November 28, 2008: A Different Perspective

One of the things that can happen when you’re revising is that your eye becomes so used to the sight of your words on the page that you essentially stop seeing them. (I say “on the page” because I have to revise from hard copy.) When that happens, you start missing things: missing absent words (because your mind supplies the word, filling the gap); missing phrasing that clanks; missing contradictions (because you changed something in one place, but didn’t account for the change further along); missing all the things you should notice in revision.

So what do you do?

You figure out a way to make what you have look different.

One trick is to change the font. If you’ve been using Times New Roman, convert the section of manuscript you’re going to work on to something else. I’ve used Garamond, Book Antiqua, Bookman Old Style — it doesn’t actually matter which one you use, so long as it’s different than the one you’ve been using.

Another trick is one my friend Robin uses: she prints different revisions of her story on differently colored paper. One version might be white, another canary, a third green. She can keep track of which version of the she’s dealing with, and it just looks different because the paper is different.

I’ve also heard of people printing scenes with a landscape orientation rather than portrait; a few times I’ve even printed on legal-sized paper (8 1/2 x 14). It almost doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you change something so your eye can’t fall into bad habits.

But sometimes the problem can’t be solved with perceptual tricks like that. I’m still struggling with the second scene of the wip — it’s thisclose to being finished (for now), but it’s not quite there. It fizzles; it feels like it’s missing something. Ilsabet’s responses make logical and emotional sense to me, so I don’t think that’s where the problem lies. I think the problem is (still!) with Mr. Enser.

I don’t think I’m truly seeing the scene from his perspective. I kind of have an idea, but I’m not living the scene in his skin, and I need to be there. So I’ve taken the whole conversation with Ilsabet and I’ve stripped out everything that is specific to her point of view: her thoughts, her internal emotional responses, the little things that make the scene hers.

I’m going through it line by line and writing out what Mr. Enser is thinking and feeling as he listens and speaks. My hope is that when I get more deeply into the scene, Mr. Enser will say something that will take the scene in a new direction. If he does, then Ilsabet will have to respond, and that will keep the scene moving in this new direction.

And if not, I’ll print it in a different font, or on colored paper, or in a different direction, and I’ll look at it that way.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Teresa
    Dec 04, 2008 @ 20:21:28

    I try reading things out loud. HEARING the word rather than seeing them seems to help.


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