Personal Review Week: Results

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Reviews and Revision

April 6, 2008

lovetodeviate's Comments

I'm surprised we didn't get many entries for this one, as I thought a review week would be super important and fun at the same time. But even with seven entries, some critical points were brought up, and I think they will be interesting even for those that didn't write a review.

Some of you had basic language concerns. xCamix (Some Things I Must Say) talked about improving her English, which is a second language for this fifteen-year-old writer. I think she's doing a fantastic job. It's not easy to get comfortable with a different language. She still needs to improve, so it would be nice if you gave her tips and corrected her (politely) while reading her future entries. She's a good learner. Of course, this is not restricted to xCamix. We all make grammatical and punctuation errors, so we need to help each other out.

There was also some discussion about word length, over-writing, and plotting difficulties. GaioumonBatou (Fluidity) and littlemissmoody (A Personal Review) had interesting things to say about this, and their reviews led to a discussion about the use of making a detailed plot outline before writing, and about finding the right word length for each piece you write.

raspil had probably the most interesting review (Personal Review), as the writer described her growth and pitfalls in detail.

I'd like to higlight two major themes in the reviews.

:pencil: Knowing the big words

It was leoraigarath (PERSONAL REVIEW) who made me think of this: is it important to know technical terms? I wager that it's not necessary, but useful all the same. What is really needed is familiarity with the language and its subtleties. The more you read and critique, the more aware you will be of flaws in writing (your own and others' ), and even if you cannot name those flaws, you at least recognise them, and hopefully know what to do correct them.

That said, usually, you will pick up some technical terms without realising it, and it's a good thing. As long as you can explain it to someone else if they ask, you're good to go. What terms are worth picking up? I'll leave prose out of this as most of the terms are fairly easy to understand (character, dialogue, plot, etc). In poetry, I would recommend knowing the following: stanza/strophe, line break/enjambment, imagery, metaphor, simile, personification, abstraction, rhyme and metre. Our list of resources should help you with this, but if you have any doubts, drop me (lovetodeviate) a note any time you like.

:pencil: Revision

illuminara (Experiment in Suspense) and Amy--Louise (poetry reading and review) both bring up rewriting/editing/revision in different ways, which got me all excited, because I am absolutely fascinated by the process of revision. I think it's very important for writers to find their own method of revision.

illuminara mentions this quote by James Michener: "I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter." It's witty, and oh-so profound. Michener is not really deprecating his abilities as a writer; rather, he is highlighting the importance of revision. Many young writers start out with a dislike for revision, believing that it will destroy the original intent of the piece. It takes some convincing (and "sweat and tears", as Amy--Louise puts it) to move away from that kind of thinking. I will not attempt to do any convincing here, but I recommend reading illuminara's and Amy--Louise's reviews, as they make a great case for revision.

The thing about revision is it's hard to do. You can be the best critic possible of other people's work and not realise where you yourself are going wrong. The problem usually is distance. We are very close to our writing, even when we hate it, and it's hard to notice the flaws. Taking time away from the piece (weeks, months, even years -- no need to be in a hurry if you're aiming for polished work) is extremely important as this will loosen your emotional grasp on the piece, and you will be more critical of yourself.

"my friend, *ErnestAbacus says : "wait until you become the audience" (though he said it more eloquently)," writes Amy--Louise. ErnestAbacus hit the nail on the head. I think it was Ted Kooser who first said something along these lines. This is exactly the purpose of drawer time (that is, the time you spend away from a particular piece of writing before you revise it). Once your drawer time is up, you feel a bit foreign to the writing, you're more like an audience than the writer, and you can reclaim the writing, and polish the hell out of it.

I hope you find my comments useful. At least, if you hear someone warn you about an instant revision, you'll know why. If you agree/disagree/are confused, I welcome discussion. As for me, I enjoyed this week. Writing my own review was cathartic and revelatory, but talking about revision just made me realise how intensely I feel about it -- I even got a little eloquent in there, eloquent for my standards, that is.

Thank you for writing your reviews and  all your wonderful participation in our workshops!


BeccaJS may pitch in a few comments later. Meanwhile, look out for MSJames's workshop on tanka, which should be posted in a matter of hours.

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raspil's avatar
thank you for saying what i wrote was interesting. that means a lot to me.