Shelley Widhalm

Revision Headache

In 52: A Writer's Life, Revising, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on June 9, 2013 at 11:00 am

I’ve avoided the dreaded revision process for long enough.

It’s time for me to return to “The Fire Painter,” an account of a 35-year-old artist named Kate who loses everything in an apartment fire and tries to paint her way back to new meanings.

I’ve been separated from my manuscript for two months, filling my life with enough other stuff to tell myself, I’m too busy to edit.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about my manuscript, especially because I keep meaning to crack down on the third revision.

During my mini-break, I’ve spent more time reading than writing. As I read, I analyzed what I liked about each book that I could apply to my own writing. I realized I need to ask myself:

• How do I make Kate’s voice more interesting and distinguishable, like that of Pat Peoples in “Silver Linings Playbook?” Pat is obsessive about getting his ex-wife Nicky back into his life, using the phrase “apart time” for their separation in an excessive, compulsive manner. His voice is witty, endearing and hard-hitting.

• How can I tighten the plot and dialogue, plus individual scenes, to increase the pace? I realized from feedback on my own writing that I’m giving too much detail about Kate’s every thought and action. Though I want to delve more into her thoughts, I also need to choose when, where and how to keep the story moving.

• How can I improve my descriptions by keeping the best phrases without slowing the pace? For instance, one of my writer’s groups said I need to cut the bolded words from this sentence phrase: “as if throwing bedroom clothes from fat cloud bellies.” This is just one example of where I need to tighten up the descriptions to get to the action.

Needless to say, this revision is focusing on pacing and tightening up anything that slows down the pace, unless I want the pace to be slow for a specific reason.

To put it another way, I need to be conscious of the why in pacing.

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