#MotivationMonday Revision, a micro study

Happy Monday, everyone!

I’m back this week and as promised I have a really good post to motivate everyone on their writing journey.

Last week, I spent some time in the revision state of mind. I have a long hate relationship with revision. Long before I became a journalist, I would spend days, weeks, months, revising my short stories. That was when I still lived with my parents and had posters of boy bands on my wall. I thought, at the time, that reading it out loud and listening to myself would help me catch grammar mistakes. I’m not sure how much that helped but what I did learn, rather quickly, is the rhythm of a sentence, and paragraph, a story. I learned where I wanted pauses and when I wanted something to speed up. I learned, so many years ago, when I needed to slow things down for dramatic effect and what I needed to slow down.

However, it’d be decades before I figured how to do what I wanted to do and I’m still not that good at it. It’s a process like everything else.

But during the revision process of my thesis, an advisor suggested that I read it out loud. I sorta did that but after awhile stopped because of time constraints.

So last week, I returned to that technique and added a twist, I recorded myself. I sat down with my piece which was only nine pages at the time and read it into a microphone and played it back, really listening to it.  I could instantly hear where I could expand on a thought, where the rhythm of a sentence should be shorter or longer. Also as important, I heard places where I needed to pull back. What I thought was important as I was writing wasn’t anymore.

Here’s an example of what happens when you listen to the rhythm. These were the original sentences that were at the beginning of a paragraph:

As I walked home alone after my shift at Pepe’s Nightclub and Bar, I heard the
leaves breathe and the sidewalk yawn. I listened for things that weren’t supposed to exist.

Interesting with the personification of leaves and sidewalks but the rhythm was off some how. It didn’t sound right. After some trail and error, here’s how I expanded these sentences:

As usual I walked home alone after my shift at Pepe’s Nightclub and Bar and when I did I heard the leaves breathe and the sidewalk yawn. In the past seven years, I had trained myself to listen and feel for things that weren’t supposed to exist—a heaviness of night, a sudden rush of sound, a deep stillness.

This technique also worked with dialogue, which admittedly, isn’t my strong point. I tend to over explain stuff between quote marks. When I see other writers using them, I admire the tightness of the dialogue. So I took the opportunity to work on it. Listening to the playback, I knew I wanted the dialogue to not only be tight but also hint at something going on underneath. 
Here’s the original:

I told the operator I was Papá ‘s sister. Papá had no other family but Mamá and
me. This, I hoped, would make him curious enough to take the call.
“Bueno?”
Mamá was on the other end, not Papá .
“Mamá , it’s me.”
A silence of long distance crackles and then a gasp.
“Nena? Is that you?”
“Si, Mamá . It’s me.”
“Are you okay? Are you hurt? I’m so scared for you, mi’ja. Everyday, I am scared.”

The changes I made were small but I think more effective.

I told the operator I was Papá ‘s sister. Papá had no other family but Mamá and me. This, I hoped, would make him curious enough to take the call.¿Bueno?” a female voice answered.¿Mamá?A silence of long distance crackles and then a gasp.“Nena.”Si, Mamá. It’s me.”“Are you okay? Are you hurt? I’m so scared for you, mi’ja.Everyday, I am scared.”

So there you have it, lessons from my latest in the revision realm. How do you revise? Is there something special you do? Would love to hear it! 
Until next time, Write On!

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