Revision — the Mechanics


The prologue and the first six chapters of Perceval’s Secret are essentially done.  I’ve updated the computer files for the Prologue and chapters 1-3.  So, what exactly are the mechanics of revision as I do it?  Each writer will have her own favorite, comfortable way to go about deconstructing and re-constructing a written work.  Here’s my way:

Step 1: I go through a chapter line by line, looking for grammar issues, inconsistencies, ways to tighten the writing, holes that need either filling or tightening, and editing for clarity.  This requires quiet for concentration.  After the first run-through, I move onto the next chapter — I usually have three or four chapters going at the same time in different stages.  This also helps with flow and continuity.  I repeat the line edit a minimum of two more times before moving on to the next step for each chapter.  I know I’m ready when I don’t make any more changes.

Step 2: I read the chapter aloud.  This pops out more issues that need attention or correction.  It’s a line edit but I’m reading out loud instead of silently.  Hearing the words, the rhythms, has helped me to catch things I’ve otherwise missed.  I do this step a minimum of 3 times for each chapter.  I know I’m done when I’m no longer making changes.  Then I move on to step 3.

Step 3: I update the computer file.  This involves transferring the changes I’ve made on the hard copy (yes, I line edit on hard copy using either red or purple pen) to the computer file.  Once completed, I print out the chapter.  The 3 steps for one chapter can take anywhere from four days to three weeks.  Revision cannot be rushed if you want it to work.

So, for example, here are the first 3 paragraphs of Chapter 4 before the line edit:

“Inspector, he has real bullets? Evan said, eyeing the guard at the door.

“For your protection,” Leiner said, buttering toast.  “As I said last night when we arrived, you are not to leave the house unless one of us is with you.”

The plainclothes cop sat in a wood chair on the back door’s threshold, the sunshine shimmering copper highlights in his dark brown hair.  A shoulder holster cradled a gun under the long white sleeve of his left arm.  He leaned back, gulped apple juice from a bottle, his back to Evan.  He and Leiner sat at the square table covered with a red and blue floral vinyl tablecloth in the safe house’s clean but cramped kitchen.  The safe house reminded Evan of a primitive hunting cabin he, Paul, Uncle Joe and his father had used on a fishing trip but this cottage contained furniture, some old appliances and the hint of domesticity.

And here are those paragraphs post-edit:

“He has real bullets?” Evan eyed the plainclothes cop that sat in a wood chair on the back door’s threshold, the sunshine shimmering copper highlights in his dark brown hair.  A shoulder holster cradled a gun under the long white sleeve of his left arm.

“For your protection,” Leiner said, buttering toast.  “As I said last night when we arrived, you are not to leave the house unless one of us accompanies you.”

Evan and Leiner sat at the square table covered with a red and blue floral vinyl tablecloth in the safe house’s clean but cramped kitchen.  The safe house reminded Evan of a cabin he, Paul, Uncle Joe and his father had used on fishing and hunting trips but this cottage contained furniture, some old appliances and a hint of domesticity.

I needed to get the gun into the first paragraph closer to the mention of the bullets and begin the chapter with the ominous note that the police think Evan needs armed guards for protection.  And then the third paragraph focuses on the table, the kitchen and finally Evan’s general impression of the cottage.

At the moment, I’m still reading Chapter 4 out loud, Chapters 5 and 6 silently.  But Chapter 4 is very close to done.  I expect after that chapter, the revision work will gain momentum.  The beginning needed a lot of work.  And revision work should not be rushed….

 

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One response to “Revision — the Mechanics

  1. I am always interested to hear how other writers choose to edit and revise. Thanks for the good tip – don’t rush revision.

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