Writing

Writing And Revising: It’s Not Always Peas And Carrots

 

Some things just go together.

In the movie, Forrest Gump, the lovable, simple Forrest illustrates his relationship with childhood friend and true love by saying, “Me and Jenny was like peas and carrots.” 

He’s telling the world that they’re a good match, a balanced two-some, and that their differences complement each other. (My picky-eater son, however, might interpret “peas and carrots” somewhat differently — as in they went together like vomit and more vomit — but for our purposes let’s say this is an appealing veggie-pairing.)

I think the process of writing and revising should also be a copacetic peas-and-carrots coupling. Maybe this belief stems from the freelancer in me who’s used to pitching a 1600 word article, only to hear that it would be great if it were 800 words, or told from another angle, or patched together in unrecognizable shreds.

You give words, and you take them away.

When writing fiction, I’m typically a revise-as-I-go girl. I’m also usually ruthless when it comes to cutting and clipping passages and pages that aren’t working. And, normally, I’m gleeful (in a half-crazed way) during the process — almost Mommie Dearest-like as I stroll through my work — not hesitating to pluck the “roses” and other bits that may be beautiful but are unnecessary to the story. “Bring me the axe!” is a suitable Revision-Cave mantra.

Portrait of a Writer During the Revision Process

Now, for those in the audience who hear nails on a chalk board when too many adverbs are in the house, you’ll have noticed some key words in my explanation above. These were: “typically,” “usually,”  and “normally.”

Yes, the elements of writing and revising in regard to my current WIP are not spooning in their standard fashion. Revision is off sulking in the corner (You don’t even look at me anymore when I walk into the room!). And writing, is well…,writing, and writing, and writing. The words refuse to be cut, and this book is shaping up to become a 200,000 word Choose-Your-Own-Adventure where nothing ever gets resolved. You’d totally read that, right?

Silence

Silence

Silence

I suppose I’d rather have this problem of too many options, ideas, and directions — of needing to slash words and sub-plots rather than conjure them. But if I’m ever going to finish this book, writing and revising must get back to their symbiotic, yin-ish/yang-ish relationship. Back to being peas and carrots that work the taste buds in harmony.

Because peas without carrots are sometimes hard to swallow.

 

What is your revising personality? Fearless? Timid? Gladiator-like? Do you also have an unhealthy infatuation with the movie Mommie Dearest? Please share!

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Find me on Twitter @amandahoving

*Ahem — photo is actually of Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest

52 thoughts on “Writing And Revising: It’s Not Always Peas And Carrots”

  1. I think I approach revision with the glee of a mad scientist. I tend to get overly gleeful with the cutting (I have a writing job by day which also requires me to be economical with words) and sometimes I cut out way too much!

    Right now it’s peas and peas… UGH. I wish I could find some carrots 🙂

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  2. I’d rather revise than write. When you write, you’re starting from scratch. When you revise, you’re starting with something. It might not be much, but at least it’s a framework to hang your ideas on, and if you have an idea that doesn’t fit, tell yourself you’ll use it later and move on.

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    1. I hear you, Todd (and agree), but this time every idea seems to be the right one. I can’t wait for the light-bulb moment (which BETTER happen), so I can get to the cutting and pasting!

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  3. I’m glad I’m not the only one coasting toward a 200,000-word book against the better judgment of my inner critic! I’m a fearless editor, given enough breathing room and time between drafts, although I have been doing some hacking in the bushes in the past few weeks before getting into the next major group of scenes.

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    1. Hi Laura — I may have exaggerated a bit on the word count…;) I’m more of a minimalist, but this piece of work for me equates to an epic fantasy for someone else.

      Good luck on your hacking!

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  4. I’m also a revise as I go type of writer. Of course that would presume writing…and right now I’m also a write *when* I write kind of writer, which in this case means I’m conjuring, and therefore all carrots and no peas, right? And I too long to get back to that symbiotic relationship!

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  5. Let’s just say that Mommie Dearest hits a little too close to home for me to enjoy. Oh right, this was about revising and writing, wasn’t it?

    I hate to revise. I write like a demon and then I have to go back and fix it. I have red font all over my pages with notes like (check year of marriage) or (need sex scene here). LOL Too many years of Nanowrimo I think. Just get it down on paper, you can revise later.

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  6. Working as an editor changed me. There were times when I would have rambling 2000 word interviews that needed to be under 1000 words. That one in particular was Tom Cruise from an interview with one of our contributors. I never thought I’d make it. After that job I was much better at chopping away at my stuff, especially once I understood the need and value.

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    1. I’m sure that working as an editor gave you such great insights, Clay. I would love to be on the other side of the table someday.

      Cutting down a Tom Cruise interview almost seems criminal.

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  7. I love editing, but I suppose I’d say I’m more the scalpel than axe type. Maybe that’s because I more often need to add than subtract. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to write with abandon. I think I need an intervention. 😉

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  8. Whenever I think of “tightening up” – Mark Twain comes to mind, “If I had more time, I would’ve written you a shorter letter.”

    That always does it for me…

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  9. I’m not good at editing…yet. It is difficult for me to determine what should stay and go, because if I cut too much, then I lose the personality of the story…if I don’t cut enough, no one will read it.

    Good luck!

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  10. My revision process was helped greatly by Intro to Creative Writing. For our short story, we had to do significant revisions–at least 50% of it had to be changed, and changes had to be significant (not proofreading). This was incredibly difficult for me, because I NEVER did such significant revision before. I added some details, took some things out, had to drop an angle or two…but it worked. The piece was 100x better.

    This is way too drastic for me to do regularly, which is a problem because I revise as I go most of the time. I try to make the writing as clear as possible and move on. I trim the fat and really pull it together when I finish. Now, to finish something…

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    1. The more I think about it (and the more comments I read) the more I’ve come to understand that my process is never really the same. Sometimes I race to get the words down, and sometimes I write 2,000 words and then go back and revise right away.

