Friday, May 20, 2016

Spring—and Revision—in the Air

Scarlet tanager, chimney swifts, clouds of warblers—the past couple weeks have brought the largest, most vibrant bird migration I’ve ever seen. Baltimore orioles and rose-breasted grosbeaks hung around the feeders and oranges in our yard for more than a week.

Bloodroot, trillium, trout lily, rue anemone—with all my favorite spring wildflowers blooming, I’d gladly stay outside all day. Spring: my favorite time of year. I keep finding myself singing.

Joy makes any work easier, including revision. If you have to revise, do it in spring!

I’m revising a nonfiction picture book on a topic dear to my heart. Each day, I start from the beginning and write the whole thing out longhand in my notebook—not a difficult task physically because it’s only two or three pages long, depending on which draft you count. But I strain to find the best words, dredge up appropriate images, locate the best possible way to say what I want to say. I stop from time to time to question exactly what I want to say. My brain is tired. I sleep well. I wake up refreshed, rarin’ to go, eager to get to my notebook. If you have to revise, do it first thing in the morning.

Writing the whole manuscript over and over is the best way I’ve found to revise. If a word is wrong or a sentence is out of place, I can’t ignore it and keep going like I could if I were looking at a computer screen. I can’t rewrite the wrong words. I have to stop and face them before I move on. I might address the same nitpicky issue day after day for a week or longer until I’m satisfied. It feels like work. I’m tired when I finish, but it’s a good tired, the tired of accomplishment. All is well, or at least heading in the right direction.

Be sure to read Mary Anns post about her 400-page first draft, the first in this Teaching Authors series on Revision.

Here’s a poem I found outside our kitchen window:
white-throated sparrow
under busy bird feeder
pecks at its shadow
I’m happy to announce the three winners of our Seventh Blogiversary Book Giveaway: Marty C, Louann M, and Damon D. Congratulations!

Margaret has today’s Poetry Friday Roundup at Reflections on the Teche. Enjoy!

JoAnn Early Macken


Carmela Martino said...

How interesting that you rewrite your complete draft longhand. Too bad that's not feasible with novels, at least not for me.
Love the image of the sparrow pecking at its shadow, JA.

Linda B said...

Writing by hand certainly does make one 'face" the words, JoAnn. I've had students do this because it also makes them slow down to really look at what they're saying. I love hearing about your birds. They must pass the word along about JoAnn's back yard feast! Happy Spring.

Carol Varsalona said...

JoAnn, you surely gave us a spring feast of photos and words today. I really enjoyed hearing about your process too. I have sloppy first drafts on paper and then try to formalize them on the computer. Having a digital notebook is a plus for me. May I ask you to consider pairing your wonderful poem at the end of this post with a photo for my spring gallery? Please see the invitation at I hope you join in. Let me via @cvarsalona or cvarsalona at gmail

JoAnn Early Macken said...

Thanks, Marti! In one of my novel attempts, I wrote longhand in a spiral notebook & ended up with a tangled mess I was never able to unravel. So that method was not feasible for me, either!

Linda, you're right about slowing down & paying attention to every word. Happy spring to you, too!

Carol, thanks for the spring photo gallery invitation! My sloppy handwritten drafts end up on the computer after I've gone as far as I can. After I've done the same thing with printed copies, my writing group helps. They are wonderful!

Brenda Harsham said...

I hope your long-hand method is a success. I like the spring for facing big chances, akin to cleaning out a closet and purging things you never use. Revising is always on-going for me.

Margaret Simon said...

I'm reading more and more posts about the advantages to writing longhand. Will we forget? I have moved to so much writing on the computer that I may be missing something. Thanks for your little peek at spring.

Bobbi Miller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bobbi Miller said...

What a lovely, lovely post! I also write everything out, including my novels! I do the first and second revision by hand as well. It's a very intensive process that forces you to "face" the words. I love that phrase!

And I love your pictures and poems, as always! Thank you for your wisdom and inspiration!

JoAnn Early Macken said...

Brenda, yes, revising is always ongoing, of course--at least whenever I have something to revise! It just seems easier in spring--like everything else!

Margaret, I think my thoughts flow better from pen to paper. I hope we never forget!

Bobbi, I am impressed by your ability to write a whole novel by hand! I think I'd need more discipline to keep moving forward instead of rewriting bits & pieces, which resulted in spaghetti. Good luck with your process--whatever works is the best way to go!