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Old 02-25-2013, 08:44 PM View Post #1 (Link) YWO Edits
Infinity_Man (Offline)
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Join Date: Apr 2012
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Editing/Revising is a challenge for many reasons, but a necessary evil. While there are many guides on editing, and some very good ones right here on YWO, it's not an exact science. Like writing, there are many ways to go about editing, and each is dependent on the individual. To illustrate this point, I asked members of YWO to write a walkthrough of their own editing process. Below are the responses I received.

The purpose of this is not necessarily to tell you how to edit, but to offer ideas how the writers on this list go about editing. Maybe you will get some ideas reading through our processes, or maybe you'll notice avenues of revision we don't pursue which you'll make note of to edit on your own works. Ideally, the following walkthroughs should help inspire you to edit; if you are stuck in a rut of only editing one way, maybe this will inspire you to different methods.


Dabs' Prose Edit
Spoiler:


Okay, so here's my self-editing guide. A lot of my editing focuses on concision, at least on an early draft like this. I tend to over write (and I've noticed many, many others do on this site as well) so this is an important process for me.

This is an action scene, so I'm hoping to maintain a nice, quick flow while keeping it relatively detailed, so the reader is aware of what's going on at all times. So word choice and flow are important, too.

Okay, so here's some context:

We've got a hit man, Josh Rose, in the first person. He's with his friend/partner Mike Niro, and they're about to take out a gang leader, DuFrey. They're in a restaurant. DuFrey knows the owner, so he gets a private room behind a curtain. Since this is in the crappy part of town Josh and Niro can just kinda have their guns out, but they're being watched and DuFrey has two men posted to his door to send Josh and Niro a message.

Spoiler:
My stomach bubbledneed stronger description; "bubbled" is too cliche. I pushed my beer away, and when the firesfries came out I couldn’t touch them. What a waste, but at least we wouldn’t have to pay for them (as if they’d charge us after the shit we were about to pull). I'm getting rid of this because it harms the flow. I think I originally wrote it because I was getting lost in the character's voice. And while it may show something about him as a character it's harmful to this scene.

“When do we go?” I asked.

“When are you ready?”

I had to take a dump first, but that’d leave Niro vulnerable At this point I felt it okay to leave in this extra detail since its assessing a real, present situation for the character along with showing that he has some analytical skills. The guys at the door might harass him. Couldn’t have our position compromised I'm ambivalent about this sentence. Sometimes I feel it reads well and other times it feels too short. I may stick the word "and" at the front and link it with the previous sentence. “Now’s good.”

I whipped my gun from the holster, put bullets in shot. Again, this makes the character's voice sound a bit nicer, like he has a special way of saying something, but in this scenario it's just too much to processthe door men before they could even draw. They smacked against the wall, fell limpaxed this since its implied, might axe the following action as well, thudded to the ground. I fired another shot through the curtain. Someone screamed as a body crashed through, gun in hand. Three of eight, had to keep the chaos thriving.

A bullet rocketed a foot from past. Again, this is a matter of flow. "a foot from" is more precise, perhaps even gives a better indication of the shooter's position and physical state, but the view-point character wouldn't be thinking so exactly right nowmy head. I fired back into the hall, piercing the curtain again might change the ordering of the words, here to read: again piercing the curtain as it tumbled to the grounddown. Might scrap "down" since there's nowhere else it can tumble, though rhythmically "down" sounds better. The bullet buried in someone’s leg. He plummeted, making way for another two more, already firingwho fired three rounds at me again, axed this because it's too exact.. A tile barely an inch from near my foot burst. My chair leg exploded; splinters pierced my skin, but I grit my teeth and took the pain. The lastnextbullet went went feels a bit weak, but I can't think of anything stronger without just going through synonyms for rocketed, or relying on cliched verbs over my head.

Niro fired a shot, bursting one of the an approaching gangster’s eyes this may be a bit wordy, but I feel it conveys the right amount of information so I'm not changing it any more than this for now. The man flopped to the ground. The other screamed and charged might changed "and charged" to ", charging" over his friends’ corpses, firing at random. I hit the ground, leg throbbing, and rolled crawled might be better. Rolling would look a bit silly in this situation, and it might leave him disoriented away from their field of view. Niro took over, nailing the coming gunman in the knee. How many was that? Four of eight with two wounded. No sign of DuFrey.

The commotion ceased, only half our quota filled. Should’ve relied on sniping, goddamn it.


GoodGracious's Prose Edit
Spoiler:



This is the very beginning of my novel: Claws. In a nutshell, Julia and her brother, Jonah, move to an island and find it’s inhabited by bears – bears that can turn you into one of them.

It took me ages to decide on an excerpt, but in the end I decided it was the prologue you would learn the most from.

So, this is a snippet of my first draft. (click here to see it without annotations):

Spoiler:
I had never admitted to fear before and I wasn’t going to start now. Even at the beginning, I knew Julia’s basic thought processes. She likes to appear tough. This sentence was designed to encapsulate that, the fact she is afraid and also introduce conflict.
There was fire in my head and desperation in my veins. This linked to where she’s just come from: a fire. But I changed this, so in the end the fire didn’t even happen.
The fire burned. It blistered, scorched and seared like a fever taking over my mind. Ashes dropped disguised as rain down onto the cobbled path – dead thoughts and dead dreams. Smoke seemed to push out of my nostrils and my lips. But of course, it was just the twisting patterns of my breath. I was focusing too much on the fire here and not on the here and now. In reality, if Julia was afraid she would be focused on the moment and so far, I haven’t even introduced setting.
We were running. Finally, a bit of here-and-now action!
This very early extract illustrates how much drafts can change as you edit: this event doesn’t even occur in my next draft. When I was a very new writer, I was afraid to make major changes, but in my current draft this event doesn’t happen at all. This is right before Julia gets on the island and just after her mum dies. In my later draft, my prologue is set three years earlier. I didn’t know the event in my current prologue was important until I was further through my initial write.

So my point is that it’s normal to make massive changes and don’t be afraid to do it.

My understanding of the novel also developed through my first draft. The prologue (or/and chapter one) are supposed to capture the mood of your novel perfectly. This didn’t. This introduction runs the risk of tricking the reader into thinking my novel is a fast-paced action. It isn’t. There are obviously fast-paced, action scenes, but the novel as a whole has a softer mood. So the prologue needed changing.

