Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Language Trampoline?

"I'm not alone when I'm writing - the language itself, like a kind of trampoline, is there helping me."
~ William Stafford

As we are all sometimes painfully aware,
writing = revision. Today I thought I'd provide some revision, trouble-shooting symptoms and prescriptions, all taken (and slightly adapted) from Barry Lane's, After The End. (Enjoy his humorous Latin terms - they crack me up!)

1. Delusions of First-Draft Grandeur (Reluctant Revisititus - Latin)
Symptoms: Writer feels no need to revise any of his writing except to spell words correctly. Writer's eyes glaze over when the word revision is mentioned.

Prescription: Know that writing is revision; use leads and details to find new angles; explode moments. Understand that it may not be time to revise yet. Let it sit. Know that it doesn't have to be written over to be revised. Before any revisions are made, praise and enjoy what there is.

2. Dialogue-arhea (Looses-lipsus - Latin)
Symptoms: Writing suffers from an excess of flat dialogue that doesn't move the story along.

Prescription: Replace some dialogue with exposition and add snapshot-quality details to make real scenes.

3. Bouts of Vagueness
Symptom: Writing gets vague in places for no apparent reason.

Prescription: Determine if the vagueness is a result of missing details or an unsure purpose. Vagueness is often a necessary stage for writers who are exploring uncertain territory.

4. Uncut Words (Editophobia / Editomalaise - Latin)
Symptoms: Writer is afraid to edit her own work or is bored with editing.

Prescription: Find ways to make editing both routine and fun.

Other great revision tips from Barry (for yourself or when critiquing the work of others):
  • Be more interested in what is NOT on the paper
  • Never be afraid to be critical. Know when to be a tough editor and when to be a nurturing reader.
  • Remember that too much unqualified praise can be as damaging to a writer as flat rejection.
  • Never tell a writer a paper is done. Always point out more suggestions for revision.

What are some revision tips you can add?


K.M. Weiland said...

"Dialogue-arhea" - that's hilarious! :D :D :D Thanks for sharing.

Bethany Mattingly said...

Ha ha ha I loved this. So true, I'll add...remember what you love about your favorite books, find those parts in your own book, polish them until they shine. :)

Mary Aalgaard said...

I agree. We'd like it to be ready from the first spewing words - it never is. We love our words and don't want to slice them up. Bring on the knife! And, is it ever done? No, not until the deadline strikes!

Lindsey Himmler said...

DETAILS! (See Bouts of Vagueness)

I read manuscripts all the time that say things like, "He was drinking water out of his mug." Nothing inherently wrong with that, but how much more interesting is "He was slurping tepid water out of his Garfield mug, the one that said 'Hang in There' in fat purple letters."

Angela said...

Dialogue-arhea! Haha, that's awesome--I love it!!

Mariah Irvin said...

Heehee. Latin is funny :)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

K.M. - That's one of my favorites, too!

Bethany - Good addition, Bethany. :)

Mary - Ah, the painful sometimes. :)

Lindsey - Yes!! Great example.

Angela - LOL! I like Looses-lipsis too. :-)

Nisa said...

I love the trampoline quote. So cool! This whole post is neat. So is there a part II? How to make revising fun!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Nisa - I'll see what I can come up with - good idea. :)

Jennie Englund said...

Your analogies are SO good!

I love Bethany's tip, too!

Kimberly Franklin said...

Ha! Now that's a funny list. The sad part is that it's all so true. : )

storyqueen said...

I like the tip about being more interested in what is NOT in the paper, but I am struggling with the last one.

Sometimes, a paper (or manuscript) is done. I think over-revision can be just as bad as under-revision.

That is when you have to trust your inner author to know when it feels done.

(But I think only the author can decide this.)

Good post!


Jenn Johansson said...

I love those! They're awesome :) Great post! Thanks for sharing.

Meredith Rae Morgan said...

I like that bit about looking at the thing that's NOT on the page. There's a lot to that suggestion! Thank you.

choco (In Which a Girl Reads) said...

Haha! These manage to be both hilarious and helpful :D Thanks for posting them!

Catherine Denton said...

These are so good. I have bouts of vagueness.

You always find the best quotes and tips!
Winged Writer

Jemi Fraser said...

Awesome - I love the list!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Jennie - Thanks for smiling at me again today, Jennie! :-)

Kimberly - I liked Bethany's tip too.

Shelley - I agree, especially with shorter books like those we write. I paused a moment over that one, too, but 99% of the time there are improvements we could make.

Jenn - I'm glad you liked them!

Meredith - Isn't that a great tip? :)

Choco - I agree. Useful is always a little better when there's humor involved. :)

Catherine - Thanks, Catherine!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Jemi - oops! You snuck in there. :-) I'm glad you enjoy the tips. Barry Lane is awesome!

Roxane B. Salonen said...

I'm still dizzy from the trampoline. :) What a ride, this writing life is, huh?

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Ah, great tips! Thank you for sharing!

jdcoughlin said...

Too much unqualified praise. Are you sure? I mean, who says it's unqualified. Maybe unqualified isn't so unwelcome. Not by me anyway. I'll take it. Gladly.
But that 2&4. Those, I have to get back to you on. I believe I could use some work there.

Great post! Too funny!!

Karen said...

What a great post!

Although, there is also something to be said against overediting. :(

Heidi Willis said...

all funny, but TRUE!!

I'd also add "let some time pass."

The more time goes by, the less perfect the book looks, and it's easier to see what needs to be done.

Right after you write it, it's still a bit shiny. :)

Kelly said...

(and especially timely after months of revisions of my wip!)

Candice said...

Great tips! I have suffered with all of these afflictions on a regular basis.

Jen Chandler said...

Bouts of Vagueness...I suffer with that often! These are great. Thanks for sharing :)


Simon C. Larter said...

My tips? Same as usual. Write once, put it away for a few days, revise twice, put away for a day, revise again, send to your critique group. That's it.

Oh, and if you don't have a critique group? Get one. They'll light the revision fire under you if nothing else will.

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