Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Revision Works

I am in the middle of teaching a Fiction Writing class at CPCC. Scott Kusel, a voice and film actor, has been learning how revision improves writing. In this blog he shares his observations on the writing process as well a "Before" and "After" character sketch. 


I am learning that writing is so much more than an art of creative expression. You just can’t place words on paper and expect to win the Pulitzer Prize. It’s writing with discipline so the art has its maximum enjoyment factor. I love the power of words but I have the tendency to use too many of them. Overwriting and inundating the reader with more information than what is necessary is an area I need to improve on. I’ve had to eliminate several words that have helped tighten up some of my sentences. I have struggled with dialogue in terms of how to make it flow more naturally while avoiding redundancy. This is an area that will require some work to perfect on my behalf. The point of view of my characters has also been a challenge in that it’s good not to have too many of them in the same scene. I also need to work on how I go about placing the location of the action of a scene. Is it a past, present or a future tense?

I must say that I am at a much better place than I was when our class started. Now I have something to work with. I like the new tools I am acquiring in my editing toolbox. I am sure that I will need many more as I continue improving my skills as a writer.

Scott's Character Sketch Before Editing: 
Jack began sensing something elemental unraveling inside his being. He had his share of challenges but this one was off the charts. How could an innocent and respectable man end up as a hostage in such a hostile and volatile place?  His sense of security was growing thin. The hand plane of time was reshaping his world.
For the past three days of his imprisonment Jack had remained aloof with Adahy.  Jack needed to refocus and he knew the best way to do so was to be honest in acknowledging his fears.
Jack turned to Adahy who was resting on his back in the corner of the stall, their shared space of confinement. Maybe he was searching for a sign of hope in Adahy’s eyes. Whatever it was Adahy must have perceived Jack’s need. He sat up and asked, “What is it Jack?”
“When I started my hike on the AT twenty-one days ago I decided to leave behind all my troubles at the trailhead. I actually thought I had succeeded, but look where I am now.” Jack said mockingly as he rolled his eyes.”
Adahy noticed how Jack was ringing his hands and wrestling with his thoughts.
 “I told Emily, my wife, I had to hike the AT to get away from the pressures of my life. My consulting business tanked, my two kids hate my guts, and Emily thinks I’m having an affair with one of her friends,” Jack continued.

Scott received input from me as well as his peers on our class wiki. He rewrote the above selection about seven times. Here is the final character sketch:

   Jack sensed something elemental unraveling inside his being and refused to place his fate in his captor’s hands. He began formulating a plan of escape.   
      “You’ve been aloof all day,” Adahy said to break the silence. Jack turned towards Adahy who rested on his back in the corner of the stall. He searched for a sign of hope in his eyes.
     “Okay, you want to know why I’m hiking the AT, Adahy?” he said in a bitter voice. “My life’s totally screwed up and I needed time to reflect. My consulting business tanked, my two kids hate my guts, and Emily thinks I’m having an affair with Kristin, one of her friends. I’m really screwed, Adahy!”
      Adahy raised himself up on his elbow and asked, “How did Emily feel about you leaving with all that stuff happening?”
      “She wanted me to go. She thought the time apart would do us good. Emily can get sentimental at times. On the morning I left she came up with this idea to have a parting ceremony. We each wrote down some things that we wanted to overcome in our lives. We put a match to our papers and watched them burn. It was a symbolic gesture”
     “It reminds me of how the phoenix is reborn after the fire consumes it,” Adahy reflected.


Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Definite improvement on the writing sample!

I cringe when I think how wordy my writing used to be. Now I love the challenge of saying more with fewer words.

Thanks for sharing your experience,Scott!

elysabeth said...

Even established writers still struggle with some of the same things you are struggling with, Scott.

As for dialog flowing "naturally", just think of that as the conversation you just had with a friend, recording the words as they are spoken to you. My characters' personalities show in their dialog so getting that part isn't as hard for me as getting the narrative, non-dialog sections down in a manner that is logical or coherent. I guess it's a good thing I write short stories and don't have to depend on too much narrative and that my stories are more dialog-laden than prose.

Good luck with your story and have fun in Carol's class. See you all in the postings - E :)

Elysabeth Eldering
Author of FINALLY HOME, a middle grade/YA paranormal mystery (written similar to a Nancy Drew mystery)

Linda A. said...

Your group is doing some powerful work. I like how there is more showing in this one. Very much improved.

A few details the writer might want to add: Jack is aloof for "three" days. Make it clear that they are in prison. Should stall be replaced with jail cell?

Keep up the excellent instruction.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks friends, for sharing your thoughts with Scott. JOyce-- your instruction & experience has definitely filtered through me to Scott! I know he'll appreciate this feedback on his writing.

Young Authors Program said...

Wow, what an amazing revision! I wonder if putting the manuscript aside for a few hours or days helped Scott SEE all that needed revising? What an improvement! Way to go Scott and kudos to you Carol for helping Scott become a revision believer :)

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, DOrothy. Just passing along what has taken me YEARS to learn!

Anonymous said...

I think taking your class would be so much fun and very helpful, indeed!

And Scott has done a great job with the rewrite!

Anonymous said...

I think taking your class would be so much fun and very helpful, indeed!

And Scott has done a great job with the rewrite!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Donna!

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