Friday, May 19, 2017

WD Revision Lesson #1

A popular post from February 2008

By Josi S. Kilpack

About four years ago I first heard about Writer's Digest, a magazine written specifically for Writers (hence the title). It's a monthly publication that covers a wide range of writing topics and hits on all types of writing; freelance, poetry, novels, children's, short stories. They also often include author interviews which I find fascinating and they sponsor an annual writing contest (entries are due May 15). If you don't receive this magazine I would highly reccomend that you try it out. You can sign up for a free issue at

I specifically want to zone in on a fabo article they had in the February 08 issue. It's found on page 46 and is title "Novel Revision for the Faint of Heart" by Jordan E. Rosenfeld. It goes over 10 points of revision, all of which I can personally vouch for and yet I still needed the reminder since I tend to get lazy in my craft from time to time. I'd like to focus this blog on the first point; "Let Your Work Breathe," and will include other points over the next few weeks.

In this point of the article Rosenfeld talks about the state of your objectivity by the time you finish writing your book. He points out that we writer's often finish this process and think the book is garbage. I would submit that while that is often the case, there is the opposite result as well--we think the book is brilliant. Either way he's exactly right in that as we write our novel, weave the plot, get to know our characters and see them ultimately triumph (unless your writing a tragedy), we lose our ability to clearly assess our own work. Whatever it is we feel toward our book can not be trusted. That's why we need some distance before we can be capable of finding and fixing what needs to be fixed.

In this case the term "Absence makes the heart grow fonder" would more appropriately say "Absense makes the heard grow fairer". Giving yourself some space from your book allows your chemistries to equalize and your objectivity to rest and repair itself so that when you are ready to do the actual work of revision, you're capable of doing it. No matter how anxious you are submit your book you must remember that your first draft will not be good enough--let me say that again--YOUR FIRST DRAFT WILL NOT BE GOOD ENOUGH. Don't waste the time of editors, publishers or even the friend that is doing you the favor of reading it through by giving them a first draft. First off, it's ridiculous to expect them to see the greatness behind your unfinished product, and second they won't be able to help you find the mistakes because it might not even make sense. Before anyone gets to see the book, you need to give yourself the distance in order to go back and fairly revise it into a finished work. The first step is taking the time to reset your brain and gear up for that revision.

How you'll do that revising, once you've taken the break, will be covered in subsequent blogs, but for now ponder on the importance of the revision process and having a clear head when you begin to rework the book.

Lesson two will come next week.


Keith Fisher said...

I love that article too. but is the magazine published every month?
I haven't seen a January copy and the subscription I just signed up says that a year is six issues. I assumed it was published bi-monthly.

Anonymous said...

Just curious, but what amount of time do you recommend, if any. I'm sure it varies. The thing is, that too much time and it lands with the other forgotten, unedited pieces. Perhaps there is a reasonable balance between too little and too much.
(The Three Little Bears theory?)

Josi said...

Keith, you are so good and absolutely right. It is a bi-monthly magazine.

I'm making a note to do a blog on 'double checking your research' in the near future--thanks for setting the record straight.

Josi said...

To anonymous--I think it varies from one writer to the next, the question is how long does it take you to be obective again? For me, when I've been immersed in a story, it takes me about 4 weeks, and working on another project, before I'm ready. However, if I've only been working on it here and there, not obssessivly, I can get back to it sooner. That said I've also had projects I needed months apart from before I was ready. I suggest you peak in on it every week or so and see how it feels, if you feel like you're seeing new things that need to be addressed or whether you still see it as 'finished'. That's the key, we finish the initial writing and feel like it's FINISHED, good or bad. We need to be more openminded. Thanks.

Heather B. Moore said...

This is great advice, Josi. I also print out a hard copy to edit--it seems like I find a lot more that way. I usually take a couple of weeks off before reading through the entire book. One thing I wouldn't recommend is reading a lot of first person books and then going back to edit a third person book (like I'm doing right now--nothing sounds right).

Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Josi--So glad you got something out of the article!! My name is misleading though--I'm a "she." However, for your reader, the answer is that WD publishes bi-monthly now. So yes, every other month.

Thanks for writing here!

Jordan Rosenfeld

Heather B. Moore said...

I love WD as a whole. I'd encourage every writer to subscribe. I learn new things every issue, and Kevin Alexander's column is very funny.