Monday, August 23, 2010

Revisions...and a WINNER!

No one should ever have to read a sentence twice because of the way it is put together. 
— Wilson Follett

No matter how clean I think my manuscript is after a round of revisions, I am almost certain to find some dirty little dust bunnies hiding in there just by doing this one thing: 

Reading it aloud. 

It works every time. 

Better still, read it aloud TO someone. 

And have someone else read it to you.

Have your red ink pen handy.

Yeah, it takes a long time; it's grueling.  But it amazes me how many silly errors I find this way, when I was so sure I had them all culled. 

More importantly, I find that a sentence or passage of which I was once enamored is ill-fitting on my tongue; perhaps unintended alliteration or an echo is the culprit. Reading it aloud is my writing dirt devil.

Emphasis on devil. I don't call it Revision Hell for nothin'.
 Revision Hell equates to a lot of time rewriting, hunched over the laptop, looking at the damn WIP again, cursing myself for not being brilliant enough to get it right before my thighs spread to Kentucky and I'm shaped into something that should reside perched atop the Notre Dame. 

It also leads to plenty of other mind and procrastination games. My brain starts wandering a crooked path after a couple of hours, thinking of 'genius' things like:  I wonder if I could convince Apple to make a waterproof MacBook, then I could swim in the pool or take a bubble bath and type, that would be way more fun.  Or I really need to trim my toenails/clean my computer screen/scoop the cat box.
And so it goes, until suddenly scrubbing the kitchen sink seems like a most important task that needs my prompt attention. And, gee, now that I'm in the kitchen, I am a teensy bit hungry.

Then I chastise myself for being a slacker and a hack, and pour another cup of coffee and get back to my WiP. 
 The next time I look up four hours flew by and several sets of hungry eyes are on me asking me if they should just order pizza (again).

When I'm feeling knee deep in feces during my revisions, this always cheers me up:

"I write one page of masterpiece to ninetyone
 pages of shit,” Hemingway confided to F.
Scott Fitzgerald in 1934. “I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”

Hemingway rewrote the ending of A Farewell to Arms 39 times. Dude. That's hardcore.

When all else fails I crank the tunes, eat some Doritos and drink more coffee. 

How do YOU slog through Revision Hell? 

Oh, and I bet a few of you are wondering the results of my 
Whatever Lola Wants (aka 'Back From Maine') GIVEAWAY! 

The WINNER is...


Lisa Golden from That's Why

*tosses confetti*

*blows horn*

CONGRATS! I know you wanted that creeptastic magnet. :)



Renae said...

A waterproof mac-book? I love it! That would so help with revision hell! This post was so perfect...being that I am smack dab in the middle of revisions myself.

And congrats to Lisa!
Thanks for the great post Lola!

mshatch said...

oh that is soo true about reading aloud. I have caught so many awkward sentences that seemed perfectly fine when I typed them. And if you don't like the sound of your own voice - like me - you can whisper :)

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Aw, congrats to Lisa!


Revisions suck. That's where I am, baby. How very timely of you. Let's see if we can get out of this with our voices and minds intact. As it is, I'm already going hoarse from reading aloud (or maybe it's the flu. not sure).

Good luck with your revisions!

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Don't hate me. I LOVE revision. Honing something is very, very satisfying. It's new drafts I fear.

Lisa_Gibson said...

It generally feels like I'm in revision hell for-ev-er. But generally until I'm sick to death of it all. :)
Congrats to Lisa!
Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

Jen said...

Congrats! The confetti was a nice touch :)

Revisions are tough! I underestimated revisions early on, now I'm knee deep in them with a new wip idea... you know what direction I'm running, yup "WiP Heaven" it's so much nicer there. I'm there until the 30th of August and then I'm working on both... revisions will not get me... I will defeat them!

It's more of a love/hate relationship. I love the changes I'm making... BUT THERE ARE SO MANY CHANGES... you're perfecting rewriting, not revising!

