Wednesday, March 11, 2009

It's raining, it's pouring, revising is BORING.

*insert string of obscenities here*

I always forget how freaking tedious revisions can get. Writing eleventy billion words is one thing. Making those eleventy billion words into something that's worth reading? Another thing entirely.

Every first draft requires some revising, some more than others. My revision for Camera Shy is somewhere between "moderate tweaking" and "massive overhaul" - the story is good, the prose isn't bad, but I need to rearrange some events and add some tension in a few places. It's working, it's coming along quite nicely, but it's still frustrating for no other reason than it's a revision. Revising, as a general rule, sucks.

Why does it suck? Well, since you asked and are, I'm certain, so curious that you'll never be able to sleep again until you have the answer, I shall enlighten you.

Revising usually consists of the following:
  1. Pissing on the Plot Parade - In which I find massive gaping festering holes in my plot and attempt to fix them without having to rewrite the whole bloody thing.
  2. The Adverb Avenger - "The road to hell is paved with adverbs," Stephen King said. Blarg. He's absolutely right. And I seriously abuse adverbs. They're really okay in careful moderation, but I am admittedly an unabashed adverb addict. I have to meticulously scour my manuscript for them and carefully decide which are truly allowed to stay and which are definitely not, a tedious task that is about as delightfully fun as...
  3. The Pronoun Prowl - Because for some reason I am in the habit of starting every other sentence with "he", "his", "her", "she", etc., to the point that it's like Chinese water torture to the reader. Fixing this is about as exciting as cleaning the litter box, with somewhat similar results.
  4. The Continental Congress of Continuity - You know, when a character has a red shirt at the beginning of the chapter that magically turns black a few paragraphs later? Or the amazing sex-changing ferret from the Redwall series? Yeah, I try to avoid those. This involves a lot of sticky notes and migraine medication as I wade through all of my already-butchered prose and try to remember if Simone's eyes are blue or brown, if Marisa has worked for her current employer for 3 or 5 years, if Ian has a tattoo on his left or right palm, and if Darren's...nevermind. Anyway. I'm notorious for stupid continuity errors, so I take this step very seriously. And by "take this step very seriously", I mean it causes me to do a lot of swearing and screaming. But it does get done.
  5. Darling Genocide - In which I go through and find all of those little bits and pieces of prose that I really, really, really, really love, in spite of the fact that they a) suck or b) don't fit the story. And I delete them, pretending I don't hear their pitiful screams fading into the ether as they are eliminated from existence (or saved into a folder for later use). This is about as pleasant as performing a root canal on yourself with a Black & Decker and a broken spork.
  6. Search and Destroy - I have a strong tendency to overuse certain words and phrases. So, I do a search for these words/phrases, and ask each and every one of them why they think they need to stay in the story. If they don't have a satisfactory answer, they are summarily destroyed like the useless little twirps that they are. I'm really not looking forward to doing this in Between Brothers, where a quick search yesterday revealed that I had used a specific word over 500 times. That doesn't seem like a lot in a manuscript that's almost 80,000 words...except that it's a Very Naughty Word(tm), so 500 might be a wee bit excessive.
  7. The Character Crackdown - Does each character actually serve a purpose? Do they do something, specifically something that's relevant to the story? Do they have a unique voice, mannerisms that are consistent but not stupid, and have the supporting characters stayed in their place instead of taking over the story? More than once, minor characters - and even a couple of major characters - have gone the way of the Dodo during this step.
  8. Passive Smackdown - It was brought to my attention a while back - by Scarlett Parrish, of course - that my stories are often written by me in the passive voice. During this step, passive phrases are removed from the manuscript, and are replaced by more active prose. My stories are often improved by this step.
  9. The Courageous Crusade Against Crappy Conversations - God, I suck at dialogue. I really do. A conversation will sound like witty banter when I write it...then when I read it, it sounds like a couple of first graders learning how to curse. Blarg. So, I go through and tighten up the dialogue, hopefully making it sound like it was spoken by an adult with more than 3 brain cells.
  10. Show-and-Tell - Or rather, "Show, don't Tell". For the non-writers among us, showing vs. telling in writing is basically the difference between "he was angry" and "he clenched his fists, his face turned red, and he let fly a string of obscenities that would make a sailor cry." Exaggerated, of course, but you get the idea. When I rush or I'm getting lazy, I tend to tell in lieu of showing.
  11. The Sexual Revolution - You've probably figured out by now that my stories tend to feature - in varying degrees and quantities - people doing that. Yes...THAT. Those scenes always fall under exceptional amounts of scrutiny during revisions. Why? Because I get incredibly annoyed at sex scenes that a) are supposed to be sexy, but aren't, b) don't actually serve a purpose besides filling up a few pages with dirty words, and c) suck (so to speak). I insist on making sure that mine aren't lame or stupid. Sex scenes are incredibly difficult to write - or rather, to write well - and I want mine to be written well. So...they get their own step in the Wheel O' Revisions.
So now, loyal blog minion, you have a better understanding of why revisions make me pull my hair out, and why so many writers drink. It's not the's the REVISING.


  1. Yeah that post pretty much perfectly sums up everything I hate about revision.

  2. I like editing. But then, I'm a bit weird. I agree with everything on your list but find the 'slash and burn' of rewrites to be easier than getting the first draft out. Sure, the darlings genocide hurts but at least you know you have a complete story there!

    Now stop reading these comments and gerronwi' gerrin' it re-writ!

  3. Great list, should definitely come in handy once I start editing!

  4. This has helped me in kind of a weird way. I won't get into it, but, thanks.