Looking for the Lightning

I’m about half way through revising Oranges and Lemons, which according to the flexible timeline I was given by my editor, puts me right on target. (I know you can’t see it, but relief is painted all over my face.) When trying to decide what to write about in my blog today the only thing that really presented itself was to throw out some thoughts and experiences regarding the act of making writing better.

I spent decades helping teenagers improve their writing skills. A lot of the time it was an uphill battle. I’m still not sure if it’s human nature or teenage nature to do something once and be done with it. If I had a dollar for every time I gave my little lecture about the importance of revising, I would be able to spend a nice weekend at a luxury resort somewhere. Most of the time my words of supposed wisdom fell on deaf ears. Students still felt satisfied with correcting a few spelling mistakes in the belief that they had made revisions. A few even tried to fool me by changing the font or line spacing of their drafts. I, of course, would be too stupid to notice that all the words were exactly the same. Duh.

Occasionally my nagging would pay off. Some bright, creative young person would actually get on the revision bandwagon and do what was needed. These were the times that kept me going and gave me the incentive to continue my nagging. I still remember some of those pieces of well-revised writing.

When I finally started to write, I had no one to pester me about my process. As it turned out, I didn’t need it. Although I’m not big on the “conferencing” element and ultimately wait until I get feedback from my editor, I have discovered that I love to revise. Writing the original draft of something is okay, but the real fun and the opportunity for creativity come when I chop it up, put it back together again, rewrite it for the tenth time and so on. My biggest problem at this stage is forcing myself to stop. That’s why it’s essential for me to have a deadline.

Before I began this blog entry, I looked up what other writers have said about the process of revising. Although I could relate to many of them, one really stood out:

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”
Mark Twain


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