      Yes, finish 2blu, so you can get your work out there!

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  11. I’m with Todd. I’d rather revise than write because revising presupposes that you have some time of manuscript to work with. I’d rather write a huge part of the story before I revise because I find that when I do that, I have a better picture of where the real beginning is and can chop the junk that was in the way.

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    1. It is hard sometimes to edit while in progress when you’re not exactly sure where you’re going with the story. That internal editor can be a persistent creature, though.

      Thanks for reading, comingeast!

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  12. I think I’m gladiator style. lol. Never thought about it untill now, but I do believe that’s accurate. It’s quite painful to self, but I go in ferocious, and calculating.
    Good luck getting back to the carrot and peas symbiosis.

    (I didn’t know mommy dearest was made into a movie!! I read the book when I was young and was obsessed for a long long time lol)

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  13. Peas and carrots — so true! And glad to meet another “chopper” of words. I used to be a reporter, and because I had to write so much and so fast I became really “unattached” to my writing. Willing to delete even the best lead sentence if another jumped into my mind.

    Thanks for the analogy. 🙂

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  14. Ruthless is the way to be when I’m revising. Once you fall in love with your own prose, it’s hard to be objective and cut or modify. Another good analogy came to mind – the movie 127 Hours. Sometimes you need to sacrifice the arm so the body may live.

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  15. So I’ve only recently learned about the whole “NO ADVERBS EVER!” attitude that some fiction writers (and creative-writing professors) have, and have been attempting to cut a lot of mine…

    But more to the point – I never edit as I go. I used to try doing that, but I realized that I’d never finish getting the story out if I did that. Sounds like the way your current WiP is going is exactly the way I write – write and write and write, and once you’re all done getting the story out there, THEN reread, revise and edit. I often feel that a lot of what I put into a story is necessary for me, as a writer, to have written, but I also know that it’s absolutely superfluous for any other reader and so I’m fully prepared to cut it later in the editing process. I suppose I’m rather like you in that I take a sort of glee in being ruthless about cutting my work once it’s finished!

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    1. Yes, I’m sure there’s some medical phobia documented that’s directly linked to adverb use.

      Glad you share my glee, SL. Though, it’s a warped kind of glee, definitely 😉

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  16. Sometimes I feel like the Grim Reaper cutting mercilessly with a scythe. Other times I feel like a fairy blowing pixie dust on scenes that need more oomph.

    I enjoy revising, because I see the manuscript take on a new shape.

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  17. Oh, yes, I’m the ruthless sort when it comes to revising. I am an uber-permissive parent in that first draft (for the most part) and then start the bad cop routine in revisions. My instinct is to cut TOO much–but I know we’ve all been there–when you start editing and think: Hey! What if I just rewrite ALL of it?!

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    1. Hi Erika — I have to admit that I’ll “move” some of the cut material to a different file…just in case. And, oh yeah, editing ALL of it? Sometimes that’s the only fix.

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  18. I write a skeletal first-draft, so I’m a painter/creator/banana pudding maker in my revision process. I say banana pudding maker because I add lots of layers to it.
    Love the post!

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  19. Very meaningful that I just see this now. I’ve been writing my fourth fiction draft (and hopefully my last: http://entertainingwelseyshaw.com) and realized there’s something seriously structurally wrong with it. The question was do I leave it till I finish or go back and hack now.

    I’ve read from “those who know” (ie, though who publish “how-to” guides) that you should not revise, at least seriously, in mid-story. But then it’s hard for me to get my bearings as to where I am now. So I think (groan) I’m going to go back and chop, as you describe, or at least restructure, starting tomorrow.

    I hope this is the right approach. I hope it works for you. I hope it works for me.

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    1. I think it’s good to listen to the experts, but ultimately everyone has their own writing style. I seem to be adapting from project to project, and all I can say is, I’ll try whatever works!

      Good luck on your revisions, John!

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  20. I’m a bit late to the party as usual, Amanda – fellow edit-as-you-go gal (sorry – was at a conference). As you know, I’m a bit conflicted about this very topic myself. Like you, I hate the prospect of heavy, heavy editing at the end of my WIP. I’d rather edit it in chunks as I proceed. But there IS something to be said about getting those great thoughts on paper, flowing and free … I’ll be interested to know how you feel about it when it’s “all said and done…” if this process worked for you, in the end/made things more creative?! I’ll keep you posted on my investigations as well. Lovely writing, witty and warm, as usual! A fun read.

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  21. Great post Amanda. Sometimes I’m a ruthless sort of gal, chopping away at words. Sometimes, they are sticky though, and just won’t go. I know exactly what you’re talking about! Good luck — maybe a bigger axe?

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  22. Being a relative newbie to writing fiction, I’m not yet sure where in the revision-spectrum I fall. It currently depends on the day (or even the time of the day, for that matter) you ask me that question. 🙂

    Also, we all bring our experiences and histories to the table, don’t we? If I had to choose a harmonic pair, peas-carrots wouldn’t occur to me, only because I didn’t grow up eating them together. I would go probably with nutmeg and cloves or something similar. That’s what makes reading blogs and books that much more interesting to me. Thanks for a fascinating read, Amanda!

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  23. I never revise much as I go, cause I’m afraid of cutting out something important before I can see what the story is about. But I do polish as I write the first draft. When I’m done with that I go back and revise and edit, and polish a lot more.

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  24. Lately, I’ve been doing more of a revise-as-I-go, but I tell ya, I don’t like it. I much more prefer to write, write, writer and then go back to edit. Maybe that’s what isn’t working with my current WIP. I’m trying to make each section as close to finished as possible, and that goes against my grain.

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