Writing – Revising, Editing, Polishing

In his book “On Writing”, Stephen King talks about how the story is like a fossil, buried, and it is our job as writers to unearth the fossil and polish it. The book is a helpful read and the analogy is excellent.

Part of the process of writing is re-writing, revising, editing, and polishing. For me, this has been a major undertaking for the novel, Josephine: Red Dirt and Whiskey. And, by major undertaking, I mean a slog fest.

I double tapped my way through the first publication of Josephine – repeating same word in same sentence. I had employed vague writing  – especially my pronoun usage. And, there were some holes in the story line.

So, there’s a lot to fix!

Here’s what my revision process looks like in action:

From the original publication of Josephine: Red Dirt and Whiskey –

Chapter One

She saw the small figure walking on
the muddy red road, and she smirked as she leaned forward in the rocker on the paint-chipped porch.

“I wonder where that girl thinks she is heading. She won’t be so clean for long with this red mud everywhere.”

She rocked methodically, as if there were some goal towards which she was progressing. Her face never fully relaxed. It could have been a sympathetic smile she had for
the girl on the road, but the knots of hair twisted into white, shredded rags
all over her head distorted her appearance.

She had spent two hours twisting and knotting each piece of hair around those torn pieces of cloth. Her arms had started to hurt, but she kept twisting and tying. Her arms
went numb, and still she kept at it. When she was finally finished, she went
and sat on the porch. Her arms throbbed and tingly sparks of pain traveled from
her wrists to her shoulders. She rubbed her hands together. She’d started
pressing her dress and applying her makeup, but she needed to sit down for a
little rest. She didn’t think her hair looked all that special curly, but he
had told her he liked it. So, she curled it.

And, after revising, here’s the polished version –

Chapter One: In which we meet Josephine

Josephine pushed herself back and forth in her aunt’s rocking chair on the porch. The way
the sunlight hit the porch at this time of day may have been beautiful to some
people, but the light and heat only made her sick. Josephine shifted the weight
back and forth on her bare feet methodically.

She followed the neighbor girl, Mae, with her eyes as Mae made her way down the
road that ran in front of Josephine’s house. Mae was dodging holes in the road.
She was walking carefully around the edge of each one. The road, like all the
rest of them in this area, was red dirt. A false step and Mae would be covered
in red mud. Josephine gave a distorted smile. The knots of Josephine’s hair
that were twisted into shredded rags all over her head kept her face from
relaxing.

Josephine had just spent two hours twisting and knotting each piece of her
straight hair around the torn pieces of cloth. Her arms had started to hurt,
but she kept twisting and tying. Josephine’s arms went numb, but still she had
kept at it. Pain traveled from her wrists to her shoulders, and she rubbed her
palms together to get rid of the throbbing and tingly sparks that were shooting
through her arms.

Her dress was pressed. She had done that first. Her makeup was half finished. Josephine didn’t think her hair looked all that special when it was curly, but Ethan had told her he liked it.
So, she curled it.

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About melindamcguirewrites

The young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. ------ William Faulkner, Nobel Prize Speech, Stockholm, 1950
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4 Responses to Writing – Revising, Editing, Polishing

  1. DM says:

    I’ ll have to get his book. The change is amazing.

  2. A.R.West says:

    I read it and will read yours where can I get it or when? I agree with you on Kings book. He is a great author even cloaked in horror. I have most if not all of his works and enjoy rereads. You are skilled in the craft. Have you read Hemingway on writing? I enjoyed it and am currently finishing a moveable feast. His style has the bite I enjoy with out the fluff. I will be ready to read your book in about a month, so get to work!

    • I love A Moveable Feast! Thank you for the comment. My debut novel will be available mid-October. Currently, I am reading Stein On Writing by Sol Stein. Different approach than King’s book but also helpful and relevant.

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