Wednesday, May 4, 2011

To Begin...No, Don't Use That Word...

I am finally undertaking the revision. Exactly one year after I finished the novel. The "rules" of writing and revision have been knocking around in my head all these months: the first chapter must hook your reader. The reader must care about your characters, and don't have too many of them. (Characters, not readers.) Eliminate the use of the verb "to be" as much as possible. Dump those participles. Watch out for too many adjectives. No adverbs, please. Don't use "began." Curb your figurative speech. Identify who's talking. Eliminate anything that does not move the plot along. No telling. Maintain the point of view. Quite possibly, I am really not a writer. However, I'm stuck with this story that I think deserves to be told...maybe.

Well, just what makes a good storyteller? I was struck by a phrase in Sunday's reading from St. John, where the disciples discover the tomb is empty. The other three gospel writers tell of this moment as well, but only the author of this gospel describes "...the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothers, but wrapped together in a place by itself." These words are unnecessary to the purpose of the story, but furnish a detail that firmly imprints the scene on the mind of the reader. Good story telling, I think. I'll keep mind, as I begin...again.


  1. I love/hate revision for this very reason. If you overdo it, you take the soul out of your story. If you don't do enough, your story could be cluttered.

    Um, good luck. I know you'll strike just the right chord. Don't edit the life out of your story! The quirks give it your unique voice!!

  2. Linda,
    The list of dos and don'ts is very intimidating!
    Don't think of them all at once. Do tackle them one at a time. To think of them all at once is enough to stifle any writing spark you possess.

  3. That's a long list! But don't let it become your list of chores.

    I love the revision process -- and it is a process. For me, the first draft can be a chaotic mess. I may have a loose outline, but I often ditch it. And I really try not to worry about it.

    During revision, I follow a certain process. I look for the plot problems first and fix them. Next, I look for character inconsistencies and fix them. And so on.

    I even follow this process after a critique. I dive right into the plot problems and work on them first. I don't go page by page. The page by page edits start when I'm ready to add more color -- better description, more internal thought, etc.

  4. Revising is my favorite part of the process, but all those rules can be intimidating. Maybe too intimidating. Good luck as you buff and polish your story!

  5. You are a wonderful storyteller, Linda! Please don't let a list of rules intimidate you.

    I usually try to choose one revision goal that I think will have the biggest impact on my story first. What will really improve your book? After that improvement, it often becomes apparent that another improvement is needed.

    Just take it one step at a time, and have fun!