R is for Revision

Revise revise revise.  Yesterday’s post had 22 revisions.  Yup. TWENTY-TWO.  Why so many?   Because the rhythm was off.

Perhaps because I started out as a poet, or perhaps because I honed my craft for radio, or perhaps because I now sing and make music as well, for me as a writer, if it ain’t got rhythm, it ain’t got flow, and if it ain’t got flow it bugs me.   But more importantly, if it doesn’t flow people won’t read it!

Perfectionist?  Not totally, was reading one of my older posts the other day, saw a typo, and decided to let it go.  It didn’t grate on me the way a misplaced comma or modifier will drive me nuts.  Both commas and modifiers need to be in the correct place or the whole sense and rhythm of the writing is thrown, and like I already said, rhythm is really important.

So 20 – 30 revisions for a 417 word post, half of which is a poem written years ago, means a nit-picking, hard-working writer.  Sheesh – I don’t know what made me do it, but I just went back and read that Quiet post and saw another potential improvement which I was obliged, of course, to make. 

So if I’m an experienced writer, how come it doesn’t come out of my head and land on the laptop with perfectly chosen words grouped into perfectly formed sentences, grouped into perfectly formed paragraphs, with a cracking opening, riveting middle, and sensational finale?  Well, sometimes it does.   And when that happens, it’s pure bliss.   Having a specific assignment, with an editor to deliver to, and a pay cheque at the end usually helps focus the writing, which speeds up the process. But when I write for my own satisfaction and sanity, as I do with this blog, a lot of the time the writing process is a chance for me to explore and develop an idea, so what comes out in the first draft is just a roughly shaped idea that needs to be honed and revised.

Having a fresh mind also helps.  I do my best writing in the morning.  Q is for Quiet was written at the end of a long day, when I was really quite frazzled.  I needed to sleep more than write, but the alphabet was getting ahead of me, Q had crept up behind P like a cat stalking a fly, and suddenly there we were, neck and neck, with Q in the passing lane and me running out of gas!  It meant writing and publishing the post in one go,  which meant not having fresh eyes to revise it before publishing, which meant when I woke up the next day, and checked the published post, I started tweaking it with my fresh morning brain, and the next thing I knew it had had 22 revisions.  Plus it’s a contemplative, poetic piece.  They always take fine-tuning. A music and poetry friend here in Brighton, Annie Kerr delivers top-notch blog posts in that style.  I’m sure she revises.

Ever since I started writing stories and poetry at age 10, I’ve revised.   And it was when I submitted my first commentary, my take on swimming as a form of meditation, to CBC Radio‘s Open House that I started to really learn the art of honing words.  The show’s producer, Marguerite MacDonald, sat down and patiently worked through the piece with me, then sent me home to do more research and a rewrite – which I did. When I took it back to her, we had another sit down session, resulting in another set of revisions, and another trip home to rewrite.  I think we did three revisions together, and I did countless rewrites alone, before I was invited to the studio to sit down and record.

As I moved from radio to print, it became easier and easier to deliver 500 or so words.  Once I got the hang of a particular editor’s preferences, I could sometimes research and write a 500 word piece in under two hours, and have it accepted as it was.

So when I revise my blog posts, over and over and over, it’s partly because  I want to feel satisfied when I read the final piece, but it’s also because I’m working in unknown territory.  I’m developing my own ideas, and writing for a thus-far, unknown audience.  I’ve purposely left the theme of my blog open because all I want to do here is write what wants to be written, with no rules, no restrictions, and no editors, and see what happens.  Who knows where it will lead.

When I turn out a good post and you leave a comment of praise and appreciation, well hey, that’s the icing on the cake.  And when another blogger, whose work I admire, leaves comments of praise and appreciation, well hey, I think those 22 revisions worked!

Arlee Bird, founder of the A-Z Blogging Challenge, is just such a blogger.  Definitely a blogger-extraordinaire, every post is a finely phrased composition.   Even with all his writing – and I’m sure he revises his fair share, as one can gather from his P Paired Words post – he finds time to read other blogs and comment, as he has done mine.  Give him a read. That guy’s got rhythm!  Must be all that juggling!

And what about you?  Do you revise?  And how many revisions does an average post endure?

13 thoughts on “R is for Revision

Add yours

  1. Hi Allison. I love revisions. To me they are much easier than spilling out the words in the first place. You asked me a question on my blog – the answer is the very first post of the challenge: the three a’s

    1. Hey Karen, thanks for dropping by, reading and commenting! Revisions are for me, usually a slog. I remember submitting a commissioned piece to a glossy magazine once, and cutting out a paragraph to make it fit the word count. The editor called me and had me on the phone for over an hour discussing the article: “There’s something missing,” she said. So I gave her the paragraph I’d cut and she said “No, not that.” Finally after the hour long chat, she conceded that yes indeed it needed that paragraph. Since then, I leave in the extra words and let the editor decide what needs to be cut. It’s way easier, and gives them something to do!

  2. Hey Alison,
    I revise, revise, revise as well. Not so much on blog posts. I read those through a couple of times and hit publish. But anything that is actually published in a magazine, book or newspaper gets read and re-read. My favorite way is to read it out loud to, like you, make sure it has rhythm and flow. It needs to make sense, too, of course.

    Nice to meet you through the A to Z.


    1. Hi Lucy, Pleased to meet you. I’m going to check your blog. See above reply for my take on magazine articles! Not saying I submit sloppy work, rather I’m the only editor here, so I have to make sure it’s polished. Some editors leave my work, comma for comma, word for word. Others slash it to bits, so I’ve decided to let them decide. Of course, once you get to know an editor and they get to know your writing, it gets easier to deliver to what they want, and see your work published as it was submitted! 🙂 Check back for ‘W’. If things go as planned, you might like the reading!

  3. I revise everything I write over and over and over and over again, except blog posts really … Like Lucy I read it a couple of times and press publish. I also do a spell-check, but that’s it. For me the whole idea about blogging is to be spontanous and just write. It amazes how much time you spend on your posts, they seem very effortless to me 🙂

  4. Hey Louise,
    When you write fiction – for example the novel you are working on, how many revisions does that get?
    Q is for Quiet got 22+ revisions, some posts get published after 1st draft. The posts where I discuss ideas take a lot of revisions as I am developing new ideas. There there are some posts I write and publish. It depends on what I’m saying. Also a lot of the revisions in Q is for Quiet were changing one word, for example from ‘street’ to ‘pavement’. It counted as a revision in the Word Press stats because I made a lot of single word changes after publishing it, and every time I changed a word I hit Update, then I’d see another word to change, etc etc…Slightly obsessive compulsive, yet I had a really clear sense of what I wanted to communicate with that post, and in the end I think I got it.

      1. Those large numbers of comments have mainly been since the A to Z Challenge. I imagine they will go down after the Challenge is done with. If they don’t I will definitely have to reassess how I deal with blogging and commenting. I appreciate your visits and responses to the comments that your receive.

        Tossing It Out

  5. Hi Alison,

    I’ve been enjoying my tour through your world here! My favorite stage of writing is revision. Especially when I’m revising just one paragraph, even one sentence. When one sentence clicks, it’s more gratifying than if I’ve drafted an entire new piece!

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