A page from my second draft: (Again, click here to see without annotations …)

Spoiler:
I thought the fall was the end, not the beginning. I wanted my first sentence to be Bam! It’s right in there with conflict – the ultimate fuel for good story writing.
We were running over the sand dunes, the wind twisting our hair so it whipped our faces and sharp grass reached for our ankles. This is all about setting and grounding the reader into the scene. For once, I felt free. I wasn’t confined in our rented, two bedroom house and I wasn’t being yelled at for gazing out of the window, humming notes that belonged here on this savage, beautiful beach.
With the wind singing through my hair, I could be flying. This was supposed to echo the first sentence, just enough for the sub-conscious to tap into it and remind the reader that something’s going to happen. (A fall, in case you missed that.) It also links to her name, Julia Bird. It’s really awful how many cheap jokes I pulled with that name. Mind you, it’s not why I picked it. I wanted something that held the mood of Julia and the novel.
“Julia?” Jonah bounded over, pulling me back to the ground. I tried not to scowl, but my eyes narrowed slightly, a force of habit. Showing readers her character. Later, I got rid of this. I wanted to create a sharper contrast between before her Mum’s death and after. So there’s less bitterness in the prologue to emphasise her bitterness in the next chapter. I wanted the reader to be shocked (not too much to put the story down, mind!) into again asking, what happened to her? “Did you see that bird? It was a skua!” I held his shoulders to stop him bouncing, but his yellow hair still quivered beneath his hat. It was wonderful to see him so excited; he didn’t often have something to jump about. It was important for me to paint Jonah as young and innocent from the get-go. A lot happens to him and I want the reader to feel every punch.
“A skua? Wow.” Not that I knew what one looked like. “The island’s the best place to find birds.” This sentence isn’t very realistic. No one would ever say this in reality so it got cut later. But originally it was there to tell the reader we’re on an island. I think they can work it out without that though. I went to ruffle his hair, but I touched itchy wool of his hat instead. Stupid hat, I’d never liked it, even less so when it was mine. I’d been in a very good mood the day Mum discovered it was finally too small to be coaxed around my head. Bit too much on the hat…
Another bird flew over, followed by Jonah’s eyes, and he grinned, plucking the strings of my heart. They were a little out of tune. Julia’s passion is music and I wanted to get that in here. Her love of Jonah’s very important too.
The rain began to cling I tried to pick these little things out: began to cling instead of ‘clung’. In this draft, I wasn’t too worried about these little bits though. to my hair and work harder at shaping the island, carving into the chalk cliffs. It took a while, but every now and again its work would be rewarded and the white stone would fall, shattering on the rocks below. I’d seen it once before. Majestic. Foreshadowing. It’s important foreshadowing isn’t too obvious, that can destroy a story.
I gave Jonah a nudge forward. “Do you think we’ll see any guillemots?” He asked, skipping It was important to me that Jonah came across as young and sweet with every word. along the dune. It must’ve been hard to skip in such a big coat. In films, they put children in big clothes to make them seem smaller. I was aiming for the same image. I shrugged, although I didn’t know what guillemots were either. Jonah’s never been like me, I didn’t want him to be. I wanted him to be innocent and free and passionate, while I was only one of those. This sentence is a bit ambiguous, so it got cut later.
With one movement, I scooped him into my arms. His softness was everywhere – in the beautiful, soapy smell of his skin, contrasting with the sharp salt from the ocean. I pushed my face into his belly and he squealed with delight. He was starting to get too heavy for me to hold for long, so I set him back on the ground and he started to run again, springing through the air.
He had his stuffed yellow bird There’s lots of bird imagery throughout, but Jonah’s toy bird is there to show the reader firstly, he’s small enough to play with toys and secondly, his love of birds. This isn’t a main plot point, but it does add depth to him. and was letting it soar above his head. The sky above the chalky cliffs was a thousand colours and the ocean a thousand more I loved this sentence, but in the end, it got changed to fit into the prose better. That’s another thing you learn with revising, very few things are sacred., but they were beginning to get greyer, fading with the sunlight. This is adding to the mood. At the minute it’s light and happy, but it’s not going to be like that for long. I didn’t mind; it just made Jonah look brighter.
The wind played with our clothes as we ran and enjoyed the salt on our lips and the rain in our eyelashes. The white lighthouse reached up into the sky above the cliff, the highest point on the island that I’d always found fascinating. Mum said the wrinkly old man living there would eat your bones if you ever dared disturb him. The lighthouse and the ‘wrinkly old man’ come into it later. He’s turns out to be an important character. Of course, I didn’t believe her, but I wouldn’t go up there in case Jonah got scared. Even at this point, I had a lot to learn about Julia. Reading this now, I know it’s not something she would really say. I can’t pinpoint it exactly, but it seems a little young for her. Even though this is three years earlier, she’s still sixteen.
Suddenly, the wind grabbed Jonah’s woollen hat and threw it into the air. He gave a shriek, “Julia!” I also change what happens here in my next draft. I wanted the accident to be more Julia’s fault than the wind’s, so in the final one, it isn’t in rescuing his hat that Jonah runs off, but because Julia won’t play with him. It’s a minor detail, but still.

And finally, my current draft: (clicky, clicky…)
Spoiler:
I thought the fall was the end, not the beginning.
The music was everywhere, twisting on the wind as it whipped at my face and dancing across the sand on the beach. Again, setting comes early on. The reader has to see what I see before they go ahead and make up their own setting. If that happens, they end up surprised and disappointed when I say something they weren’t expecting. I guided the bow over the strings of my violin, the notes resonating through my bones and warming my muscles. The ocean was a thousand colours, glittering even while the sun was behind grey clouds, but the melody twisting behind my eyelids, forming on my fingers, was a thousand more. This is a much tighter bit of prose than before, but it also captures Julia’s musical passion a lot earlier. The music is a major part of the story and a major part of her, so it’s important it’s rooted into the reader’s mind early.
For once, I felt free. I wasn’t confined in our rented, two-bedroom flat and I wasn’t being yelled at for gazing out of the window, humming notes that belonged here. This was about setting Julia’s history and adding mood to the island. With the wind singing through my hair, I could be flying.
“Julia?” Jonah bounded Again, it’s all about making Jonah excitable, childish and innocent. over and I peeled open my eyes. The splatter of ideas slipped away as I lost concentration, so my fingers couldn’t transform my thoughts into melodies. This is the bit that makes Julia unique from many musicians, she doesn’t just play, she composes. It’s important this comes across early as it becomes a big part of the plot and before, I didn’t get much of this in. That’s why I added it. Instead, they shaped familiar patterns over the strings – still beautiful. “Did you see that bird? It was a skua!” His yellow hair quivered beneath his hat and his eyes were shining. He almost loved my music as much as the birds. If you notice, the last draft didn’t go like this. They were running along the sand dunes, but here, Julia is focused on her music. I said before that I wanted the blame to be more on Julia for the events that follow. Also, doing it like this puts more emphasis on her music and her selfishness. It’s not over the top, but just enough.
“A skua? Wow.” Not that I knew what one looked like.
“Come on, I’ll show you.” I smiled Jonah is really important to her. Getting Jonah back becomes her main goal, so it’s vital the reader knows how much he means. as he wrapped his podgy fingers again, I’m adding to the ‘young’ image here, emphasising it further. round my cardigan, tugging me in the direction of the jagged It contrasts with Jonah’s softness, for a bit of foreshadowing and mood. cliffs. The rain was constantly carving them into new shapes and, every now and again, its work would be rewarded and the white stone would fall, shattering on the rocks below. I’d seen it once before. It was majestic.
Another bird flew over, stalked by Jonah’s eyes, and he grinned, plucking the strings of my heart. They were a little out of tune. “Maybe later,” I muttered and turned my gaze to the ocean; I didn’t want to see the disappointment clouding his smile and his wide eyes drooping. “You go off and play.” He twisted his lips and I sighed, resting my violin in its case. Sometimes it was too hard to say no to him.
I scooped him into my arms, breathing in his softness – the beautiful, soapy smell of his skin contrasting with the salty air. I made this sentence a bit tighter, using less words and better phrasing. I pushed my face into his belly and he squealed. I released him with a kiss on his stubby nose. I realised that although Jonah is young, he’s probably a lot too big for Julia to carry (as she did in my other version), especially tickle him at the same time, so I changed it here.
I watched as he galloped down the beach, making his toy bird soar over his head. The phrasing here is a lot better than before. Before, he was ‘letting’ the bird fly over his head, but his makes more sense and sounds better. The sky above the cliffs was shifting, getting greyer, and the garish-white lighthouse made it look almost dirty. Mum said the wrinkly old man living there would eat your bones if you dared disturb him. This description of the lighthouse and Spatton is briefer and more to the point. I don’t want to distract the reader too much.
I grabbed my violin, running my fingertips over the cool maple wood before fitting it beneath my chin. I closed my eyes as the air turned to misty rain, clinging to my hair and my salty eyelashes – the kind of rain I didn’t realise was soaking through my clothes until I was drenched. This is about developing the setting. Now I’ve grounded the reader, introduced a character or two, it’s safe to add in a few more lines (without boring them!) I should’ve put my violin away before the rain damaged it, but I didn’t want to let the music go.