Good luck and godspeed ahead!

Lola Sharp said...

Caroline-- I could never hate you. And, you aren't the only writer who loves revisions (and *shudder* ...research. *yawn*).

I LOVE the first draft and getting to know my characters. Somewhere after the third draft I'm ready to kill them. Dead.

Erica Mitchell-Spickard said...

Congrats to the winner (of the really creepy/cool magnet) of your awesome loot!
Revisions ugh. First can I say I had to giggle at the gargoyle reference. I believe in the reading out loud and the being read to because like you said some things that look amazing in black text just don't roll off the tongue or sound idiotic out loud. I try to "clean as I cook" the best I can and will write 4 chapters then go back and edit so that way the MS isn't one giant mess when I get's just a lesser mess.
Good luck on the revisions and I agree why don't they make it more fun I can dig the pool idea ;)

Summer said...

I have been horribly lazy in the revisions department, although in the past 2 weeks, I've completely rewritten 2 chapters, including a brand-new one. And even with that brand-new chapter, I've managed to cut about 6k. No pity for my darlings.

But starting today, I'm kicking my ass into gear.

I'll be the crazy girl with the Woodchuck and coffee, trying to highlight the computer screen...

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Revising isn't too bad. My test readers really help during that phase, too. We read the dialogue out loud as if we were really conversing. Believe me, when you do that, bad dialogue stands out!

Fran said...

You're so right. Reading it aloud is the best way, while holding a bright green highlighter so you remember the wonky bits!

Patti said...

I take breaks, it helps rejuvenate me to go through it all again. And I agree with reading it out loud, it's the best way to find sentences that aren't working.

Jemi Fraser said...

Congrats to lucky Lisa :)

Chocolate works for just about anything :)

Talli Roland said...

Congrats, Lisa! Yay!

Oh, I hear you on revision hell. And you're right - I find reading it aloud definitely helps you find the sentences that are too long or don't flow properly.

Susan Tiner said...

Go Lisa!

Another idea is to have someone else read it aloud to you.

Natalie said...

I think reading aloud a manuscript is the best editing tool too. I love having my husband read aloud to me too. I catch so many errors hearing what he stumbles over.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Ha! Love the dirt devil and the red-hot portrait. Yeah, I find the most pressing things I need to do besides revise (wander around an office supply store looking for bargains, clean the refrigerator, read amazing blogs)
Reading out loud is always a shocker but a good one.

Lisa said...

Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!!!! (jumping around)

Thank you so much! I cannot wait to start Gaslighting maneuvers with that creeptastic magnet.

And oh, how I relate to this post. I may be an okay writer, but I'm a fantastic procrastinator. That much I have learned.

The Hemingway quote is a keeper. I think I'll probably need a bigger trash can.

Thanks again, Lola!

Old Kitty said...

Congratulations to Lisa!! Yay!!!!

Oh Gorgeous and wonderful Lola!! Revision Hell is evil and nasty and nightmarish and yes, hell-ish but there's always pizza and music and chocolate!! LOL!!!

GOOD LUCK with your revisions!!!! I love that Hemingway quote.

Take care

Indigo said...

I put the WIP away for this week. Starting next week, hell awaits. I'm convinced nothing is ever quite perfect and can always be revised and improved. Which makes revisions somewhat tricky and excruciating. I rely on my Beta to finally tell me it's finished and complete. Otherwise...(Hugs)Indigo

Shelley Sly said...

Congratulations to Lisa!

Funny that you mention it, I have "read MS aloud" on my To-Do list for this week. It really does help! I find that I actually forget little words, like pronouns. Since I know the story well, I anticipate the sentences and totally don't realize I forgot a "him" or "it".

Candyland said...

Congrats! And great advice, Lola!

Robert Guthrie said...

