Morgan Locklear: Wordslinger…Squeegee

While I have offered some good advice in my Wordslinger posts, (and we’ve all had a few good yucks in the process) I think that this month’s essay has the potential to do the most good for any and all writers in any and all mediums.

 Writing a book isn’t the hardest part of the game: Re-writing it is.

 How many times do you read your chapters, poems, or blog posts before you send them out?

 Once?

 Twice?

 Zero?  (Writing it doesn’t count. That’s like trying to mix the song before all the parts are even recorded).

 Let me skip the logic and conventional practice argument and move right to the personal testimony, where I say that I have found something KEY to add, subtract, or change in everything I’ve ever gone through at least once. Interestingly enough, the second time is often my most revolutionary pass and they don’t say, third time’s the charm for nothing.  By the third time, I feel that I really see my story for the first time and just flit through it making small cosmetic tweaks and smirking at my own wit.

 

Writing is like working in clay. You need to keep your hands on it to make it smooth and the more time you spend with it, the more beautifully your creation will turn out.  Most of us barely even double check our tweets before clicking the SEND button.  We’re in the habit of thinking quickly, typing quickly and moving on quickly.  But, as it is with sex and cooking, writing requires practice, timing, and endurance.  Re-working a story is an exercise in all three, that’s like circuit training for the MIND baby!

 

I would, however, like to acknowledge that it’s absolutely a drag to have to hash through stuff you’ve already written.  Revision requires a completely different mindset than free writing does, but it is a GUARANTEE that you (and more importantly, your story) will benefit from it.

 

Okay, now maybe it’s time for a little logic and conventional practice for those of you who are linear thinkers:  Imagine how much you know about your characters and circumstances by the time you’ve completed a story.  Going back through your it allows you the opportunity to take advantage of that knowledge in dozens of ways.  Your characters could have more (or less) insight; you could set future events or locations up better by mentioning them earlier; you could beef up emotion and tension by focusing on people’s internal reactions to dialogue; or you could even leave red herrings for your readers, if your story lends itself to such fun devices.

 

Herring is gross oily fish that turns red while it’s cooked if it’s been over salted to hide the fact that’s it’s going bad.  Using the term red herring to describe any purposeful act of deception can be found as early as John Heywood’s 1546 glossary.  Back then, it was mostly used to describe people.  Now, it’s almost exclusively a literary term.

 

It really can become a whole new world when you’re brave enough to go back into your story.  And yes, brave is an apt description of the complexities involved in simultaneously dissecting, and reassembling a would-be completed book if not for your own meddling.

 

I’m re-working a novel right now and found that even my characters’ motives have changed drastically.  Also, the plot has been greatly simplified without giving up anything but clutter.  The story is at least twice as good for having been completely squeegeed, plus the emotion and erotica has been amped up in places that needed it.  Honestly, I’m more excited about the project than I’ve ever been and the last chapter was written ages ago.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I still think revision feels like doing homework while the sun is shining, but it’s just too easy to see how the extra work is shaping and polishing a story that I already thought had hit the mark.

 

I’m actually convinced that I’m a better writer the second time around because the act of getting everything out of my head and onto the page clears my head for a more objective (and sometimes abstract) view.  I can just relax and make sure that I told the story right the first time.

 

If you’re using a beta editor you shouldn’t be sending anything to your colleague until you have re-read and squeegeed your first draft.  In fact, you should consider everything a first draft and not completed story until this step is completed.

 

If you use a beta/editor, (and I highly recommend that you do), you may be tempted to assume that their approval (or even praise) validates your literary genius and exempts you from burdening yourself with the arduous task of re-working your mental droppings.  But only you can test whether or not you struck all the right narrative tones or emotional colors.  Only you know what it was supposed to feel like.  You must believe that your work is worth a second look, and the best part about that is, a second look can only increase that worth.

 

If you haven’t already been convinced by your buddy Morgan’s testimonial, pick something short that you wrote (and better yet, posted) in the last few months that you know you only spell checked.  Read it and see if you don’t want to make at least six changes for every thousand words. (If you are too scared to try this, you have your answer already).

 

Once you have written, read, and squeegeed your work, then send it off to your beta to have her buff it out for you.

 

If you don’t have a beta, Get one.  Find someone who is a real perfectionist and who knows what a dangling participle is. (Apparently, it’s not what it sounds like).  It could be an online friend or a smarty in your real life, but what you need before you submit or post anything is subjectiveness.

 

I rely on my wife and I call her Darth Beta.  However, her input only makes me look more intelligent, so I embrace it.

 

And then I re-read it.

 

P.S.  This post went through four revisions, and it was on the third one that I realized how cool it would have been to have kept the first draft to post as a comparison to my final submission to Tamie.  If this post generates as much interest and conversation as I got from Jennifer though, I would gladly use a future post to further illustrate the point by doing a whole before and after thing.

 

Your Pal,


MOG

9 thoughts on “Morgan Locklear: Wordslinger…Squeegee

  1. Wow !! I didn’t know how hard it is to write !!! I could never do it !! After the second time re-writting it . I would just set it aside and that would be it !!! I now have a better understanding as to what you guy’s go through !! Cross out writing for me !! Like they say thoes who can’t, teach .So i guess i will just keep on reading !!!! But i do re-read my post at least 3 to 4 times before i post it !! ( even then sometimes i’m still not happy at the end ) !!!!!!

    Like

  2. Sheila says:

    Hi MOG – extremely thought provoking post and one I wish I could share with my fellow uni students.

    For what it’s worth, I think a certain dissociation has to take place once the initial drafting is on the page. Every writer is, to a greater or lesser extent, emotionally invested in the piece ‘under construction.’

    If this distance isn’t happen, then the necessary objectivity is lacking. Result: redundant adjectives/adverbs/everything as we can’t bear to chop bits off our baby. Hence, as you say, a need for beta reader/s.

    Thanks for sharing this with us, MOG. Very much appreciated x

    Like

  3. sile2343 says:

    Reblogged this on sile2343's Blog and commented:
    Writers, please read this

    Like

  4. debradml says:

    Hey MOG brilliant words and thoughts Hun TY!!! I have done this with my blog where I have checked it quickly for spelling mistakes then posted it…then have re-read a few days later then have gone back and redone it over and over …..where I should have done that first! And I really like the idea of a beta/ buffer person to get feed back from first! Thanks again xx

    Like

  5. debradml says:

    Reblogged this on Words from across Oceania and commented:
    Brilliant idea’s on Writing by Morgan Locklear ~ Debs x

    Like

  6. Ana SweetDirtyDraco says:

    Reading, assimilating and taking example…And, hugging my beta. Thanks MOG, you´re brilliant

    Like

  7. Reblogged this on Talk To The Shoe and commented:
    I wanted to share with all of you a spectacular piece by Morgan Locklear on editing. … Thank you, Morgan. You’ve eloquently put to words exactly how I feel about editing. It’s where writing magic happens and my favorite part of the writing process.
    ~ Kat

    Like

  8. Thank you MOG for your insightful thoughts on writing. I’m going to share this with my weekly writing group who never knew what a beta was. When I mentioned it recently, they assumed it was the same as an editor. To be honest, I didn’t know what a beta was until I started checking Fanfic because of SR’s UOEM.

    Ellie T.

    Like

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