This draft has changed the events even more, so my MC is more to blame for everything that happens and there’s a lot of cutting out stray sentences and tightening the prose, making it more to-the-point and easier to read.

There’s still a lot of work to be done, but yeah, this is my process. I hope you’ve learnt something and I’ll be happy to answer any questions!


Infinity_Man's Prose Edit
Spoiler:



For my own edit, I'm going to look at the first page of a novel I tried writing a year or two ago. What's key here is that the project is a few months old, so I don't have much attachment to it at all. This is important when doing a revision; while I'd suggest only waiting a few weeks or a month, unlike the several years I waited, it's necessary to separate yourself from your writing by just a bit. That time to rest, to work on something else, will give you a more objective look into your own work going back in.

I'm going to run through thedrafts really quickly, but usually I'd put a bit of time between them. I'm also going to do several more, smaller, drafts rather than the few big drafts I'd usually do so I can spend more time on showing you what I'm changing.

So here's the first page:

Spoiler:

A convoy was passing down Airport Road. Surrounding them was barren wasteland, once lush and green, but dead after the meltdown. The men and women of this convoy - thieves, deadbeats, thugs - were once the underbelly of society. Now, in the scorched land, they were kings.

They had salvaged and taken control of three trucks. The first had been altered into a makeshift throne, constructed from junk and scrap metal, for the convoy's leader. He lazed in his seat with a crown of dead leaves on his head. The second truck was untouched and was used to store their gear and water. The third truck was now only a platform with cages strapped to the back, each filled with malnurished men, women, and a single dog.

It was this third rig that was of most interest to the lone figure hidden nearby.

The stranger lay still on top of a hill. The stranger was watching through the scope of a rifle, crosshairs trained on the man sitting on the throne.

Unknown to the convoy, they had already been mapped out during the past few days. They did not know the enemy on the hill existed, or had been following them, but said enemy knew that there was precisely eleven of them, not counting the prisoners, and that at least three of them were carrying weapons that had no ammunition. Those who would fight and those who would run at the first sign of danger had been found out. It was only a matter of time.


A number of painful things jumped out at me there, but before I get to that I want to explain my own process: I just wrote that out, reading from the original draft, rather than copying and pasting. Writing it out over again forces me to read it, as well, which means I'm more likely to catch mistakes. I often read out loud when I copy things down, as well, which helps me pick up awkward sentences, run-on-sentences, etc. etc.

So, first, the big issues. It's incredibly passive, and the tense is confusing while also lending itself to the passive voice. The stranger is actually one of the protagonists of the book, so I was trying to introduce him with some mystery--i.e, I tried to write him as an attacker first off, then switch to his perspective; unfortunately, this means I sacrificed cohesive story-telling for what I thought would be artistic. So just going through and fixing the passive voice and tense, here's how I might write this page out instead:

Spoiler:
A convoy passed down Airport Road. Barren wasteland, once lush and green but now dead after the meltdown, surrounded them. The men and women of this convoy - thieves, deadbeats, thugs - were once the underbelly of society. Now, in the scorched land, they were kings.

They had salvaged and taken control of three trucks. They altered the first into a makeshift throne, constructed from junk and scrap metal, for their leader. He lazed in his seat with a crown of dead leaves on his head. They used the second truck to store their gear and water. The third truck was now only a platform with cages strapped to the back, each filled with malnurished men, women, and a single dog.

The lone figure hidden nearby was most interested in the third rig.

The stranger lay still on top of a hill. The stranger was watching through the scope of a rifle, crosshairs trained on the man sitting on the throne.

Unknown to the convoy, the stranger had already tmapped them out. There were precisely eleven of them, not counting the prisoners, and at least three were carrying weapons without ammunition. The stranger knew who would fight and who would run at the first sign of danger. It was only a matter of time.


So already there's a slight improvement, though there's still a lot of work to be done. I'd like to address one big issue which I can't solve in this single page: The repetition of the name "the stranger". See, it was originally supposed to be a big twist that this stranger was actually a woman, so I tried to avoid using pronouns. If I used a masculine pronoun, the third person limited narrator would be lying to the reader; if I used a feminine pronoun, the "twist" would be revealed. The way I'd fix this problem now is by making the book a first person perspective, probably from another character's perspective so as to keep the mysterious nature of the Stranger in tact. That character would think she was a man, and therefore we'd have an unreliable narrator instead of an author withholding information. Since that change would require throwing out this entire first chapter, thus defeating the purpose of this walkthrough, I'm not going to touch it and will just try to make do as best as I can.

I'm going to go through the edited page and point out details I'd change. Note that, were I just editing, I'd have made these changes as I went through to fix the passive voice. However, since I want you to keep up a little, I'm taking it step by step. Note that, usually, I'll do a readthrough of a chapter (or more likely the whole book) and keep track of some broader, plot based holes to fix upon revising. Sometimes I will make note of these smaller mistakes, but I usually leave that for the future revision, when I know I won't be cutting whole chapters at a time and therefore not wasting my time editing them.

Spoiler:
A convoy passed down Airport Road As far as first lines go, this could be much stronger. I'll most likely spend a great deal of time thinking of a good first line, even revisions later. Also, "Airport Road" is meant as setting in the real world, specifically the Greater Toronto Area, as Airport is a major highway there. Barren wasteland, once lush and green but now dead after the meltdown I could probably streamline this, surrounded them. The men and women of this convoy - thieves, deadbeats, thugs - were once the underbelly of society I could streamline this sentence too. Specifically, calling them thieves, deadbeats, and thugs, and then saying they were the underbelly of society, is redundant. Notice how the structure of this sentence (Clause, parenthetical information, rest of clause) is identical to the previous sentence? Readers pick up on rhythms like that, if only subconsciously, and get bored by them.. Now, in the scorched land, they were kings Once again, the same sentence structure..

They had salvaged and taken control of three trucks. They altered the first into a makeshift throne, constructed from junk and scrap metal, for their leader Once more I have this sentence structure. I identify this as a weakness of my writing style, and make note to keep an eye out in future revisions. He lazed in his seat with a crown of dead leaves on his head I think I can edit this into the previous sentence to make it a bit more interesting. They used the second truck to store their gear and water. The third truck was now only a platform with cages strapped to the back, each filled with malnurished men, women, and a single dog.

