Revision: The True Craft of Writing

As I get closer to finishing my NaNO project, I’ve been thinking more and more about the craft of writing. Writing isn’t just about getting the words on the page; it’s also about revision, revision, revision.

Rough drafts are exactly that: rough. In most cases very, very rough. If an author tells you that he never rewrites, he’s lying. Hemingway was quoted as saying he rewrote the end of A Farwell to Arms 39 times. When the interviewer then went on to ask what the problem was, if there was some sort of technical issues, Hemingway replied that the issue was “getting the words right.”

When you sit down to revise a manuscript, that is when you really practice the craft of writing. Despite what anyone might say, this is a part of writing that can be learned. I know. I’ve done it. I will say this however, I did not learn it during the course of studying creative writing in college, although I did do that, too. No, most of what I have learned, I’ve learned on my own; through reading books on writing, reading and analysing novels voraciously, and writing, writing, writing.

When you revise, you focus on the craft; increasing tension on the page, fine tuning descriptions, strengthening your characters by adding introspection, etc. I also feel that with each successive draft I know the characters better. Sometimes, when I go back over what I wrote something rings false and I realize, hey, that character would never do that! Now that I know that character better, I can revise to make each action, each reaction, truer to that character.

I also suggest that if at all possible, before you undertake revisions you get as much feedback as possible from as many sources as possible. I always try to get at least three or four critiques on each manuscript I write. I gladly do more if I manage to bully persuade more people to weigh in. Reader feedback can be invaluable. Just make sure that whoever is critiquing your work, actually reads novels in that genre. If someone’s favorite author is John Steinbeck and you ask them to critique your romance novel, the  critique will be interesting to say the least! (Thanks, Dad!)

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One thought on “Revision: The True Craft of Writing

  1. What great advice, I have one person who reads my stories for me, but I get the feeling it’s reluctantly sometimes so I don’t ask very often.
    I see something I want to change in each story, every single time I read it. You are so right about the characters and getting to know them better, they become old friends!

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