Wednesday, June 1, 2016

IWSG: Mental Revising

Today is IWSG day, a monthly event Alex Cavanaugh started to get writers sharing about their insecurities and other stuff going on in their lives.

I have a tendency to mentally revise my work while I write. For me, revising isn't just about correcting faulty grammar or spelling. When I talk about revising, or mental revising to be specific, I'm actually discussing how I turn my story, with its plot, characters, setting, dialogue and stuff, inside out. Here, I dissect all the relationships and connections and things that make the story what it is and I critically examine if there's something that's obstructing the flow. While recently doing this mental revision with my WIP, I've decided that eventually I would need to delete traces of an unnecessary character while creating the presence of a completely new character. 

It's easier said than done. It means I have to delete blocks of text I'd written with such care and tear apart a good number of scenes and stitch them back together. Hours and hours of work I'd done earlier will go down the drain. The insecure writer inside me asks, Why do I bother laboring over these words, these scenes, these people, places, and things when so much of this ends up deleted? The writer inside me that's more grounded reminds myself that this is part of the writing process, and that my first drafts (even second and third ones) probably won't make great novels. 

How do you mentally revise your writing? 

26 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've never had to tear a story apart that much. I think it's because I mentally revise it to death before I even begin writing. (Which is why my outlines take longer than the first draft.)
Good luck rearranging everything for the new character.

Tamara Narayan said...

Sadly, it's been so long since I've been at this stage it's hard to remember. I guess I write a ton of notes in a separate file and then pick one thing to do (like delete all mention of this character) and go through the manuscript. Then I pick another thing. I try not to make too many changes at once, but it's a time consuming process.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Maybe think of it this way - if you hadn't written that draft, you'd never have figured out you needed to delete one character and create a new one. That work was not wasted!

Good luck with everything!

C.D. Gallant-King said...

The book I'm currently finishing up was not well planned, so not only did I revise as I went but I had to revise ALOT after I was finished. Removing whole characters, moving scenes around, that kind of thing. It took WAY too long, so my next book I'm spending a lot more time on prep work to go through all those annoying bits up front. I've already discovered a lot of things I had to change/delete/move, so hopefully my early drafts will be much cleaner.

IWSG Post June

Jeffrey Scott said...

I'm always revising my story. I've probably spent more time revising than actually writing. When I initially started the YA series I'm writing I had three main couples in the story and then secondary characters. Eventually I got to thinking three couples were too much and completely rid myself of one of the couples. Certain dialog had to be reassigned but other than that, I think it helped my story flow more. The two characters I deleted, were pretty wooden anyway. In fact one of the girls really didn't have many lines at all. She was just kind of there.

But I do a lot of mental editing too. Usually when I'm going for a run or something. I devise ways of how things can be improved, or made to be funnier.

diedre Knight said...

I'm constantly revising! Sometimes I feel I might pick it to pieces before the editor ever sees it and have to refrain ;-) I do know the anguish of feeling like it's time down the drain, but agree that it's all part of the process of a solid story. Best part is that you really don't regret it in the end. Write on and keep us posted!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I love revising. When I'm stuck, I play the entire story from the beginning in my head as if I'm watching a video. I studying the landscape, the characters. Sometimes I had it on pause far too long while I try to decide what happens next.

Chrys Fey said...

You're right it is part of the writing process, and we bother with laboring over it because we know we can make it better by getting it right. When you're done fixing this and adding in that new character, you'll love your story so much more. :)

Pat Hatt said...

I have where I want to go done in my head, so I don't have to tear it apart that much. But still have to do it some.

Olivia Rose said...

I constantly do that and visualize it too.

Jenni Enzor said...

I do a lot of mental revising too. For some reason, the mornings where I have a few moments to sleep in or take my time getting out of bed are some of my best "thinking" times. I've totally deleted huge segments--and I've also rewritten a whole novel from scratch. All of those ended up being good moves, despite how painful they were at the time. You're on the right track!

Liz A. said...

I feel ya. I'm doing something similar at the moment. I spend most of my mental time fleshing out stories. I'd like to think that when I sit down to write that the story is mostly done in my head, but that's not how things work out.

Jo said...

I hope you don't ditch those parts and scenes you cut out, they might fit very well in another story.

Elizabeth said...

I think I'm a bit like Alex in that I do a lot of story planning and revising in my head before I begin drafting. Of course, writing a book is an entirely new undertaking for me, so I will see how this all works for me as I go through the writing process. When I wrote my short story, I did completely change one of my characters and added him as a second narrator through mental revising and notes before I had begun drafting.

Suzanne Furness said...

I think those deleted scenes and words are never entirely wasted as they help you get to know your characters better. It's hard though, pressing delete on words you worked so hard to write in the first place. I have been known to set up another document of 'deleted scenes' just so I don't feel so bad!

Brandon Ax said...

I for sure do the same thing. I remember a famous author saying that all the great writers were better at revision than writing. It is a very important part.

The Silver Fox said...

In addition to "correcting faulty grammar or spelling," I tend to I tend to rearrange the things I'd rearrange in an outline... if I did outlines. Does that make any sense?

Elizabeth Alsobrooks said...

If only writing weren't thought, eh? You sound like you have it well under control. Carry on.

Rebecca Douglass said...

I also do a lot of that mental revising (often while exercising; sometimes those brilliant insights turn out not to be so rational when the beta-endorphins wear off!). It is SOOOOO much easier to think it all out about how we'll change this and make this character more herself, and beef up the support for this action, than it is to actually make the changes. But I think that kind of overview is important, and maybe making the changes in our heads where it is easy allows us to have the nerve to tackle making some small part of them for real.

John Wiswell said...

I'm in the middle of some plot demolition myself! Like non-elective surgery, it's necessary for the patient and will make the whole work healthier. But it's sad to see beloved material go.

Stephanie Faris said...

You think that's bad--I often revise my sentences while I talk! It gets annoying, especially when I say something that's grammatically incorrect and I go back and correct it!

Medeia Sharif said...

I revise while I'm drafting, but I try not to go back too much since I just want to get everything down. When I'm not writing, I'm tweaking things in my head and getting it down on paper so I can tackle revisions later.

M.R. R. said...

Good luck with revisions.

Stephanie Faris said...

Deleting big chunks of text can be painful...but if it makes the book stronger, it's well worth it!

Claire Annette said...

I revise while I walk. I carry a note card and pencil in my pocket to jot down ideas. Sometimes my walks get very loooong.

S. M. Pace said...

I've actually trained myself not to revise while writing. If I go back and start revising what I've already written, I never finish the first draft. As I come up with changes I need to make, I jot down notes and keep going. This often leads to a novel with a second half that looks very different from the first half :-) Horrifying for some, but I greatly prefer revising to drafting. My revising method also allows me to start with big things, including cutting chunks that don't fit the story before I spend any time cleaning them up. So I don't waste much time laboring over sections that end up being removed.

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