The lone figure hidden nearby was most interested in the third rig. Note that I say this, but in the next paragraph state that she's focused on the man sitting in the throne, on the first rig. This is because the dog belongs to the stranger, and she's there to rescue him, so she's focused on the third. So I've got character motivation which only I know clashing with the information I'm giving the reader. While they'll later understand what I meant, as of now the reader will be confused and might stop reading. Payoff isn't worth it if you can't hook the reader long enough to get there.

The stranger lay still on top of a hill. The stranger was watching through the scope of a rifle, crosshairs trained on the man sitting on the throne. I can cut down on the repetitive pronoun, and smooth this paragraph out, if I join these two sentences together.

Unknown to the convoy, the stranger had already tmapped them out. There were precisely eleven of them, not counting the prisoners, and at least three were carrying weapons without ammunition. The stranger knew who would fight and who would run at the first sign of danger. It was only a matter of time.


So, taking all that into account, here's what the next revision looks like:

Spoiler:
A convoy passed down the ruins of Airport Road. Barren wasteland, once lush and green, surrounded them. The men and women of this convoy used to be thieves, thugs, deadbeats. Now, in the scorched land, they were kings.

They had salvaged and taken control of three trucks. Their leader sat in a makeshift throne on the first rig. They used the second truck to store their gear and water. The third truck was now only a platform with cages strapped to the back, each filled with malnurished men, women, and a single dog.

A longe figure lay still on top of a hill, watching through the scope of a rifle, the crosshairs trained on the man sitting on the throne.

Unknown to the convoy, the stranger had already mapped them out. There were precisely eleven of them, not counting the prisoners, and at least three were carrying weapons without ammunition. The stranger knew who would fight and who would run at the first sign of danger. It was only a matter of time.


With the basic changes laid out, and the most glaring issues fixed, I can start worrying about more nitpicky, but still important, details. Specifically, now is when I go in to make my language all nice. I'm also going to examine sentence structure, to make sure I don't get into that rhythm I was talking about in my line notes. For brevity, I won't point them out to you and will just change them. So here's a quick edit keeping all those things in mind:

Spoiler:
A convoy rumbled down the ruins of Airport Road. Barren wasteland surrounded them like a prison. The men and women of this convoy used to be thieves and murderers. They were kings in the scorched land.

They had salvaged three trucks. Their leader sat in a makeshift throne on the first rig. They used the second truck to store their gear and water. The third truck was only a platform with cages strapped to the back. Each cage held prisoner malnurished men, women, and a single dog.

A longe figure lay still on top of a hill, watching through the scope of a rifle. Her crosshairs trained on the man sitting on the throne. She could make out each dead leaf on his twisted crown.

Unknown to the convoy, the stranger had already mapped them out. There were precisely eleven of them, not counting the prisoners. At least three were carrying weapons without ammunition. The stranger knew who would fight and who would run at the first sign of danger. It was only a matter of time.


I tried to cut down most of the sentences to get shorter, choppier ones, to indicate that this is a fast-paced opening. I also dropped the mystery behind the stranger's gender, for the sake of structure. Once more I'm going to go in, and this time I'm going to really focus on extra details. Readers are more drawn in to a setting if you stimulate more than their visual senses. As a result, I often try and employ the other senses. I'm going to underline the words used to bring about other senses.

I'm also going to make some free changes here.

Also, while it's not a word you MUST avoid at all costs, I personally find "to be" and its forms ("was") to be weak verbs, and usually try and change them if I can. Of course, no reader will balk at the use of "to be" or "was" so I don't need to change all of them (and you'll notice I keep the "to be" in the first paragraph)

Spoiler:
A convoy rumbled down the barrens of Airport Road. The air stunk of rust and fallout. Note: I cut out the description of the wasteland in favour of the description of smell. I think the use of "barrens" in the first sentence, and the use of "fallout" will leave the reader with the same visual sense--after all, my wasteland isn't much different from any other, so they likely already have an archetypical picture in their head as soon as they figure out the setting The people of this convoy used to be thieves and murderers. Now they ruled the scorched land.

They had salvaged three trucks. Their leader sat in a makeshift throne on the first rig, bellowing demands for food and water. A grunt brought him water from the second truck. Another went to the third for his food. Notice how I managed to use the sound cue to lead into a smoother structure to describe the other trucks? Rather than the mechanical list of each one, which created a tone I didn't like, and was telling, I can show the reader what each truck is. The third truck was full of cages. Each cage held malnurished men, women, and a single dog. The dog barked in defiance, but he was the only prisoner with strength to make a sound.

A lone figure rested on top of a hill note: I specifically changed "lay still" to "rested" because I didn't like the sing-song rhythm the rhyme created, watching through the scope of a rifle, drenched in sweat. Her crosshairs trained on the man sitting on the throne. She could make out each dead leaf on his twisted crown, each quiver of his three chins I added this extra visual of his chins to balance out this sentence, as well as providing a description of the bandit leader. It also works as a case of fridge horror, as we're about to see him eat a human being (or, rather, try to, as he's stopped before he can eat them) and since we know he's fat that tells us he's eaten quite a few human beings in his life..

Unknown to the convoy, the stranger had already mapped them out. Eleven targets, not counting the leader Note: I made a few changes here. I refer to them as targets to get a punchier sentence, as well as bring the voice more to the stranger's. Since I now just have the third truck described as an enclosed one with people in it, it doesn't make much sense that she'd consider them targets at all. But I want the sentence to be more than "Eleven targets, period" so I keep the "not counting" in. At least three carried weapons without ammunition. The stranger knew who would fight and who would run at the first sign of danger. It was only a matter of time.


Here's a version without my line notes, so you can read it with the proper rhythm and structure:

Spoiler:
A convoy rumbled down the barrens of Airport Road. The air stunk of rust and fallout. The people of this convoy used to be thieves and murderers. Now they ruled the scorched land.

They had salvaged three trucks. Their leader sat in a makeshift throne on the first rig, bellowing demands for food and water. A grunt brought him water from the second truck. Another went to the third for his food. The third truck was full of cages. Each cage held malnurished men, women, and a single dog. The dog barked in defiance, but he was the only prisoner with strength to make a sound.

A lone figure rested on top of a hill, watching through the scope of a rifle, drenched in sweat. Her crosshairs trained on the man sitting on the throne. She could make out each dead leaf on his twisted crown, each quiver of his three chins.

Unknown to the convoy, the stranger had already mapped them out. Eleven targets, not counting the leader. At least three carried weapons without ammunition. The stranger knew who would fight and who would run at the first sign of danger. It was only a matter of time.


Is it perfect? No, and I wouldn't stop editing there. But compared to what we started with, it's pretty damn good, I'd say. Note, again, that most of this I would have done in one sweep. This is really just two or three revisions for me--I notice and fix most of the issues at once. This also took me about an hour and a half, and if I took that much time on a single page for a 400 page book, it'd take me more than a year just to do a single revision. I don't have time for that, as I'm aiming to support myself on my writing (and that takes a published book a year, more or less). Yes, I wouldn't take the time to explain my edits, but it's still a lengthy process.

