Revise or die

(picture from Flickr Creative Commons by marsmettn tallahassee)



Does anyone love to revise? Please step forward and take a bow. I have this love-hate relationship with revisions. Afterwards, I love them but in the present tense, revisions are messy, tortuous and just plain headachy. Can you guess I’ve just tackled mine?  After the torture, you do get the shiny golden  fruit of your efforts. But!

You have to go over the story sometimes from backwards to forwards. In case you change one thing e.g. what the heroine is wearing in a particular scene, you have to go change it in every place subsequently which mentions that dress. If your heroine wore glasses and later for some reason you give her 20/20 vision, you’d have to fix every place she was nervous and attempted to slide them back on her nose as a habitual gesture. God forbid if there’s an incident where she can’t see properly and for instance mistakes a person e.g. the hero for someone else, you’d have to delete that particular scene . If heavens are unrelenting and you put that a meeting point for H/h then you might have to…hold your breath…rebuild your whole first draft. Ewww!

Of course there’s a good side to revisions too. They give you a chance to go over the weak points of your story, tighten the wandering dialogue into meaningful (or hopefully meaningful) and the opportunity to go down some new by lanes which might – who knows – give you some unexpected spice for your story. Happens! Then you’re glad you took the courage in both hands and tackled this Minotaur.

The method I find useful in doing revisions is:

FIRST thing to make a list of what needed to be changed.

SECOND to cut and paste each point on that list to the appropriate place in the ms.

THIRD to take a good read of the ms and decide what cannot be changed during revising. Yes, had a tough time with this.  But had to, otherwise I found I was changing too much and losing track. Also during the reading I found it useful to mark any new points I thought should be redone.

THEN you can go about and expand on the points as you see fit. Do go back and reread the whole again and again to make sure everything flows well. Or have a beta reader do that for you. Rereading is again wearing on the nerves. I can tell you a point came when I was developing a rash everytime I opened the file! However, part of being a writer is developing a tough hide. So that comes in handy when you have to do such things. Manfully I did go over it and plan to at least twice more before I publish.

FINALLY, what I’d emphasize is do not delete previous work. If you find your characters going off in a new direction,  humour them a bit, usually you get something worth saving from all the flights of fancy.

Next review and tighten.

Repeat n number of times.

Keep coffee handy at all times.

So there! You might survive.

Do hope you don’t have as messy a method as mine. I recently shifted part of the scene for Tahir and Samara’s story to add pace to the next part and lighten the previous scene. That is I broke up the conversation into two bits. And the surprise was on me because this little stanza cropped up out of nowhere to provide continuity to the original scene.

His gaze fell on her…he was looking at her…Checking her out? She wasn’t sure because Tahir didn’t do it. He was so strictly professional that she usually had trouble keeping up. She’d felt guilty often when her attention changed from a PA to that of a woman. Which was why she had gone the other extreme…tried to conceal every wish to look more feminine…more enticing to him. Pride had made her wrap those wishes, the feminine wiles and impulses and put them away. She had tried to be every bit computer efficient to his work driven attitude.

Now his gaze ran down her legs and dropped to her feet stretched out in front of her. Could feet blush? Hers would in a second!

‘You have very trim ankles,’ he said. Enclosed in black straps circling them, they lay crossed and now tense and vulnerably exposed to his lingering gaze. ‘So slender and delicate.’ He said.

Was he finding her ankles sexy? She didn’t know she should be pleased or annoyed that he was fixating on her ankles!

Saucy but sweet! What do you think? 😉


Have you tackled revisions? And if yes, how did you go about it? Did you like doing them or hated them at first but liked them in the end? (Me!). Or was it all uphill for you?

I would love to know, so do share!

#firstdraft – Three R’s to keep in mind while you word-vomit

In this post of mine, I’ve stressed that we shouldn’t edit while writing first draft and the reasons why it’s such a bad idea. It seems simple to say never look back while writing the first draft and most of the time it’s great advice. But at times you have to go back.

Now this isn’t contradicting what i sais before. Let’s see why. When you start your novel, you have ideas sprouting left, right and centre and words pouring on the page. But what when you run out of steam and get stuck? What when the story becomes ‘hard work’? If you are too busy looking at the present scenario in your story, you often run the danger of losing the sight of the original premise with which you began. And that’s when looking back becomes necessary.

I’ve been facing this problem the whole of the last month. Every sentence seemed painfully dragged out to the page. Finally I came to the conclusion that this first draft had to be fixed now or the mess I had would only become bigger. So I went back on my own favourite saying and began to look back para by para where things went wrong.
After a lot of head banging and painful editing I found the problem was in the hero’s background. I hadn’t fully understood my character. Since character is revealed page by page and scene after scene as you write, this is the easiest mistake to make. So the further I wrote the more erroneous was the sketching but I hadn’t been listening to him. Finally I got it fixed and now after deleting thousands of words, I’m back on track. However, still happier and wiser because I’ve found a way to fix as I go along. And I call it ‘The three R’s of first draft.’

As soon as you’re done with a scene – be it of any length or number of paragraphs, think about it. Not actively ponder but just immerse in it as you attend to other mundane activities. That’s the first R – reflect.

If you’re not clear about what it’s there for or if it serves the story, go back and reread. The second R.
Then the third R – reason, if that particular scene really should end here? And if this is sufficient set up for next bit? Speed is good but this is more important. By doing this, I found that I needed more building up towards the next scene simmering in my mind. So hoisting up some patience I sat down to work at it. As you reason, you might do the fourth R – rewrite. And then, you might find that the brilliant scene you planned didn’t even belong in the story or you might find that now it packs even more punch. But either way you have worked  reason into your story and it makes more sense now.

So remember the three R’s while first drafting.
Reflect reread and reason.

Then write.