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Writer-Talk Tuesday—Visual Revisions (or, The Only Time You Don’t Want to Say, “Look at All the Pretty Colors”)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Kaye is busy, busy, busy with projects right now so I told her I’d do a guest post for her today.

For those who might be new to the blog, let me introduce myself. I’m Flannery McNeill from Kaye’s upcoming novel, Turnabout’s Fair Play. Kaye’s entrusting me with the Writer-Talk Tuesday post because, well, she gave me the job of editor. So that’s what I’m going to talk about today.

We use many terms when it comes to fixing and polishing a manuscript, both before and after it’s turned in to the editor:

  • self-editing
  • rewrites
  • revisions
  • macro editing
  • line edits
  • . . . and so on. So many new authors allow themselves to become blocked or cowed by the idea of having to “get it right” as they’re writing their first draft. But there’s a reason it’s called a first draft—it indicates there will be more drafts to come.

    As a matter of fact, let’s take a look at an example from Kaye’s own writing—from Turnabout’s Fair Play:

    In this screen shot of the original draft of the first chapter of TFP you can see where I’ve highlighted Kaye’s “weak” words: was/were and wasn’t/weren’t in red; had in green; and adverbs in pink.

    And if you click to enlarge the image, you will also see that these two pages (which include a rabbit trail that didn’t make it into the book, thank goodness!) are also mostly prose—there are only four or five sentences of dialogue on the entire two-page spread.

    Now, if you look at the revised first chapter—which Kaye rewrote after realizing her original first chapter was mostly introspection and backstory—you’ll see that it’s much different when it comes to the visual markers for revision:

    Sure, it’s still not perfect—and I know if Kaye and her editors had more time with the manuscript, the final version probably would have been even cleaner than this. But I’m not going to quibble—I’m not one of those editor types who thinks that every was, had, and –ly has to be obliterated. There are a lot fewer of those weak words and much more dialogue in this version—a sign to an editor like me that this opening chapter is actually going somewhere, it’s not just the author trying to figure out who her characters are.

    This method of finding weak words and seeing where revisions need to be made works for Kaye.

    Writers—what works for you when it comes to “seeing” what revisions you need to make (after you finish your first draft, of course)? Have you found visual markers/aids that help you in the revision/self-editing process?

    1. Tuesday, October 4, 2011 12:35 am

      Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz . . .


      • Tuesday, October 4, 2011 12:36 am

        I didn’t write this for you, did I?


        • Tuesday, October 4, 2011 12:36 am

          What? I’m sorry, did you say something? I must have dozed off.


    2. Lady DragonKeeper permalink
      Tuesday, October 4, 2011 2:07 am

      LOL –Jamie, maybe if you’re nice, Ms. Kaye will let you write some blog posts also. 😉

      “So many new authors allow themselves to become blocked or cowed by the idea of having to ‘get it right’ as they’re writing their first draft. But there’s a reason it’s called a first draft—it indicates there will be more drafts to come.”

      –I’m a reader, but whenever I tried to write my own things (or even fanfiction) I never get very far … the above is probably a big part of it. =)


    3. Tuesday, October 4, 2011 2:38 am

      Love the by play between Jamie and Flannery. While I am not a writer it is interesting to see what it takes to right a book. the past year or so I have had to write reports for study. We are told there not to over use some words too, to keep the same tense and some other rules at present I cant remember but I know they do follow some that go into a book.


    4. Tuesday, October 4, 2011 7:35 am

      I do the highlighting also though I tend to stick to yellow because it all turns out gray when I print it out anyway ;). Then edits on a hard copy. Then transfer to the ecopy and usually make more edits then.

      But now I have to go teach the kiddos because it pays the bills while I wait for the writing gravy train to come in. /snicker/


    5. Tuesday, October 4, 2011 7:35 am

      Thanks for the tips! You really know how to tease a person! Cant wait to read the entire book!


    6. Tuesday, October 4, 2011 8:57 am

      Love the banter between Jaime and Flannery.

      Also love this lesson. It’s really helpful to see exactly how another author works.


    7. Sylvia M. permalink
      Tuesday, October 4, 2011 10:26 am

      Is narration such a bad thing though? Some of my favorite books are not dialog driven. Look at the wonderful works of Jane Austen, L.M. Montgomery, Charles Dickens and many more. I agree that alot of uses of the words said, had, etc., are a little much, but still…. I enjoyed the first draft and liked the descriptive lines.


      • Audry permalink
        Tuesday, October 4, 2011 10:40 am

        I agree – many older books are more narrative driven, and many are also written from an omniscient point of view. These days, both of those seem to be out-of-fashion… which doesn’t necessarily make them bad, but probably IS important for an aspiring author to keep in mind for his or her own writing.


    8. Tuesday, October 4, 2011 11:02 am

      Audry has hit on an important point—authors have different voices and not everyone writes the same way. And the expectation from publishers has changed—not to mention that different genres call for different types of writing. Contemporary romance novels, by and large, don’t tend to be well accepted when they’re overloaded with long descriptive passages or paragraph after paragraph of introspection or camping out inside the characters’ heads.

      While narrative passages can be beautiful and descriptive and delve deeply into the characters’ psyches, there is one thing they typically don’t do—move the story forward in an active, shown-not-told manner. Don’t get me wrong, narrative has its place, but I prefer it in small doses with plenty of action/interaction from the characters to keep the pace of the story moving.


    9. Abigail Richmond permalink
      Tuesday, October 4, 2011 1:04 pm

      I would like to be an author one day!


    10. Tuesday, October 4, 2011 3:07 pm

      I learned the highlighting thingy from Kaye and from other writers. It’s an amazing tool – and so easy! Another thing I do is print it out in “landscape” orientation, so I have more room on the side margins for notes, etc.

      Flannery, thank you for pointing out these tools. When are you going to start your OWN blog? 😉


    11. Pam K. permalink
      Tuesday, October 4, 2011 6:47 pm

      I’m not a writer but I enjoy reading about the process you go through to create the books we so love to read. Thanks for working hard to make it the best possible story.


    12. Wednesday, October 5, 2011 8:57 am

      I love this! I firmly believe this type of editing set my MS over the edge to get a contract. I call it “The Collage of Color” 🙂


    13. Barbara permalink
      Wednesday, October 5, 2011 1:05 pm

      Hey, Flannery–Thanks for the advice on writing and editing! This was very helpful, seeing HOW you do it–as well as the colors!


    14. Thursday, October 6, 2011 5:00 pm

      Kaye/Flannery, what a unique way to present your blog through your character being the “editor.” This is a good lesson in how to spot areas that need editing after that first draft is finished. I’m glad Flannery is not an editor person that thinks all was, had, -ly words need to be removed. Thanks–Iike this; might try it.


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