Friday, April 23, 2010

Revise, Revise, and Revise Some More

“Most rewriting consists of reshaping and tightening and refining the raw material you wrote on your first try.” William Zinsser

I set three goals for myself in Wednesday’s post--to revise a story on my to-do pile, to search for publications that might be interested in it, and to send it out. I accomplished two of the three. I did the rewrite and decided on a market (actually two), but I let the piece sit overnight before submitting it.

The story originated with a writing prompt from two weeks ago. I didn’t keep track of how long I spent deciding on the story idea from the prompt and writing the first draft. Normally, this process takes about an hour to an hour and a half and includes some revision. I spent about an hour on Tuesday working on the next rewrite and finished the final revision the following day. This time I kept track of the time.

I worked for thirty-five minutes ON THE FIRST PARAGRAPH. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t check the word count when I started. The final version had eight-six words. I worked a combined twenty-two minutes on paragraphs five and six (out of seven). In all, I spent another hour and a half on this revision. The total word count went from 446 to 408. Doing the math, I spent four hours writing a 400 word story. That’s about right for a work of this length.

In the final revision, I worked on word choices and sentence flow. Two sentences felt wrong. Based on critiques received on other stories, I knew if a sentence or phrase didn’t flow right for me, it didn’t for the reader either. In the case of one sentence, I found the solution to my problem was to shorten it by deleting some descriptive material. The reader could decide what the character looked like based on the minimal information I provided.

Word choice was where I spent most of my time. For example, the text I started with on Wednesday contained six instances of “was.” The final version had two. I also chose stronger choices for “look,” “watch,” and “see.” “That” is a word I often delete, but, in the case of this story, I kept four instances. The sentences didn’t read right without them.

Now comes the wait and hope period. I submitted the story to DiddleDog, a journal I haven’t submitted to previously. I’d love for my work to appear in this magazine, but I’ve been at this long enough to understand that that might not happen. I’ll be okay with whatever decision the editor makes, and I’ll let y’all know how I make out.

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