8-July-2012 - Revision

Quote of the day:

"Always put yourself in
other’s shoes.

If you feel it hurts you,

then it probably hurts the
other person too!"

Writing tip of the day - Revision of your work!

G'day guys,

Today's issue is about revision, and the same approach applies to short stories, essays, manuscripts, plays, letters, emails and poetry - any written work.

1. Once I have finished a piece of work I deliberately leave it sitting on my lounge room floor. It's a symbolic gesture I guess, and a constant reminder. What's next? Leave it alone until you are good and ready to tackle it again. You will know when to revisit it. Trust me. With manuscripts, it is usually three months for me. If it's a letter to a politician or a major letter concerning one of my social justice or human rights campaigns, it might be three revisits in 24 hours. Why remove yourself from your work? Well, time gives you the opportunity to be distracted from what you have written. Then, when you tackle it again, you can see obvious flaws, cut, cut, cut, find spelling and grammatical errors and make sentences much simpler. Make it sharper, snappier and more entertaining for your reader.

2. Many writers hate revising a manuscript with a red pen (check out my website and you will find a red pencil and heaps of red). They consider it boring. I don't. Why, because it is part of the journey - how you improve your work. I become so close to my characters I live and breathe everything they say and do and want them to excell - even the baddies! You must accept revision. However, be prepared to cut stuff out that is not contributing to the story. Sure, it might sound good and be written well, but it might be a bloody distraction to the reader and take them on a lovely journey - away from the flow of the story. Stay the course in your writing, and don't forget one of my golden rules: write for your reader, not for yourself.  I removed, slashed, deleted, pillaged and burnt 8,000 words in one of my manuscripts - 'That Sucks!'. Why? It was all very cool and interesting, but it was not adding to the overall story - simple. A good friend of mine, a writer who finds it hard to write more than 1,000 words, was mortified that I could delete so many words. She thought I was crazy.

3. Revision for a manuscript takes time - a lot of it. Be patient, look carefully and be brave enough to make appropriate changes. Do not change things for change sake. Change it to make it better. If that means shortening sentences or adding some punchy dialogue, then do it. My first book is 295 pages in length. Yep, I revised it 45 times ... and I freely tell people that there is a spelling mistake on page 102 - even my editor missed it!

4. If you can, try to revise a manuscript piece by piece - not all at once. That is, concentrate purely on dialogue, or sentence formation, or chapter lengths, or opening and finishing of chapters, or length of sentences etc,  without getting distracted by the story. Trust me. It ain't easy, but it helps you to focus on one issue at a time. FOCUS!

5. One thing I always try to do is to make each chapter a solid short story in itself. At the end of each chapter I try to leave a cliffhanger ... one that will seduce the reader to flip the page and keep reading. I call them 'page flippers'.

6. If you are writing a letter or email to seek information, make sure you don't JUST vent your spleen. No, ensure you are actually making a point, then ask the salient questions you need answered. I often summarise my questions in bullet form at the bottom of the letter as a reminder - in dark print! Then, when you send the email, send yourself a copy and store it in what I call my 'Waiting Box'. Then, if they have not replied to your delicious email within a reasonable time, you can forward it to them and ask, 'Did you receive this?' This has worked for me countless times. When it hasn't, I pick up the phone and ring them directly. The Internet and emails are wonderful things, but very impersonal. If people do not wish to answer your email they just press the delete key. Keep them honest, keep pushing your points until they give you satisfactory answers.

7. Keep writing!

Don't be shy ... head to the top of the page and make a comment, ask a question or disagree with me. I love controversy.

Thanks for listening.

I'm Clancy Tucker


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