I'd like to mention one thing in particular, and that's my comments about how certain words do more than one thing at once. I have an advantage over the other authors of this guide in that, as the organizer, I can read theirs. Lostbookworm mentions that in poetry every word counts in poetry, and quips that maybe you have more room in prose to do this. This is not accurate--every word in prose is just as important as in poetry. Ideally, most words should get across more than one of just action, sensual cues, dialogue, character voice, style, tone, world-building, etc. etc. I highlighted those words that did more than one thing because those words are good. If you just ramble on in prose, readers will notice.

I'll go back and edit for word count, cutting out unnecessary words and sentences and paragraphs. Scenes will be switched around, or cut entirely. Characters might disappear, or be born. This whole beginning, like I said, would probably get cut.

Once I'm satisfied with a piece, I'll give it to someone else to read. Usually I'll give them a fair amount of time, since all my friends have other, school-related issues, to deal with. In this time period I like to work on something else, which may or may not be the next project I carry on to additional drafts.

Once I get the notes back from my beta readers, I'll read through their notes then edit accordingly. Usually, since it's been a few months, I'll look at the piece with fresh eyes and have more revisions to do. I don't usually have alpha-readers, though many authors do; I specifically don't because I feel like I'll get trapped in a perpetual limbo of editing and revising and never actually try to sell the piece. Sometimes you got to let a work go, and it's best to try and sell something when you're still in love with it and willing to carry it to the ends of the world. However, other readers can help communicate if a certain passage works or not, especially if I've attempted something more off-style or just aren't sure if something works. If I feel uncertain of a specific scene, I'll ask a reader to read that scene in particular.

So that's my editing process.


Isis' Poetry Edit
Spoiler:


I take two approaches to editing my poetry. The first is more or less standard: revision. The second is talked about less, though I think all writers do it whether they realize it or not: re-imagining.

Revision

My revision process is two-fold. First I revise “as I go”: I rarely start from the beginning and plow through the poem without stopping and erasing something, tweaking linebreaks, moving things around, or starting over mostly from the beginning. I usually have a general idea of what I want to say in the poem and where I want to go, but that develops as a write; as my ideas change direction, I often have to tweak images, or find a way to incorporate a new idea that appears half –way through the poem into the beginning somewhere to enhance coherence. My images are often to wordy at the start and I try to cut out modifiers as I write and discover that they are extraneous (but this is something that I’m not too good at, and it takes me a few passes to slim down the poem). I often struggle with the endings of poems, and try out a few different endings before I settle on something I’m satisfied with.

Once I feel I’ve reached the end of the poem and it’s “done”, the first round of tweaking starts. Here are the things I look for:
- Are there extra words or modifiers I can cut? Many adjectives are overkill in poetry – filler words, colors, etc, and while I love them when I’m in the moment I know they can drag down my images.

- Did I repeat myself anywhere, and does that repetition work or does it sound lazy, or is it distracting? I try to move words around to emphasize repetition that was included for effect and find synonyms or other phrasings to replace repetition that seems child-like, or boring, or too in your face, or just like I wasn’t paying attention while writing.

- Are any sentences/lines unclear? How I fix this depends on what the issue is. I often change punctuation or linebreaks to eliminate ambiguities or fix run-on sentences.

- Can I replace any weak verbs with stronger, more descriptive verbs?
At this point – while I’m still “in the moment” of writing the poem – I often don’t make big changes, like adding or deleting or rewriting entire stanzas. That comes later, once I’ve gotten some distance from the poem (a few hours to a few weeks) and/or once I’ve gotten comments from someone about it. I find comments that describe what’s happening in the poem, or that point out inconsistencies or moments of lost clarity really helpful. I usually need to hear from someone what they think the poem is saying in order for me to make sure I’m getting my ideas across.

What edits I make at this point depend on what kind of feedback I’ve gotten, or how I feel about the poem once a few weeks have passed. Some poems I don’t bother bringing to this point or editing in a second round, because I know I’m not going to try to put them out in the world, or because I was happy the first time around. Usually it’s the former – I write a lot of poems to work through ideas and to practice and just to write that don’t really turn out. I’m ok with that, mostly – and this part of the story is continued in the next section.

But if I feel a poem is worth honing further, I sometimes make sizable changes. Here’s a recent example. I was recently struck by the warm weather we get periodically in Boulder in winter, which feels like spring but isn’t (it’s been snowing all morning with no sign of stopping – my ski bum friends will be happy). I moved here from the east coast about six months ago, and I’m still not sure what to expect: will I feel the same desire and restlessness that propels my life and art every spring, or am I too far away or too old to experience it? The blue text in the poem is stuff that I ended up changing:

Like Spring, version 1

Today the fake spring bounded out to greet me
but soon it will be back beneath the earth
gnawing on bones and knowing better while up here,
god help us, it snows and snows.
It was warm as the first day where
nothing nips at your heels or bundles under
your clothes and you unwrap your scarf
while walking home and feel something rumble
in your chest. And for a moment I thought
it would be spring, until – like biting
into a winter strawberry for a mouth
full of sharp nothing – no spark came back
from the world through my breath,
no shot of energy through my whole body,
no fume of dirt and grass, and not a hint
of that unnameable smell that masqueraded
as magnolias while I was in college, impressionable;
and while younger pretended to be the lake filling
and opening like the exploded maple leaves;

but which has always been this other thing.
Like the face of someone once loved deeply
transformed in memory to a blur of scowl and hair.
Like a rare fern unfurling in the rock garden.
Like a rock garden behind a train station,
like finding your man in the pricker bushes
at the train station, like weeks at a time
alone outside the library with only books
as company, like living on borrowed
time, like giving something to a man
who only wanted to borrow it, like looking
for a friend and finding only wet magnolias,
like breathing in a green so bright you go blind.
Like a color without a name that hunts you
year after year, arresting you in front of paintings
that you would otherwise hate. Like getting arrested
beneath a painting of lawless abandon.
Like searching so hard for something you know
it will stay hidden out of spite.
Like being robbed by the woods.
Whatever it is, I wonder if it can find me here,
where all the grass stays dead.
What door will you howl at, spring,
now that I am gone? What poor fool
will you fill with my memories,
my mistakes, my desires?
The decision to change those parts was precipitated by comments from the very helpful Spacepirate. When I first wrote the poem, I wasn’t sure what mode was the most effective – the more straightforward description at the beginning or the end, or the repetition of similes and the sort of mind wandering in the middle of the poem. They felt so different to write, and I was too close to the poem to know.

Space pointed out that the beginning is kind of unstructured and confusing, and that the rhetorical questions at the end are kind of amateur, attempting to sum up a feeling without actually doing so. He also described a tumbling feeling from the listing images (“Like ____”), which is the sort of feeling that I wanted to evoke in the reader.

In response to our conversation, which you can read here if you really want, I decided to simplify the beginning of the poem and get more quickly into the listing metaphors, which I found that I really liked and which he thought were effective. I also revised and extended the ending of the poem to enhance the idea of internal conflict, and to show that conflict to the reader. Do I want to feel the same in spring as I always have, when it often is a source of trouble? I want the reader to experience that uncertainty and conflict. I also decided to repeat the idea of spring as an animal, both at the beginning of the poem and at the end. I wanted to get across the idea that spring makes me feel animal and also tie the end of the poem to the beginning.

