Writing Tips to Make Story Revision Easier & More Effective
Revision is a task all writers must master. But it’s often seen, particularly among inexperienced writers, as something to dread.
Don’t dread revision. Embrace it. It is one of the biggest gifts writers are given – the opportunity to re-work our work to allow it to more fully grow into its deepest self. This is where Story meets up with Craft in its most intense relationship.
Here’s some tips to make it easier:
1. Start by realizing that revision requires you to let go of the Story as you currently perceive it.
It’s the Story that matters most. By Story I mean the journey toward a particular spiritual/emotional/physical realization for the main characters. How they go about this is malleable. Your Characters know their Story, but you have say in how to best reveal that journey to the audience.
2. Realize that there is more to bring out.
In the first draft, the Story pours out (and if it’s not pouring out, you may be tugging at it before it’s ready) – the first draft is the core material of the Story. It’s in its purest form – where theme, characters, dialogue – reveal themselves, undisturbed yet by the writer’s hand. It is raw, malleable material that is never meant for anyone elses’ eyes and always meant to be shaped and nurtured and tended to by the writer.
3. Take on the role of director when revision begins.
Particularly for scripts, but also for novels, your job as a writer includes the role of director when you start revision. Why? Because while you are writing, you are also directing the Story – and you have decisions to make. Director’s decisions – not just writing decisions. That means you start to take the Story apart and look at it structurally. You look at character development, you decide what best serves the Story and you get rid of or change what doesn’t. You keep the big picture in mind and you get tough with what’s working and what’s not. You also start to really get to know your characters and deal with their issues in a supportive, caring manner. You take command of the page and accept responsibility for what’s on it and what’s not.
4. Partner with your characters and let them inform your decisions.
Characters trust you with their story and that’s not an easy thing to do. They deserve respect. They also know far more than we do when it comes to who they are, what they’re after and what they’re not telling you. You have to be a very good listener. They are invested in the success of your work and they will give you what you need. Ask them. They’ll surprise you. They’ll also reveal more when you let them have a say in how their Story is told.
5. Bring in a second set of professional eyes when it’s ready.
No one will ever know your Story as well as you do, but we lose our ability to accurately perceive whether or not we have expressed the Story as well as we intended. That’s where having a second set of professional eyes provide feedback is invaluable.
6. Revise again.
After you get feedback, take what makes sense for the Story (not for your ego) and revise again. Chances are some of the suggestions made to you will take your work to a higher level. Some won’t fit and you’ll leave those behind.
7. Take responsibility for the final completion of the Story.
It’s easy to wallow in a never-ending state of revision. But that won’t move your Story to its next stage of development. You have to accept responsibility for deciding when you’ve brought the Story to the highest level you can, at this stage, with the information, feedback and understanding that you have right now. Part of this is something you’ll just know. Part of it is an actual decision to stop revising and declare it ready to stand on its own in the world. You have to determine if you’ve given it everything it needs to sustain its life. If you have, then make the decision. Declare it done at this stage.