In my 3 in 30 post last weekend, I mentioned the revision process and the mistakes I’ve been cleaning up. You may wonder what mistakes I’m talking about. Most of them, I’m learning, are quite common–many writers make them. They involve words that I tend to overuse, simply because when I’m writing, they’re the first comfortable tool I reach for.
Words like “look” can indicate I’ve given too many “stage directions” to my characters in the midst of dialogue, or that I’ve just not taken the time to find a better, more fitting word or phrase.
Another no-no I come across is sentences using the word “was,” which is kind of a nothing verb that adds no color or life to the sentence. Sometimes, too, the use of “was” signals that I’ve told instead of shown. I get rid of was whenever I can. Sometimes that means eliminating the sentence altogether–the reader can figure out from what I’ve already written what’s going on, and the sentence with “was” is redundant. Sometimes, I simply rewrite the sentence using a stronger, more forceful verb.
I wrote the entire story originally from one point of view and in the rewrite, added a whole new point of view, so the final product is told from two points of view. My writing improved as I went along. As a result, some of the older scenes, written from my protagonist’s point of view need more refining.
The good news is, I am still learning as I go along, and getting better at revision. The other day, I had to write a new scene to replace one. Now that I’m finished, and can look at the story as a whole, I realized that one of my scenes needed to be replaced with a new scene that would bring more meaning to the climax. I wrote the new scene and had very little revision to do afterward because I was able to write well the first time, instead of having to go back and catch all those little mistakes.
To me, the aspect of learning as you write is one of the most intimidating things about the craft. I know that I may look back five years or even five months from now and want to bury my head if I read what I wrote today. The fact that you keep improving is a blessing and a curse. I have many author friends who have never read their books once in print. I will probably feel the same way. But I hope I can enjoy each step along the journey ahead as much as I’ve enjoyed the road behind me.