• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
  • Archives

Tell Me Something Good

When do you take revision too far? When does your work start unraveling? When does writing become finger painting? Some people feel that revision is where the “real” work of writing gets done. Maybe. But there’s nothing like cracking a new piece of work out of your ass. Here’s my advice: Get lots of rest. Drink lots of water. Clear your desk. Trust your editor or readers. Keep a separate document for sentences you delete. I call mine: fragments. Do you have to kill your darlings? Execution-style.

Revision advice? Anyone?

16 Responses

  1. What it takes to wipe all the piss poor sentences clean is nothing less than a good killing. Some stuff I keep, some parts get what I call a revision tsunami, i.e. obliterated by the wave upon wave of the delete key.

    Funny how you wipe out whole parges, re-read and KNOW it’s better.

    I’m working on a new project, not into revisions yet, which is really a big fat lie I suppose, b/c I can’t seem to stop myself from changing my first damn sentence. Then again, I always revise that one a lot. The other stuff I’m clinging to for now. I can’t seem to start chopping too much until I get to THE END.

    I have a file like that too. Fragments is good. I call mine Darlings.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly, especially with the ass thing. You don’t have to kill your darlings, you just keep them in a safe place until they are needed later because they probably will be.

  3. I have a delete file for every bit of writing I do. When I take something out of the manuscript, it goes in its delete file. That file has saved my butt countless times, and I know if I need something I’ve deleted, it’s there.
    And then I kill my darlings.

  4. Nothing is sacred. Nothing holy. I try not to be too infatuated with my own shit. Slashing is good. Simplicity a gem. Killing those darlings a virtue.
    Process-wise, I rewrite every sentence as I go, word by word, then each paragraph, line by line. Chipping away, sculpting. Can’t go on until it feels right.

  5. Don’t over-think it. Just do it.

    And don’t overdo it.

    Hey, it’s this: language is music; to learn to play takes practice; to learn to play better takes more practice. Then language becomes the current and you become the wire.

    It’s a hella fun and there’s many worse things to do with one’s time.

    I won’t list them.

  6. I don’t keep a delete file for anything but large chunks of writing. The smaller fragments never seem to fit anywhere once they’re cut, so I’d rather just rewrite them from scratch.

  7. No file for drop-outs here. When they’re gone, they’re gone. I figure, if they are good, and are revilant, I with resurrect them. If not, you can’t kick your own ass so why try.

  8. I feel like it’s a sin to say this, but it’s true: I do better when I imagine my editor reading it. The revision of my journalism is so much more focused and purposeful than my fiction (for other reasons, probably, too, but still…). It has a function, a thing I know it must do, a function I (and I don’t say this often) believe in and want it to accomplish, and my editor (like any good coach) will call me out on my bad form. Choke up on the bat. Bend those knees. You know what to do, so do it.

  9. …and by the way, I’m really loving waking up to some new Betsy posts. You had me at “fuck me dead,” and I’m glad you’re back.

  10. I underwrite, so my deal is to ADD DARLINGS, not kill ’em.

  11. Gone too far when I’m taking it too seriously. My writing, I mean, not the obligation to sit down and write. It’s just a book. It’s just a story. It’s just entertainment. Was Beowulf rewritten? Write something glib instead and move on.

    • I agree, Yossi. Totally agree. Spit it out, revise after you get a trusted editor or agent’s feedback, then spit it out to the world. Tell a story, and you’ll do fine.

  12. Some of these posts are very helpful. I tend to go into overdrive, write with the pedal to the metal, distractions run over like frogs on wet summer night roads, then sit back later and edit, saying more with less, etc. Lately my motto is: Don’t let the writing get in the way of itself. Now if I can just accomplish that, I might have something salvageable.
    And for the record, I do try and avoid those frogs on the road, as long as it doesn’t involve veering off the road and hitting a tree.

  13. Keep everything you throw out. Smart input is good, revision is good. But don’t rewrite for the sake of rewriting. You’re also an editor. You know the difference.

  14. Don’t shoot! Keep those darlings in a folder. If a striking image holds up two weeks, a month from now, you’ll find a place for it. I cut a last line from a poem. Good line. Wrong poem. It became the title of a new poem that I like a lot. My grandmother made quilts.They had names: Drunkard’s Path, Double Wedding Ring, Falling Timbers. She collected scraps of cloth from her daughter’s old prom dresses, the husband’s worn trousers, sun-bleached curtains, and made these gorgeous quilts. Sometimes I think of writing like that, the stitching together of discarded lines, all with their secret histories.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: