Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Revisions: Mixing and Enriching

Writing Wednesday

I believe most of us hear "revisions" and think generally of error correction. I don't deny that's a part of the process, but there's an important (and I think underrated difference) between reworking material to correct problems and reworking material to make it better.

Surely you've heard something to the effect that what we do shouldn't be called writing, it should be called rewriting (and rewriting and rewriting ...). Before the thought of all that extra work throws you off, think about the pleasure you get from rereading a beloved book and finding something new each time.

I've heard of people who read more complicated works topically. For example, I know people who have read the Bible looking for everything it says about love, and then read it again, focusing on forgiveness. Because there's a limit to the number of different things we can keep in our minds at any one time, the writing analogy would be to make separate passes through your manuscript focusing on each of the major characters, on scenes and pacing, on dialog, on adverbs, etc.

BBC Local Radio Mark III radio mixing desk (Wikipedia)
Consider the analogy from the music business. After the artists have recorded their songs, the producer goes through all the material to make sure the music is as good as it can be and determines the order of the songs in the album. Then, the album goes to a mixer who adjusts everything further so that the songs play well together (e.g., that the levels of the songs match so that you don't turn up the volume to hear a quiet song only to be blasted by the loud one that follows).

Of course there will be errors of usage and craft to correct, but I find it much more useful to think of revisions as basically a time to mix (i.e., balance all the elements to best support the overall story) and to enrich the novel.

Image: Simon Howden /