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Marissa Lingen

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revision: three ways to level up [Mar. 7th, 2016|07:50 pm]
Marissa Lingen
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  1. There’s stuff you don’t have to revise any more when you get past a certain point, because you never mess it up in the first place. That’s convenient if you can get it. Do as many of those as possible. But don’t expect them; they come where they come, and yelling at yourself for not having more of them is counterproductive. Your favorite writer in the world wrote something completely idiotic in the first draft of your favorite book. Really. I promise they did. Ideally they revised it out.

  2. There’s stuff that would have looked impossible when you were newer at this. When someone says, “I’d like you to do more of x, more of y, and more of z, and can you do it in 10% fewer words? Thanks.” Sometimes you look at that and think, “Well, sure, yeah. I see how to do that. That’s only work, no problem.” And you know for a fact that when you were newer at this, less practiced, you would have cried. You would have thought this was ridiculous. Smooth out the pacing, what does that even mean? Does this editor, agent, or critique buddy hate you? I bet they hate you. They just say these things because they hate you. Whereas a few years and a bit of practice and the very same critique suggestion is reasonable. It’s like yoga, when they tell you to breathe into various body parts that are not your nose, sinuses, or lungs, and at first you balk and think, “Ludicrousness right here, what do you mean, breathe into my tailbone, you breathe into your tailbone, lady,” and then after a bit more you’re like, “Oh, breathe into my tailbone.”

  3. And then there’s the stuff that you know better than to attempt. Because you have the experience to know that it’s a bad idea. It looks very much like the stuff in #2, only, y’know, bad. Do more of x, y, and z, in 10% fewer words? You breathe into your tailbone, lady, that is bad for my story and I’m not doing it. Not even belligerently. Just: time for the nope, the calm and rational no thank you, nope. Knowing which reaction goes where and how to implement them: that’s the important part of leveling up.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux


[User Picture]From: clarentine
2016-03-08 03:15 pm (UTC)
Well said!
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[User Picture]From: rmnilsson
2016-03-09 05:34 pm (UTC)
I think those categories apply in other fields as well. My explanation to coworkers for requests in Category 3 is "The bridge is washed out 10 miles down this road. We could drive down this road together if you insist, but I've been down that road before and I'm telling you it will be a waste of time. Or you can trust me and we'll just take a different route."

The frustrating thing is when I say this and then smart people ask me to explain why it's a bad idea. I pick up a whiteboard marker and they get horrified, because now they're getting a lecture from Professor Nilsson. But some questions don't have medium-length answers, just "because I said so" and the long answer.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2016-03-09 05:42 pm (UTC)
Yeah, writing is often like playing the guitar is like...[insert field here].

But you know, they asked you to explain why it's a bad idea. They asked! You didn't come collar them and say, "I'm going to tell you!" They're getting what they asked for.

It's just that what we ask for and what we want are not always the same thing, I suppose.
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