In general, I use the second round of editing in order to remove confusing or extraneous ideas or images, to enhance those images that I think should be carried through the poem as a whole or repeated, and to try to clarify the overall meaning of the poem.

Like Spring, version 2

Today the fake spring bounded out to greet me
but soon it will be back beneath the earth
gnawing on bones and knowing better
while up here, god help us, it snows and snows.
It leapt through my open arms and its breath
was as clean as the snow:
no fume of dirt and grass, no spark of memory
to make my body twang like a bird on a wire,
and not a hint of that unnamable smell
that masqueraded as magnolias while I was foolish

but which has always been this other thing.
Like the face of someone once loved deeply
transformed in memory to a blur of scowl and hair.
Like a rare fern unfurling in the rock garden.
Like a rock garden behind a train station,
like finding your man in the pricker bushes
at the train station, like weeks at a time
alone outside the library with only books
as company, like living on borrowed
time, like giving something to a man
who only wanted to borrow it, like looking
for a friend and finding only wet magnolias,
like breathing in a green so bright you go blind.
Like a color without a name that hunts you
year after year, arresting you in front of paintings
that you would otherwise hate. Like getting arrested
beneath a painting of lawless abandon.
Like searching so hard for something you know
it will stay hidden out of spite.
Like being robbed by the woods.
Whatever it is, I wonder if it can find me here,
where all the grass stays dead. And I wonder
if I want it to – I should know better by now
than to welcome spring’s messy, animal form
into my arms and let it wake it’s mate in me,
that animal part that wants to play rough
and run through some new love
until its coat is streaked with foam.
Without spring I may never run through the woods
again or know how light tumbles rock walls
or remember the stupid joy of speeding
down Route 6 into trouble.
But behind it I might never find my way
from beneath the trees, and be forever chasing
a red tail that whips under wall after wall
leaving me panting and gasping for breath.
Maybe in a few weeks, once I’ve got some distance and maybe once it stops snowing, I’ll take another look at this poem and it will go through another round of editing. Conveying this feeling is important to me, and I feel I could be at it forever.


Re-imagining

In addition to revising poems, I will often start with the same general idea and re-imagine the poem from scratch. This approach can be helpful because it means you’re not tied to any single images or phrases that aren’t working, and it allows the mind to wander again and come up with new connections, new images, new exciting turns of phrase – things that might not appear if you stayed within the confines of the original version of the poem. One piece of editing advice you’re probably sick of by now is “don’t be precious with your words” or “kill your darlings”. Re-imagining a poem or a story allows you to remake your darlings from the beginning and perhaps improve them through continued discovery.

I rewrite the same poem every spring, about how it wakes up something in me, and I think I’ve written one almost every year since 2007. Last year (March and April 2012) I wrote a few, but this one is my favorite; it’s not the best poem I’ve ever written, but I think it captured something that I haven’t been able to get before or since. Though I probably won’t publish this poem, I can use it as a touchstone to help me with future versions, such as the one I discussed above.

Poetry I have returned to you at last

Poetry I have returned to you at last
because my boyfriend does not understand
spring, or the fazing in of any season
--- not to say that I truly understand
the lightness that overtakes my body
when the dirt becomes a living thing again
and the magnolias tease the concrete
with white fragrant tongues
and I can feel my heart turn over in my chest
like a koi fish under ice or a magpie
weaving beach glass into her nest --

Today I stood on a golden tiger
to pick the unopened magnolias, petals folded
like a new Chinese paintbrush,
which is how I describe them to you
so you know that they were new and waiting.
But when I first saw the fat buds jutting above
I thought of a row of preserved birds.
They make the same shape
between my cupped hands,
the same shape that opens inside me
every spring and aches to be filled with the living world.
And tonight I went about the business of painting,
so close and so far from living
until the smell, confluence of a thousand streams of smell
drew me back to the curved, fat petals
the wilting spring of spring. Each time
I walked back in the room their atmosphere
warmer but sharper than the March fog outside
wrapped me up, a pink blanket, a cloak of invisibility.
Each time the magnolias robbed me of words,
sent me back out into the evening
to find something to stand in for the violent
and domestic way of spring. There was nothing
but a tree blooming under a streetlight
and the surprise that should not have been a surprise
how the air felt against my skin
soft and complicated, and cold like the magnolias.
Don’t be afraid to start a piece over. Flip to a new page or open up a blank document. But save those original versions and attempts: they hold valuable lessons for your future work on the same subject – in them you can discover things you can repeat and things you don't want to do again. This can also help you if you're a discovery writer; you can write until you get an idea out or feel something interesting happen, and then pick a few lines or a few sentences, move them to a new context, and start over from there. Old versions of work can be seeds as well as guides.


Lostbookworm's Poetry Edit
Spoiler:


First of all, you must write a poem. Decide upon a point, what you want to write about. I've noticed a lot of people putting poetry up on this site that they've just written with no clear goal in mind. Usually these kinds of poems fail terribly. They are pointless, meaningless drivel that a blind and malformed donkey could write while on a crowded bus of badly behaved toddlers. And while yes, that image is rather random, I hope you can see my point. 'Poetry is NOT thoughtless', as Arty once told me. You should instead 'think about how they (the words) actually RELATE to one another, and what EXACT IDEA you want to convey with your words.' This is what poetry is. If you wish to ramble for paragraph after paragraph, then write prose. You can get away with it to an extent over there, but here every word counts. Every metaphor, every simile, every rhyme and every syllable counts towards the end goal – the point.

Hopefully I have made myself clear on how you should try and begin a poem. I am not saying that some poems haven't began as stream-of-conscience and ended up as literary masterpieces – for example, look at Allen Ginsberg's 'Howl'. However, new poets should try and have some kind of cohesive idea before beginning to write. This is my advice.

Now, let's look at one I made earlier.

Spoiler:
'My selective memory has removed all traces
Of us sitting on the bus roof, silent as monks
Laughing at the fact that there’s no god
And then you saying there definitely is a god

Then me agreeing and laughing as I slid off the top
and screaming as I broke my legs on the concrete.
An orchestra was playing in the park next to us
and I could hear the violins violating the silent world

And me laughing then at them and you laughing
At me laughing and oh how funny it was
If only it wasn’t a memory kept in a ragged corner
Of a Cardiff shanty house where I was born

Made of concrete and rotting planks underneath the pier
And shadows were my parents and yours too
But I still declare our love will last and is legal
Until the sea is lost to the eye’s of quaint fisherman

Singing folk songs of it on acoustic guitars and church organs
Alternating between screaming and whispering it to sleep
And sleeping beneath that pier in each others arms
Oh those have been moved to another hole of my past

Of a Kentish rain cloud that I resided within
And danced within and lost my bowl of cherries in
Alone yet surrounded by people anyway
It was life and it was my life but I’ve forgotten it

I live in a can of whiskey and atheism and vice.
I wish I could regret it. '


I wrote this with the idea of a daydream in mind, a twisted look at my life and my dreams. I have a specific ideal here, images of two lovers and the narrator breaking his legs because he's trying to get away from her and her hypocrisy. The idea of memory and forgetting it and committing it to the past, and the constant reminder of the sea and its symbolism within the poem. It has a point and a tangle of metaphors and threads, a style I personally no longer write in. However this is a guide to how to edit drafts of poems, so I shall try my best to show how to make the best of a bad situation. Or a bad metaphor.

