Revising Leah

November 28, 2008

Sick For the Holidays

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 1:12 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Yesterday, I came down with a cold (or maybe a small case of the flu). After 24 hours, a sore throat and achy joints are the only symptoms.

That hasn’t slowed down my reading, though. Friday is a big day in that I’ve got a 15-page chapter to read. The weekend will be easy with only about 10 pages combined for the next two days. One of the nice things about reading the chapters set during Thanksgiving week during the real Thanksgiving week is that I can do some fact checking. In today’s chapter, Mr. Nells spends most of the day watching college football on TV, so today I was able to see what time the football games start and whether that corresponds with what I’ve written. (It does.)

I’ve mentioned before that I’m practically finished with this revising project. As I read, I continue to make a few little changes in each chapter, but I’ve noticed that only about half of the changes I make are necessary corrections. The rest of the changes are changes that really aren’t absolutely necessary: just rephrasing a sentence differently or swapping out one word for another word — changes that really aren’t necessary. For example, at the end of chapter 21, I rephrased this sentence

Grandmother and granddaughter worked in silence for a few minutes, and then Grandma whispered, without glancing up from the pot she was scrubbing . . .

so that it read

Grandmother and granddaughter worked in silence for a few minutes, and then Grandma whispered, without looking away from the pot she was scrubbing . . .

I made this change because I use the word “glancing” again at the start of the next paragraph, and I didn’t like that repetition. But would the first time reader of this passage even notice the repetition? Probably not. And since about half of all the changes that I’m making at this point are like that one, I’ve clearly reached a tipping point where the changes I’m making are no longer improving the story.

As I like to say, there’s no such thing as a finished draft. But there is a point where one has to put the draft aside and say, “It’s done.” I’ve reached that point in this revision cycle.

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6 Comments »

  1. Sounds like you are getting really close! I can see how it’s nice to make sure everything is consistent and realistic for over the Thanksgiving period.
    And as for repeating words close to each other in stories – I’m glad you changed it. I know I often notice them and wish the author had found a different word to use.

    Comment by J.C — November 28, 2008 @ 1:43 pm

  2. Yeah, I sometimes notice little errors in other stories, too. It’s hard for me anticipate the reader’s experience of my novel, though. I think that’s the hardest part of the revising process, and every time I read through the novel I drift a little further away from that experience. In addition to writing the novel, I’ve read through it almost a dozen times, but my readers will probably only read it once — and for the first time. It’s difficult to imagine what that experience will be like.

    Comment by jmreep — November 28, 2008 @ 2:09 pm

  3. Ugh, I hear you on the sickness thing. I’ve come down with it, too, and oooh it’s so frustrating. Maybe I have what you have, because my throat hurts and my muscles were sore, as well. I hope mine goes away fast.

    I’m very careful about repetition in my stories, too. I always try to mix it up. I’m especially careful when it comes to starting too many sentences in one paragraph with the same word, like “she” or “he” or a name. I figure that if I notice (and am bothered) by those kinds of things, there have to be other readers who feel the same way.

    Comment by Chibi — November 29, 2008 @ 3:03 am

  4. Yeah, I saw that you had gotten sick, too. Mine was just a 24-hour bug, though. I started feeling sick around noontime Thursday, and by midday Friday I was starting to feel well again. It’s Saturday morning now, I’m a-ok.

    Comment by jmreep — November 29, 2008 @ 8:57 am

  5. I find that in the final stages, I make a lot of revisions like the one you’re talking about–removing repetitions that might be distracting, improving sentence flow, clarifying an idea, or whatnot. You can get away with little “imperfections” to some extent, but if you have too many they add up.

    Still, as you say, you eventually have to come to a point at which you consider it done, even though you know that one more pass will turn up something else you want to fix.

    Comment by greatbigdog — November 30, 2008 @ 3:24 pm

  6. @GBD:
    I think a lot of readers are forgiving of stray typos, etc., so long as the overall story is engaging and entertaining. Since May, I’ve read through my novel at least 7 times, each time making lots of changes and corrections. It’s pretty much done, but when it comes to my own writing, I am a perfectionist. For me, a misplaced comma or a misspelled word is an occasion of extreme embarrassment — and don’t even get me started on what might happen if I were to leave a plot inconsistency in my story.

    I’ve been reading your book, and playing the role of “audience” to another person’s self-published novel has got me thinking about what I expect from my audience — I’ll have more in my next blog post.

    Comment by jmreep — November 30, 2008 @ 4:32 pm


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