Wisdom everywhere. From the Wilson Follett quote to "And have someone else read it to you." Wow. Reading aloud is essential, but I've never taken the harder and I imagine more helpful step of listening to someone read my prose aloud.

Thanks for rising the bar.

Stephanie Thornton said...

Reading aloud is critical- I do it a lot.

I love that Hemingway quote. I didn't know he'd revised the ending of FTA's 39 times. That makes me feel better.

Lisa said...

Revising hurts, but I usually find that when I work through something again it turns out even better... then I wondered why I ever felt reluctant to revise that part.

Thanks for your comment on my blog by the way. It's fun to meet other aspiring writers!

Cynthia Reese said...

Oh, you had me at "water-proof Mac-book," oh, yeah! There's a program on my computer that will read my WIPs out loud to me, but for the life of me, I can't remember how to make it work. It came in very useful when I had laryngitis and I had to use it to call out The Kiddo's spelling words. Pity I'm so absent-minded!

Jackee said...

LOL! Your hell sounds like mine. Maybe we should get a petition for MacBook because I would totally write better if I could take a bubble bath while I type. I'm sure of it.

Congrats to Lisa on her win! Have a wonderful, shiny new week, Lola! :o)

Jeff King said...

Congrats to the winner...

Your answer is awesome in regards to revising.

I'm still trying to figure it out myself.

I think your way has plenty of merit; I’ll give it a try.

Elliot Grace said...

...three red Sharpies sacrificed their livelihood for my cause, which lasted the entire summer. I'm feelin ya!

Congrats on the award Lisa:)

Hannah Kincade said...

Reading out loud is hands down one of the best ways to find ugly sentences.

Seriously though, Hemingway was nuts! I woulda stopped after 32. :P

M.J. Nicholls said...

Wow. Busy blog. Sensory overload. I've got to the point now where if I am bored revising I am bored with the story, and something has to change. Big time.

Theresa Milstein said...

Congrats to Lisa!

Reading aloud, especially to someone is the best way to fix a manuscript. I read aloud to my children when I think I'm done and find those pesky unclear sentences and last typos.

aspiring_x said...

love that quote! so encouraging!

Mary said...

Since I get my best ideas and solve my problems in the bath, I'm thinking waterproof Mac would be GREAT. Please get on that soon.

I'm waving back. Thanks for stopping by to check my blog.


Saumya said...

Congrats to the winner!! I am in Revision Hell right now as well so I completely relate to your pain. Just reading your post kept me motivated!! And wow...39 times? Maybe I need to stop whining!! That's crazy!

Claudia said...

Hi Lola,
Just dropping by to let you know I read your comment on my blog. Thank you for joining my community. I joined your pack and I'm your lucky she-wolf 393 ;)

Kittie Howard said...

I agree with Carolina about revisions. And I need a really large wastebasket... (if you get my dry sense of humor.)

Kelly said...

Revision hell is coming soon for me.
I am a huncher over my laptop and I recently bought a back brace called "Shouldersback" to keep me from slouching too much. I was tall in junior high and my posture has been horrible ever since. I wish I bought this shouldersback thing years ago!

Lola Sharp said...

Oh Kittie, I need a really large wastebasket, too.

Cynthia, I want that software. I'm going to have to looking that.

So many of us hanging out in the RH (revision hell)...nice to know I'm not alone in my fireproof waders.

We need to let Apple we want-NEED- a waterproof getup.
(I love my macbook, but I'd LOVE it if it were waterproof. I'd be pruney.)

#iLoveMyWriterFriends #amediting #amwantingtobedone

Lola Sharp said...

Kelly-I'm going to have to check that shoulder thingy out! Thanks for the tip. :)

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

Huge congrats, Lisa, you lucky duck! Thanks for the great contest, Lola. You're awesome!

Hope your week's off to a great start :D

((hugs)) Nicole

Kazzy said...

Oh yes. Reading aloud is a great filter for the bad stuff. :)

Hart Johnson said...