First of all you should leave it for a few days. This way the mistakes stand out more, so when you read it through again it becomes easier to pick them out. I then highly suggest you read it through again. Twice. Thrice. Ten times. Out loud. If there is a line that doesn't quite seem to fit, a word that juts out or an image that seems misplaced, consider it. Observe it. Then destroy the anomaly. Put something that fits in better, something that means the same but at the same time has a better meaning. Here's what happens with my poem when I put it through this processer.

Spoiler:
'My selective memory has removed all traces
of us sitting on the bus roof, silent as monkeys
amd laughing at the fact that there is no god,
then you saying there definitely is a god.

Then I heard myself agreeing and laughing as I slid off the top
and screaming as I broke my legs on the concrete path below us.
An orgasmic orchestra was playing in the park next to us
and I could hear the violins violating the once silent world.

And then there was me laughing at them and you laughing
at me laughing. How funny it seemed at the time.
If only it wasn’t a memory now, kept in a ragged corner
of the Scottish shanty house where I was born and raised.

Made out of concrete and rotting planks underneath the pier
with shadows as my parents and yours too,
but I still declared our love would last and was legal,
until the sea was lost to the eye’s of quaint fisherman

who sang folk songs on acoustic guitars and church organs,
alternating between screaming and whispering the sea to sleep.
We were laying beneath that pier in each others arms,
but those memories have been moved to another hole of my past

of a Kentish rain cloud that I resided within
and danced within and lost my bowl of cherries in.
I was alone yet surrounded by people anyway.
It was life and it was my life but I’ve forgotten it now.

I live in a can of whiskey and atheism and vice.
I wish I could regret it. '


See what I've done here? I've corrected a few errors here and there, changed a few words around and made it all flow a little better with punctuation and such stuff now. For example, monks to monkeys. How can you be silent if you're laughing aloud? Obviously, you can be. This is poetry and we can do almost anything, but 'monkeys' also gives a better impression of being joyous and in the spirit and restless. Basically, being a teenager and in love.

Next you can either leave it for a few days again and then go to the next step, or go to the next step straight away as I am doing. Define exactly what point or points you're making here. Is this a poem about not feeling truly in love, being hurt and forgetting it as soon as possible? Or is it regret at a love lost to the past and feeling self pitying as you realise your life has failed in all its entirety? You must decide what you are trying to say and streamline your poem to this. Anything unneeded must be thrown away and anything you feel is needed must be added in. Here, I decide that the poem is dealing with a web of issues: of regret of the joyous times you had together being lost to time and feeling relieved that you no longer have to deal with the pain you felt with her.

Now let's see what happens to the poem when we do this.

Spoiler:
'My cruel and unforgiving memory has removed all traces
of us sitting on the bus rooftop, silent as monkeys
amd laughing at the fact that there is no god,
then you trying to convince me that there definitely is a god.

Then I heard myself falsely agreeing as I slid off the top
and screaming as I broke my legs on the concrete pool below us.
An orgasmic orchestra was playing in the park next to us
and I could hear the violins violating the once silent world.

And then there was me laughing at them and you laughing
at me laughing. How funny it seemed at the time.
If only it wasn’t a memory now, kept in a ragged corner
of the Scottish shanty house where I was born and raised.

Made out of concrete and rotting planks underneath the pier
with shadows as my parents and yours too,
but I still declared our love would last and was legal,
until the sea was lost to the eye’s of quaint fisherman

who sang folk songs on acoustic guitars and church organs,
alternating between screaming and whispering the sea to sleep.
We once lay beneath that pier in each others arms, but those
bittersweet memories have been moved to another hole in my past.

I wish I could regret it. '


As you can see, I've cut out a whole stanza now. I didn't need it. It was no longer relevant to the original point I wished to make. Here I have two defined periods, the recent past and the older past. The recent past was a mixture of joyous idealism, pain and trying to cover up that pain with false agreements and laughter. The older past was more naive, declaring that the love they felt would last until the sea was lost to the eyes of quaint fisherman. The fishermen represent the sea, the past, an old style of living and tradition that contrasts with the 'orgasmic orchestra' of the current times.

Another key theme in the poem you notice is the presence of music. The fishermen, the ancient folk singers of the sea and tradition, an older world that has been forgotten but you wish you could return to, contrasting with the violating, organic orchestra of the more recent present. I have used these two types of music to reinforce the idea of two timezones in a lover's relationship. Then of course, you have the silent present, a paradox of emotions that has caused this poem to be formed.

Basically what I'm trying to say is that here, in this poem, I have succeeded on two levels. Firstly, I have simplified the poem to all it needs to be to get the point across that I wish to present to the reader. Secondly, I have created two strong(ish) images of the past and more recent past to portray my point even more effectively.

I have at once cut out the fat and made it stronger. Of course there are many different ways of editing drafts of poems, but I was told to bring readers through what I do. I have done this by looking thoroughly at one of my poems and what throughts go through my mind when writing and editing a piece. So let me sum up the key points.

1. Write the poem with a point in mind.
2. Leave the poem for a few days and then fix errors you see in it.
3. Either leave the poem for a few days again, or go straight to 4.
4. Define your point again and see what is needed and what isn't to make it.
5. A quick skim is then recommended but not needed for any final errors.
6. Give it a light dusting over, and TA-DA! You have a poem!



Julian's poetry edit:
Spoiler:

Abstract:

The amount of time and effort when editing really depends on the poem/work itself. However, there is always more room for improvement. Even after you feel that the poem has reached its natural ending, there’d always be more room for expansion and trimming, until you reach something that’s cohesive and compelling. And only you can sense this balance. Having a sense is extremely important—arguably more important than being skilled at what you do.

Of course, poetry is about beauty, and cohesion is what’s structuring the chaos of emotions and context into something beautiful.

To be honest, though, I’m not the best person to ask about editing technicalities (grammar, syntax, conjugation, etc…). In terms of form, what I consider to be vital is to have an inherent sense of the tone and the voice of your narrative. A fundamental aspect of editing is that you want to improve your poem. However, I think that many misappropriate this notion, in that they consider ‘improvement’ as trying to make the poem closer to their authorial vision.

This restricts the editing process in most cases. What’s important for a poem isn’t really for it to stay truthful to your imagination during the editing process, but that it begins to breathe a life of its own. This seems abstract, but it’s really just following the narrative flow and letting yourself go by writing words that don’t seem to fit together—until they hopefully do. Reimagining the poem is really good, too.

Essentially, you need to distance yourself from the process—acknowledge your imagination but remain callous if the end-work does not seem to fit well. You’re primarily writing for yourself, but when you post this on a social website, you’re basically welcoming others to read your works, too. Editing definitely becomes easier and enjoyable to do when you start to loosen up and let the poem reedit itself, and soon patterns will just emerge by themselves.

Technical:


I posted three versions of To kill my mother on Tumblr, and here is the first version:

My mother died in our farm after three sleepless years
of trying to conquer my father’s love, her body
on the ploughed, bosomy earth after being blown over
by a violent slipstream—her skin and hair licked yellow
by the sun and her nails filled with soil. Even her legs
had been firmly rooted, the soles of her feet teared open.
Her lips were red, the underside chewed open, to relieve
the rumble and stings of the bees.

