Shelley Widhalm

The Revision Commitment, Take 2

In 52: A Writer's Life, Editing, Revising, Shelley Widhalm on March 10, 2013 at 11:00 am

Revising a novel is like making a long-term commitment to someone you kind of love but maybe find a bit tiring.

In other words, revision is an obligation that, unless you’re a one-draft wonder, is part of the process of writing.

I am in midst of that obligation editing my nearly 90,000-word novel that was, at one time, 92,000-plus words. I didn’t just cut 2,000 words but cut much more, including partial scenes, repetitions and unnecessary descriptions. I also added words by fixing missing logistics of where or when, holes in the plot and character development, and word-heavy dialogues that didn’t make it clear who was speaking.

At 11:59 p.m. Sunday, I made the last red mark in my second revision of “The Fire Painter,” which is about a 30-something artist who loses everything in an apartment fire and searches to replace her lost things.

I like to think of myself as a quick editor, mainly because I want to get in and out and go on to more writing. It’s called diving in, using any and every free moment to heal my pain (pain is editing, healing is finishing editing).

My first revision, which I started Jan. 23 and took two weeks, was a read-through on the computer to fix any areas where the scenes seemed choppy or something didn’t make sense.

The second revision took three weeks and involved a printout and my red pen. In this revision:

• I deleted scenes that partially repeated other scenes.
• I removed facts or information I mentioned earlier in the draft.
• I checked for inconsistencies, such as switching eye or hair color, which I did do without the convenience of new contacts or hair dye.
• I reread the thoughts of two of my characters who tend toward self-pity to avoid making them too whiney.
• I made sure I referred to important objects in the story in a consistent basis, such as the doggie piggybank, instead of dog bank.
• I tightened the language by removing adjectives, details that didn’t push the story and any over-done descriptions.
• With my descriptions, I listened to how the language sounds, as well as to how each sentence builds on the previous sentence.
• I changed areas of dialogue that didn’t sound like how real people talk.
• I filled in words I accidentally left out and fixed any grammar errors I identified, plus added a few missing periods.
• I realized I named two minor characters Linda, so I left the more minor of the two nameless.

I also plan to remove my tics, which I will do with my “search and find” function. I noticed that I love the words “OK,” “nods” and “shrugs.” Picture me nodding and shrugging and saying, “OK, whatever.”

As for other revisions, I know there will be more but as to how many, that depends on how long it will take me to say this is the best I can make my work. And then I’ll be looking for a literary agent. Wish me luck and bon voyage as I travel yet again through my story.

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