Jul 26, 2011

Revision

There's a cliche that life is like a blank page, implying that what we do each day fills those pages with writing. I wish that were so, especially when I've screwed up in my usual spectacular fashion. Because then I could go over what I did with a delete key - or an eraser - and revise.

My kids do this all the time. Whenever something breaks or the youngest starts crying or the living room is a mess, they react by revising what actually happened to suit their POV. It wasn't my fault. He started it. That's not my mess. I didn't do it.

This is what makes writing a first draft so satisfying. My characters do and say (usually) exactly what I want. They are my creations; they don't talk back, or leave messes or welts on each other's faces. My yearning is for perfection...and that's bad. Very, very bad in fiction.

Fighting against this urge for perfection drives my revision process. As much as I'd like to avoid it in My Own Little World, I need the conflict. My invisible minions need warts, pimples, bad tempers, sneaky tendencies. They need foibles and personality quirks. Or there's no story. That constant good/evil fight drives everything. When my story lags, I look at the conflict. Chances are, there isn't any.

What else do I look for? Timing of events. Believable dialogue, which means I read out loud all the time like a crazy person. Careful word choice in descriptions. Chapter length. Does each chapter drive the story or can I ditch it? What's my message or is my world view consistent in these characters? And any info dump has to go.

I'm striving for perfect imperfection...which brings me back to real life. God didn't give us a delete key for two reasons: so we know we need Him, and so we're always moving forward. I'd be pressing that delete key all the time, spending my days trying to redo something rather than get it right the first time. Real revision in life centers around my attitude,(message) my reactions, (timing) the words I speak (careful choice). If I could learn to live as well as I want to write...well, that's the kind of revision I crave.

3 comments:

E.R. King said...

Melodie, you certainly have a gift for writing. I particularly enjoyed your last sentence. Thank you for sharing this. It made me feel warm and fuzzy, which I needed today. High five, girlfriend!

Jen Daiker said...

I'm in love with this post! This was wonderful! I love how you compared it to how your children react! You never think about things like that!!!! What a beautiful mind you have! Loving your blog!

Lisa L. Regan said...

Great post! I loved this one. So true, so true. I needed to read this post on this day in particular so thanks!