I think I am just going to give in and do that next time I think I'm clean... I've heard it a number of times, but... it's embarrassing... I wonder where i can send my family...

Congrats to Lisa!!!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to the winner of the creepy magnet! ;]

I love to revise because I'm a raging perfectionist and I love the giddy feeling I get after a good editing session.

Eric W. Trant said...

The first short story I published, the publisher made us read our stories aloud on-camera.

So yeah, READ IT ALOUD! Eventually you'll have to do that anyway.

I'm with you on the Hemingway quotes. "All first drafts are shit." He said that, too.

"Then I'm on the right track!" That was my response to him.

- Eric

Kenda said...

What a fantastic description of revision--love it! Great quotes, too. Thanks for the recent follow. I look forward to visiting you, too.

Anonymous said...

The process of revision is definitely tortuous, time consuming, and brain numbing. I do it one page at a time. Over, and over, and over again ;)

Lickety Splitter said...

I love me some Hemingway. I really liked that you taught me something new about him! 39 times wow!

I'm not sure why people are always hatin' on alliteration. I like the way similar words roll off the tongue. Splain it to me Lola ... do people think alliteration is lazy or that it's too simple?

I wonder if Spanx would help the thighs from rolling off the desk chair into the next county? I may have to try them out and see for myself. :)

Lola Sharp said...

Lickety--I don't hate alliteration. It certainly has its useful moments, but alliteration should be intended, purposeful.

Spanx! Genius idea! Let me know if it works. If only Spanx could burn calories too. ;)

Lola Sharp said...

Catherine--Over and over and over again, indeed. *sigh*

Lisa Marie Miles said...

Hi Lola! So true about reading your work outloud. I did this recently (for the first time) to my husband on a long car ride. I cringed at some stuff I wrote, but it helped me in the long run.

Portia said...

I'm a huge fan of reading aloud! I read something once that you could tell the real writers in any newsroom because when they're writing their lips are moving :-)

Congrats to Lisa for the win!


Anonymous said...

Wow, good for you! I will definitely be recalling your words and the gift of that Hemingway quote once I start going through and doing my own again. I really *try* to not do full revisions until I have a first draft done, lest I get lost in the process and never finish the stupid thing. :P Revisions require three supplies: hot chocolate, mini marshmallows and a padded room. Okay, not the padded room, but some good tunes for me to focus on when I need a breather and to remember that all my writing is not shit. ;-)

Carol Kilgore said...

I'm with you in Revision Hell. I think I'm here for a long time. Right now I'm on coffee. It will progress through the day.

Jai Joshi said...

I get through revision much like you do although I haven't been chastising myself as a slacker enough recently.


Aubrie said...

Wow, you have a lot of comments! I hate reading my WIP out loud. It makes me feel soooo dumb. But you're right. It does work out all of the little awkward phrases and such.

Good luck in Revision Hell. :)

storyqueen said...

Revision IS Hell.

I love first drafts far more than having to revise....but it is so necessary.

*I love your blog!*


Lola Sharp said...

Shelley--Thank you. *blushes* You just made my day. :)

I ♡ all of you!

RaShelle said...

Lola - revisions drive me insane. But yes, there is nothing better than reading it out loud to someone else. Good luck to you. And I'm totally bummed I didn't win. Nuts!!! But congrats to the winner. =D

May your pen be mighty

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Lola Sharp
My name is Lola. (I'm not a showgirl) Yes, L-O-L-A Lola. It's the least of my worries. Let's move on, shall we? This blog is mostly about my misadventures on the journey to publication and beyond. My passion for lush prose, quirky characters, art, music, literature, performing arts and anything creative will be a major theme here. This journey of mine will not always be pretty. Much like rubbernecking a train wreck, I know sometimes you just can't help but look at the carnage that is often my life. So strap on your neck brace, helmet and 5-point harness and come along for the ride! Licentia poetica.
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