Through her death, I felt the coming of age upon me—
the hour of true ripening, as if my menstruation blood
wasn’t enough. While my father was out, selling
his produce, for days, I gazed at her through the kitchen
window, waiting for her corpse to decompose or be scavenged
by the pests underneath.

When it rained, her blood seeped into the soil, turning
the ground around her into vermillion. Even through the foggy
condensation she emanated across the fields, hollowing the drab
grayness of a rainy night, her light so desirable, sharp as a cut,
that I stared breathlessly until moss grew on my palms pressed tightly
against the wet walls of wood.

He came back at a predawn—
his silhouette stenciled in the shadow of the farm—
that slicing moment between morning and night. The crisp sound
of his steps—I missed his sounds—his hisses and shouts, while
planting dead bugs and birds—neither his love nor the half-phrased
apologies he took from the mailbox and posed crumpled
on the table like garlic skin. I could care less if he had a woman
or another family in the city—the empty vastness enough for me.

After showing him her corpse, we ploughed my mother’s pit,
until the midday seeded a sunburn across my back. I didn’t get my
mother’s resistance to the elements, and I wonderered how
I was birthed by her—I preferred the taste of roots and barks,
while she survived out of soil and sunlight. After burying her,
I uncoated myself, skinning the sun off my body.

I waited for her
to grow and fruit the sun, her heart heavily shelled and sharp-faced.
I plucked off the labours of harvest that took three years to grow,
peeling away her yellow skin to consume the unrequited love, biting
its seedy flesh with seedy needs and running my tongue along her contours,
her essence sticky on my teeth.
This part is heavily-phrased, with tons of imagery. The second part works on the poem's structure.

My mother had been standing naked beside the sunflowers
for three sleepless years outside the house. Her feet
had grown roots. She would oscillate, trying to regain
my father’s love as a flower in his farm.

She died, while he was out.

Blown away by a violent slipstream, now,
her body lied on the ploughed, bosomy earth—her skin and hair
licked yellow by the sun, her nails filled with soil and the soles
ripped from her roots. The underside of her lips were chewed
open to relieve herself of the rumble and stings of the bees.

Through her death, I feel the coming of age dawning upon me—
the hour of true ripening, as if my menstruation blood
wasn’t enough. For days, I gazed at her through the kitchen
window, waiting for her corpse to decompose or be scavenged
by the pests underneath.

When it rained, her blood seeped into the soil, turning
around where she lied into vermillion. Even through the foggy
condensation she emanated across the fields, hollowing the drab
greyness of a rainy night, her light so desirable, sharp as a cut,
that I stared breathlessly until moss grew on my palms pressed
tightly against the wet walls of wood.

My father came back at a predawn—
his silhouette stencilled in the shadow of the farm—
that slicing moment between morning and night. His crisp steps
like rustling leaves. I missed his sounds—his hisses and shouts—
not his love, nor the half-phrased apologies he took from the mailbox
and posed crumpled on the table like garlic skin. I could care less
if he had a woman or another family in the city—the empty
vastness enough for me.

After I showed him her corpse, we ploughed a burial,
until the midday seeded sunburn across my back.
Sweat and tears mingled on his face. The hole was layered
with roots and stones. My mother and I were so different
one would wonder how I came out of her womb. I preferred
the taste of roots and barks, while she survived eating soil
and sunlight. After burying her, I uncoated myself, skinning
the sun off my body. Even in her death she looked more
beautiful than me.

I waited for her
to grow and fruit the sun, her heart heavily shelled
and sharp-faced. I plucked off the labours of harvest
that took three years to grow, peeling away her yellow skin
to consume the unrequited love, biting its seedy flesh
with seedy needs and running my tongue along her contours,
her essence sticky on my teeth.
Really, still long. It's not really the length that I had been worried about, but through my 3rd editing process, I realise how strong the narrative could possibly be if I just focused on the essentials that make the narrative concrete and effective:

My mother had been standing naked outside
the house for years, trying to regain
her husband's love as a plant in his farm.

She died, while he was out.

Blown over by a violent slipstream,
she lay on the ploughed, bosomy earth—
her skin licked by the sun and her feet
ripped from their roots.

Through her death, I felt the coming of age
dawning upon me—the hour of true ripening,
as if my menarche wasn't enough.

He came back at predawn.
I missed his sounds--his hisses and shouts--
not his love, nor his half-phrased apologies.
I couldn't have cared less if he had a woman
or another family in the city—the empty
vastness enough for me.

We dug a pit, until the midday
seeded sunburn across my back. He touched
me. I cried.

I denuded myself,
skinning her leaves off my body. She and I
were so different one would wonder how I
sapped out of her womb. Even in death she
looked more beautiful than me.

I waited for my mother
to grow and fruit the sun, plucking off
the labour of harvest that took years
to grow, and I consumed the unrequited
love of her seedy flesh with my seedy needs.
The third product is a lot more succicnt, with various grammatical errors fixed.

It also basically completely alters the maximalist trend into an almost minimalist one. Of course, this wasn’t a simple process of removing and rearranging stanzas, but by writing a lot, I managed to distinguish which parts were relevant and powerful, to my own tastes, and which parts were redundant. Took a shot of nasty vodka for every unnecessarily floral bit (no pun intended ). I criticised and tore apart the poem by persuading myself how each verse was stupid and made sure that I underlined the bits that were stupidly vague. Cut down unnecessary repetition like carbs. I strived for subtlety. I made sure that the modifiers weren’t excessive. I looked for some words that didn’t fit or could be replace with other words that had more effect. I replaced weak verbs for the same reason and to ground the imagery. I also rearranged some lines.

While the general magic realist tone and plot of the poem remained the same throughout, its vision was altered in the process, and that’s not a bad thing.

Actually, even when a poem changes by itself, it’s done according to your own tastes. Trust your guttural instincts, and unless you’re experimenting, know to stick to your style in order to find ways to make it more flexible and dramatic. Hell, to be honest, I actually can’t write a realist story even if I try. Madame Carface Ducharme basically shows how I can’t write a realistic poem centred on a court case.

Of course, because I didn't put this poem up for critiques, I didn't really work the reediting with a perception of what others would think. When I asked for people to read the poem, it was at its 3rd version already.







I will offer one last piece of advice, in conclusion: Editing is different for everyone, even if only slightly. What works for one person won't necessarily work for you, and vice versa. It's important to find a process that works well for you. If you're finding you can't make it through a revision, then maybe you need to go about it a different way?

If you wish to share your own revision process, I'd be more than happy to add more to this list. I do withhold the right to refuse contributions, though, and you're more likely to be added if you are a respected member and writer here on YWO.
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						Last edited by Julian; 05-03-2014 at 12:10 AM.
					
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Old 02-25-2013, 09:34 PM View Post #2 (Link)
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I should add: If you want your walkthrough added to the main list, rather than posting it in a response, PM me and I can edit it in.
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Old 05-03-2014, 06:21 PM View Post #3 (Link)
Julian Julian is online now
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Sticky'ing this thread because f my new contribution it seems to be incredibly relevant and insightful. Because I can.
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