Friday, January 11, 2013

Buffing the Rough Cut

Okay. Well, Blogspot seems to have a mad hate on for the image I'd planned to tuck into this post. So you'll just have to imagine a typewritten page hemorraghing red ink. K?

As has been previously established, drafting is not my forte. Revision is. Sadly, one cannot revise what one has not yet - you know - drafted. Welcome to my purgatory.

Once I have a POS (Yes, I could have titled this 'polishing the turd'. I didn't. You're welcome.) draft in hand, I patch holes. My drafts are usually a jigsaw puzzle of scenes without transitions betwixt them. Mostly, the scenes are in order. Though, it's not unheard of for the bits to get shuffled in service to the story and conflict. The point for this pass through the MS is to connect all the dots so the story reads from beginning to end.

Stage 1 Check List:
  1. Does story flow from beginnng to end
  2. Is there a story arc
  3. Can conflict be intensified
  4. Does it make sense
From there, I move on to Stage 2 polishing - making it sound right to me. You know how in high school, when some smart mouth jerk insulted you and you thought of the perfect come back? At three AM the next morning? That's revising for me. For whatever reason, a wire crossed in the brain, it's easy for me to see how to fix something AFTER I've written it. I may wail and cry and gnash my teeth that it's too hard, but I always know what the story needs. Eventually, I get over myself and I fix what needs repair. This is often dialog between characters and may speak directly to character arcs. This stage requires a clear head and a willingness to listen. Somethings haven't changed since high school. The perfect solutions usually pop into my head at 3am. My family is not keen on my revision process.

Stage 2 Check List:
  1. Are character arcs as strong as they could be
  2. Do the characters sound like themselves
  3. Would anyone REALLY say what I had that character say
  4. What would be more fun, more conflict, more unintentionally revealing in any given bit of text I'm obsessing over
Stage 3 is for continuity, repeated words, phrases and gestures. Hi. My name is Marcella, and I am not a detail person. Until it comes to one of my stories. Continuity mistakes in my work make me cringe. Hates it. Hates it with white hot passion. So I've developed the 'picking out continuity issues' muscle. I'd like to pretend it's foolproof. But that was before a novel got to copy-edits with a hero holding a conversation while he was unconscious in surgery. Oops. Or before a short story went out with a massive (to me) science error in it. So clearly, one can never obsess over continuity too much. How do you find it?

Stage 3 Check List:
  1. Beta readers/critique group
  2. Read the work aloud in the company of a solid crit group - no really - reading aloud is where your repeated words will hit you over the head if your crit group doesn't
  3. Reading aloud, mark your characters' physical gestures - how often does he rub a hand down his face, how often does she roll her eyes - fix that. There are more physical manifestations of emotional state than are dreamt of in my tiny drafting vocabulary. Try out a few.
  4. Take a break.  A day. A week. Longer if deadlines permit, but let the work sit. Encourage the words to dribble out of head. Then reread. Not aloud. Just read. Watch the typos and the repeated words jump out at you. Fix.
Stage 4 - Release
Here's where I admit I'll never catch everything. This is why there are editors - professional, objective eyes paid to point out where a story doesn't communicate as clearly as it could. So that's the point that I bundle up that MS and ship it. And subsequently and immediately find a slew of typos, repeated words and other mistakes that I missed before shipping.

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