Night Vision… and Revision

When it comes to revision, I am in the dark.  Literally.

When I write, I have trouble with letting editing get in the way of my vision when I write a first draft and of revision later.  Instead of letting my vision pour out of my fingertips, I get hung up on syntax and word choice.  So for my last manuscript, I wrote my first draft blindfolded.

I couldn’t go  back and edit as I wrote.  I couldn’t pull up a thesaurus to find a slightly more perfect word.  And best of all, I couldn’t walk to the kitchen cupboard.  I just got the story out.  If you want to see your story clearly, I recommend looking for it in the dark.  If you need to see the keyboard when you type, try typing in white font for the same affect.

Others best find their vision through their mouth.  For them, I recommend talking into a sound recorder and playing it back.  I am more of a typer than a talker, but more than either I am a walker.  As much as I would sometimes like to strap my laptop onto my chest like a drum major, pacing around with a recorder is slightly less unwieldy.

Editing doesn’t belong in revision either.  It is called revision for a reason.  It is not about tweaking sentences, but about envisioning your story in a new light. This could mean sticking your story in a dark drawer for a few weeks, wrapping that blindfold back around your eyes, and starting again from scratch with only the strongest plot points and themes left lingering in your memory as jumping off points.

It could mean printing your story out and cutting it to pieces.  Keep only the best stand-alone scraps and throw out the rest.  How can you rearrange the remaining pieces to fit together?  What new ideas could fill the gaps?  Do these pieces all still belong together, or are you working with more than one story?

It could mean drawing your story.  Take your re-visioning literally.  Sometimes it’s easier to see what’s missing from a picture than from a page of font.

It definitely means getting feedback.  It is hard to envision the same thing in a new way with the same old set of eyes, no matter how you blindfold them or distort what you’re looking at.

Revising is incredibly difficult.  While editing is easy – playing around with words and punctuation for instant gratification, revision is a long process that can mean completely letting go of your initial vision, that inspiration that sparked your story and motivated you in the first place, and replacing it with a whole new vision.  A better vision that leaves you with a better story.  I radically revise all of my manuscripts, some of them over a dozen times.  And I have never ended up with a worse story for it.

Good luck with your revisions!  I hope that as you envision and re-envision in the dark, you’re able to see the light in your story.



Filed under Featured Posts, Writing Technique and Prompts

9 responses to “Night Vision… and Revision

  1. Great post Laura, but oh so hard to do. I can set it aside, once I’ve written my draft and then revisit it. But, once I begin revising the copy editor in me steps in. I have a friend who is a NYT bestselling author. She writes her first draft, has her critique partner read it. Then puts it away and starts all over again. It works for her, because she’s at the top.

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  3. I love it! Now when I critique your work, I’ll wonder if you wrote it blindfolded. 🙂

  4. Patricia – You’re right, it IS hard. But you don’t need to be at the top to be a successful reviser. Just experiment until you find what works for you. I know you can outwit that internal copy editor!
    Alison – I’m sending out my blindfoldedly written story (since revised) next month 🙂

  5. This is an AMAZING post. I am definitely going to try the blindfold trick one time, as my typing skills are up to snuff. Going to share this with the 12 x 12 group

  6. This is fascinating, and so incredibly helpful. Thank you!

  7. Excellent advice! Revision is the toughest part about writing for me. I’m going to try cutting up my story and see where it leads. Thank you!

  8. Thanks for the great feedback, everyone! Good luck experimenting with the vision and revision process. Let us know what works best for you!

  9. What you say is brilliant, but it seems so scary for me to do. Somehow, I imagine losing my groove and not being able to get it back to finish the story. I will have to try it on a draft I’m not in love with. 🙂

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