Overcoming Writers Block Tip #7: Revise in Layers

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#stitch with @grimmonds_studios overcoming Writer’s Block, writing in layers #writingtipsandtricks #writertok

♬ Sweden – FamilyJules
Writers can benefit from the idea of writing in layers. You don’t have to get the first paragraph perfect before moving onto the second paragraph. You can write down the broad strokes quickly without critical thought, and return later to add in detail.

Here’s the hard part. There is no particular order or steps for what you should revise in each layer. A quick Google search will reveal a variety of checklists from attention grabber to setting detail, but which do you revise first?

My advice, after you’ve gotten down the first draft, is to ask yourself, what does my character want, and in each scene are they moving toward that desire or away from it? Their movement toward their desire should be thwarted at times, and they themselves should have some trepidation or resistance to change. By the end of the story, the character should have changed, not necessarily for the better. They can go from bad to worse. They can go from stagnant to stuck forever. But there needs to be a change.

Next, you might come back and ask yourself if you have externalized the conflict. The conflict shouldn’t happen all inside their heads or via thought. Instead of having someone think about how annoying a friend is, have the friend come in and do something that annoys them. Also, the resolution shouldn’t be a mere change in thinking-it should be prompted by some external action or event. In Jane Eyre, she doesn’t just decide to return to Rochester at the end, she hears his voice calling her.

When you’ve got your structure, come back and take a look at setting and gesture. Do you have enough? Is the setting doing double duty? Is it relevant? Is it creating mood, developing character, or underscoring a theme?

Next you move to line editing. Here you ask yourself if you are using too many adjectives, or strong enough verbs. I have some editing hacks I’ll share with you in another post.

Finally you proofread. This, for me is the most boring part, because you actually have to stop reading for plot and read only for comma errors, spelling errors, etc. But it has to be done, more than once, and preferably after a break from it all. I always need other readers to help me find my errors. I can proofread three times and not see an error until I come back to it weeks later.

Well, that’s enough for today. Please feel free to add your own comments and tips below.

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About laledavidson

My novel Blue Woman Burning will be published by Red Penguin Books in the fall of 2021: "In the cold descending breeze of the Altiplano between Chile and Bolivia, Fallon’s narcissistic mother bursts into flames before her family’s eyes. The inexplicable nature of their loss marks each family member in a different way. For Fallon it is the first step toward adulthood. For her older brother, it is a blow he never recovers from. Thirteen years later, Fallon is about to conquer self-doubt and apply to medical school, when another calamity sends her reeling. The event prompts a cross country search for a truth worth living for. What she discovers changes everything." My stories have appeared in The Collagist, Big Lucks, and Eclectica, among others. I was a finalist for the Franz Kafka Award issued by Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review as well as the Black Lawrence Chapbook Contest of 2015 and the Talking Writing Award for humorous writing advice. My story “The Opal Maker” was named Wigleaf top 50 (Very) Short Stories of 2015. I am a distinguished professor of writing and recipient of the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Creative Activity. My opinions are mine alone and do not represent the opinions anyone with whom I am affiliated.

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