Revision Workshops Spring 2018

by Aaron Guile

How are revisions going? I was just at a Touchstones worksop and had the opportunity to meet a number of people who wanted to workshop their prose and poetry . . . and no one showed up.

That happens. We are all very busy people as UVU students and on top of that, writers tend to treat our work like Gollum treated his Precious. We horde we love we protect we shelter our little chunk of self expression and give loathing looks askance at those who would want to “help.” I mean, who are these “help” bastards anyway!!!

The problem: this gollumesque attitude we writers have about our art is the exact wrong thing to do. Good writing is a lonely task which involves borrowing, theft, and silent assassination, but good revision is collaborative filled with love, puppies, kitties, and butterflies (and in my case trips to a local buffet to reward my alpha and beta-readers).

Huh?

Good revision is collaborative. This doesn’t sound right, but it is. This is the reason the writing classes here at UVU and at hundreds of MFA programs across the country focus on workshopping and collaborative work. The goobers who teach us here at UVU might actually know the truth of that bizarre idea that good writing is collaborative, but what can you do to to get the reviso-colab process going?

First! Break out of your shell and realize every other writer/poet on campus is also an introverted shell of a human pockmarked by every mental illness on the planet and then look at the two following checklist that will help you work your way through revising.

Second! Find friends you trust who are not your mothers, lovers, and/or spouses (no one can trust any of these three in the revision process since they might misinterpret revision with destruction) and get them to read what you write with an eye for the following:

  • How well does the story follow dramatic structure: setting, rising action, climax,        falling action, resolution?
  • Where is the story confusing? What questions are left unanswered? 
  • How is pacing? 
  • Does the conflict seem real? 
  • How well are the protagonist and other characters portrayed?  Is the protagonist a believable character?  Does the protagonist grow, evolve, or attain a new perspective? What does the conflict reveal about the protagonist? 
  • Does the author show instead of tell?  In other words, has dialogue been used?  If so, has it been punctuated correctly?  Have specific details been used that describe the way that things look, smell, taste, feel, and sound?
  • What is boring.

Third! Once you have listened carefully to everything your readers have read and you’ve rewarded them with food and drink, go through your story again and make the corrections that make sense and then follow the following list:

  • Spelling
    • Spell check has been run.
    • "It's" and "its" have been used correctly. This also applies for there, their, and they’re and every evil permutation of the verb lie.
    • All other homonyms (which spell check won't catch) have been examined. For example: you wouldn’t, "She peaked through the blinds and saw the peek of Mt. Ampersand."
  • Grammar
    • Dialogue is punctuated correctly.
    • Make sure run-ons or fragments are intentional and rare.
    • Subjects and verbs agree in number, and verb tenses are consistent.
    • Commas have been used and used correctly.
    • "That" and "which" have been used correctly or murdered using a poison tipped kinjal so their dirty, zit-covered faces can never be seen again.
    • There are no unclear or confusing pronoun references.
    • Sentence structure varies in descriptive or expository passages so the text doesn’t get boring.
    • The sentences are concise.
    • Use a [blankety-blank] thesaurus.
    • Fact check yourself. Writers get crap wrong all the time, so it is great to use subject matter expert friends and google to double check.

 

Forth! Revise and revise, because looking like an idiot sucks and then start going to workshops because those of us who are there to help want to help.