Friday, December 14, 2007

Process Examination #16: Zooming Ahead to Revisions (In Another Project)

I'm not entirely sure why I've needed so much off-time from writing THUMB, but my brain keeps asking for another day or another week whenever I try to organize my thoughts on that topic. So I've shifted focus back to PPR, trying to really dig into the text for revisions and learn more about that part of my writing process.

What I've done in the past is just read the completed manuscript of whatever piece I had just finished, marking, deleting, and adding stuff as I go. It's a good way to get a sense of what's working and what isn't and apply some fixes, but I've come to realize that it's not quite effective for actually improving the whole of the text. That is, larger scope issues like arcs and story structure and theme and such didn't get the attention they needed. Not to say that I wasn't thinking about those things as I revised, but that I kept all of those concepts in my head as I read through the manuscript, expecting problems with those topics to pop out at me in much the same way I can find errors in spelling and sentence flow and character portrayal. Not so much, apparently.

I've been suspecting this for a while now, so I've been developing a plan for a couple of months. Or the notion that I ought to have a plan, at least. That doesn't sound like much, but it means that, in the course of my regular reading of blogs and books on writerly topics, I've been looking for methods to help me. And I found some. Rather, I found addtional tips that helped bring some older ones into focus as well as giving me new ideas.

In the past, via Holly Lisle's One-Pass Revision and some other places, I realized it was important to have a scene outline handy while doing revisions. However, I didn't know what to do with that thing. Hence, I just extrapolated from how I do basic edits and tried to keep everything in my head. After working through Jenny Crusie and Bob Mayer's He Wrote, She Wrote Writing Course, I found a way to use the outline much more effectively. Specifically via the concept of scene analysis Jenny outlines here and the critical questions she dumps out here. Now I have a better sense what I'm looking for when I do my initial read-through (which I used to flag scenes that needed scene analysis for tightening and general fix-it stuff).

I completed my first scene anlaysis yesterday and was delighted to discover two things: 1) At least for this first scene, I had a natural rhythym for beats in the scene that kept the conflict going and accomplished a bit for the story, and 2) I have a much better sense of how I can improve a few bits and lines in the scene to reinforce all the big scope concepts I've lost before without derailing those beats. Awesome.

We'll see what Mark things. I've decide he is going to be a beta-reader of my "I've done all I can on my own with this thing" version without any previous exposure to this piece. He'll be my barometer of how well I've revised with the new techniques. No pressure, honey. :)

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