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?