Sometimes it is difficult to know.
What starts out as a simple search and destroy for typos can suddenly become a revision of a clumsy scene which can soon morph into an entire rewrite of an act of a novel. I think the problem here comes from not being able to focus on only one aspect of the writing at a time.
For me, I like to start with the big stuff and work my way down to the small. While I’ll correct typing errors as I see them and move punctuation that is truly being offensive, editing the nitty-gritty is kind of the last ditch run through, mostly because if I revise or rewrite I know I’m just going to put more errors into the text.
So I begin with the rewrites. I may stay in the rewriting stage for the rest of forever with some manuscripts. Rewrites, for me, are the massive changes. The adding characters, taking them out, changing direction entirely, cutting scenes, adding scenes, moving scenes. All of the things that give you a huge headache when it comes to checking for continuity errors and will usually have you rewriting chapter after chapter to accommodate the change you made way back in the beginning.
Then I revise. These are the more surgical changes. Adding an emphasis here, changing the wording of that exchange of dialogue there, altering a description in that chapter. Sometimes these have carry on effects but normally it is just tightening up the overall story that has already been rewritten (many times) and checked for continuity.
Then, should I have made it this far and not put the project aside, comes the editing.
Still, despite wanting to work from one layer down to the next, down to the next, I end up jumping back and forth between the three.
How does your process for revisions work?
This is mostly in response to Carol Kilgore’s post earlier in the week on the blinking cursor. Afterward I was having trouble typing without staring at the cursor on the screen and that was seriously derailing my ability to type. It really does just sit and blink at you when your fingers hesitate on the keys. It is almost as if it is angry and impatient, dying to get moving and hating you because you need to stop and think.
I probably shouldn’t personify computer blips but there we have it.
As I mentioned in the comments, I don’t sit in front of my screen when I’m thinking. I either move or turn the screen off. The glare and the blinking and just the hum of the computer is all very impersonal and it all feels very demanding. As if you have to get things done right now and that kind of pressure is never good for my creative process. I move away and find more pleasant surrounds, or at least different surrounds.
That said, I like the cursor when I’m on a roll. I see it gliding effortlessly across the screen, a straight and powerful line driving before the flock of words that follow in its wake – and there is probably a mangled metaphor if ever there was one. I see it as a guide and as encouragement. I see the words play out behind it and feel that something is being accomplished. When the story is flowing, the cursor can be your very best of friends and one of your greatest supporters.
Is it that the cursor is in fact two faced or is it that when things go well we see the positive in things but when they go poorly…
Maybe its just the fact that it blinks. Blinking lights always seem impatient and angry. Or alarmed. Concerned. None of these things are what you emotionally want when trying to write so why won’t the cursor stop blinking.
As I hesitated before writing this line I watched the cursor sit and blink at me. Maybe it is just reminding us it is there and trying to keep us from falling asleep at the screen.