Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Revising Phoenix




The phoenix is one of the oldest mythical creatures, and said to be the first to rise from the primordial mud.  It has the ability to live forever by constantly being reborn from its own ashes.  When I think of revision I think of the phoenix.  Each time the phoenix resurrects, it's stronger and more powerful.  I like to think of revision in this sense.

Like the phoenix, when our manuscripts first arise, they are weak.  It is only through revision that they become stronger.  They don’t necessarily explode in an inferno of flames, but maybe that’s just what they need, so our best work can rise from the ashes.

The rebirth of our manuscripts is not easy.  It’s downright hard to burn away the bad and bring out the good.  Here are a few of the strategies I've found that have helped me revise.
 
It took a professional editor to point out to me just how wordy I can be.  You don't have to go out and get a professional edit; however, I highly recommend it.  You can learn so much about the common mistakes you make.  When I received my first edit back I was a little overwhelmed by the blood-red lines everywhere.  After the initial shock of seeing my dying manuscript, I then found most of the mistakes were the same ones done over and over.  I quickly made a list of the things I do.  I now use this list as a tool to help flush out those common mistakes.  I have found the more conscious I am of my weaknesses the better I get at avoiding them.  So make a list of your common mistakes.
 
Editing is not the only thing in revision.  Remember the word revise means to literally "look again".  This means that it's important to actually look.  Read your manuscript aloud, perhaps to a group or a trusted friend.  I have my wife read aloud to me.  I listen carefully as she narrates the text.  In this way if I hear something off or she stumbles, I then know there is something to fix.  I also use this opportunity to makes notes on what's lacking.  By the time I've finished my final draft I've retread it about a dozen times.  Even then, I'm sure I missed something.  That's where beta readers and editors can help it shine even more.
 
Another tip is to allow yourself some distance from your piece before you start your burning process.  I normally will take about a month away from the project before I go back to it.  This helps me distance myself and be okay with roasting unneeded darlings.  You need to be open to your manuscript’s new birth.  I promise you after you're done you will have a great manuscript much like the stronger more powerful Phoenix.  And that's my key on revision.

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  4. All very good advice. thanks for sharing.

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  5. No problem I got 3 bonus comments. :) I hope you found it helpful.

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