 2 of 3: Add Detail to Your Descriptions

As promised, here is Part 2 of our powwow on adding detail to your descriptions. In Part 1, we discussed the importance of using detailed sensory images, motion verbs, and concrete nouns to evoke a reader’s emotions.

One Detail at a Time

Think of your story as a blank slate to which you are adding details one at a time. It’s similar to the way a police sketch artist sits down with a crime victim and together they try to render the face of the attacker. The artist takes out pad and paper (or computer, nowadays!) and the subject describes the shape of the villain’s face and the size, shape, and color of his eyes. Next, she gives details about the size and shape of the rogue’s nose, mouth, eyebrows, and ears, and whether he had any facial hair or scars or identifying marks on his skin. Finally, the victim describes the criminal’s hair color, length, and style. At each step during the process, the artist adds another layer to his drawing until the likeness appears just as the crime victim remembers her attacker.

This is what you’ll do with your description—add layers one at a time until the description is just as you picture your character or scene. Continue reading Layer Details Like a Police Sketch Artist

All (About) the Juicy Details

American Flags
Patriotism Flies High

Prove it to Me

Which statement is more convincing?

  1. Alec is the most patriotic man you’d ever want to meet.
  1. Each Memorial Day, Marco hangs three American flags from his front porch, one for each of his schoolmates who died in Iraq; sings with his church group a medley of The Star Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful, and America at the local VA hospital; and serves a ham and eggs dinner at a soup kitchen.

When you’re reading a story and the author wants you to believe a character is patriotic, do you simply take the author at his or her word? Or do you want proof—actions that show the character actually possesses the quality?

In All the Light You Cannot See, Anthony Doerr writes, “Don’t you ever get tired of believing, Madame? Don’t you ever want proof?”

Most of us want proof. Humans are wired to respond emotionally to concrete images, not abstract ideas. We like our images to move. And the more details we add to those concrete action images, the more proof we offer, the more solid those images become in our minds.

Why do people love soap operas and reality shows? We want the gossip, the dirt—the details. When my friend goes on a date, she calls me, not just to say, “It was nice.” She wants to tell me what her date said and how he said it or if he talked too much and whether he paid for dinner and if he kissed her and…all the details. After a football game, even though my husband just watched every play of the game, he watches the post-game show that will rehash all the details. Continue reading All (About) the Juicy Details

Grammar is…Beautiful

Read this first…

Before you read one more word, please click on this link and read this essay, an excerpt from the novel, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery. Do it now. I’ll wait. I’ll even wait while you order the book. The rest is as fabulous as the excerpt. Clicking on the title or picture of the book above will whisk you to Amazon via my affiliate link. Just don’t get shopping and forget to return!

Now that you have Paloma’s marvelous take on grammar as “a way to attain beauty,” I’d like to add my own comments to the mix. I could barely sit still when I first read this essay, as I am a grammar maven. I’ve always thought that was a strange-sounding word, maven. It means “expert or connoisseur.” I’m by no means an expert, but I’m certainly a connoisseur.

Though perhaps not as classically beautiful as Fibonacci’s golden spiral in a rose or nautilus, each of grammar’s innate structures is attractive in its own way. Below are a few of my faves…

Continue reading Grammar is…Beautiful