Revision Methods

It might seem premature to be revising when I’m nowhere near finished with this piece, BUT…Buzzy won’t let me rest. I’m sorry. Buzzy, the Inner Editor, has a pathological hatred of the Shitty First Draft method.

I’ve proven that I can write and finish an entire first draft. Alas, I’m not such a genius that I can write a magically perfect first draft, so revision is required. What I thought was “revising”…isn’t. Not really. I remember correcting spelling, grammar, punctuation, crossing out pointless passages and writing long, sharp remarks about how fixing this would make sense and how a scene about this here would make the flow better…and I rewrite parts of it.

But, yeah, nothing has really happened there. I wasn’t–still am not–entirely sure how to revise a 200-something page book.

So…I’m going to take this one 50 pages at a time. I’m going to do this using the different methods written and explained in the August 2011 issues of Writer’s Digest.

The big one seems to be distance and perspective on your work. I haven’t had my computer for a few days and have been working longer than usual hours, so there’s that.

Other tips that I think may be helpful:
-Cut, cut, cut
-If there’s a line you like, take it and write something else based on that. Overwrite–there might be something that comes out that you can use.
-Analyze each scene. Is there a clear POV? Does it move the story forward? Is there a clear objective? Is there a struggle? Is there an outcome that forces the reader to read on?
-Deepen details. No word should be underutilized.
-Word choice

And then there was an article on something called “status”–it’s borrowed from acting, I believe–and it was about how to make sure your characters keep the upper hand in certain situations, because the central character should always be at their “best,” so to speak–their behavior should be consistent and they should be sympathetic and stronger than the villain, if there is one. Silence or stillness signal confidence. Protagonists should be confident (I’m not sure that I agree with that, necessarily).

I’ve only gotten to redo the first page or so. I think what bothered Buzzy is that there are lots of threads in the beginning, lots of set-ups, but it’s not smoothly realized yet and Buzzy is a perfectionist.

Here is part of the re-written first page:

Version 1:

As soon as he made landfall in England, his home country, Miles Keegan wondered if he was doing the right thing.
            His ship carried goods from the New World. Molasses from the West Indies. Cotton from the southern United States. Linen from New York. The cargo would sell well and make Miles a tidy profit. The business was now second nature to him after all these years.
            He stalked across the deck of the massive schooner, his long blue coat slapping against his calves as he watched his sailors scurry about. Ropes were jerked in; sails were taken in, then lowered as the ship came to a halt. The wind had been light coming into Bristol. Miles did not hear the canvas snapping in the breeze.
            His first officer ordered the anchor dropped. Miles’s ears picked up the shouts from his men as they opened the cargo hold for unloading.
            A woman stood by the hatch leading below decks, stooping downward to wrap a shawl around a small girl’s thin shoulders. Miles quickened his steps, the scrape of his boots echoing from the deck’s wood. 

Version 2:

A few moments before he made landfall in England, his home country, Miles Keegan wondered if he was doing the right thing. It was a new sensation, this second guessing of himself, and he tried to banish it as he strode across the deck of his massive schooner. He heard his first officer bellow out orders and his sailors scrambled to their stations. Ropes were pulled in, canvas sails snapped in the light breeze. The crew began to bring the sails down. Everyone had a role when preparing the ship for anchor and they snapped to it as the tidal power of the River Avon carried he and his crew swiftly to port.
            Miles continued to walk the length and breadth of the deck, giving instructions to his officers. Anchor would be dropped. The cargo hold would open and the lucrative tobacco, linen and cotton from America would be taken into various warehouses in the Bristol area—all for a handsome profit. After a dozen years, Miles both thought of his business and then had moments when he didn’t have to give it much thought at all.
            The shoreline was becoming more crowded: more buildings and then, some glimpses of people. Miles stood in the precise center of deck and exhaled. He pulled his long blue coat in closer, fidgeted with the black armband sewn onto his right sleeve. He felt a tug on his coat from behind and turning, came face to face with one of the sources for his uncharacteristic anxiety.
            “Are we almost there, Papa?”

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