Monday, June 6, 2016

Examples of Revision in Process

      Revision. That has been the topic for the last few weeks. I like revision because every change I make to my manuscript makes it stronger. 

      My fellow TA’s have covered the topic of revision from a lot of different angles. I thought it might be of interest to show you what is “behind the curtain” so to speak in my revision process. To do this, I’m sharing a small section from the book I’m writing now titled BURIED LIVES, which is about George Washington’s slaves. 
      So this is how it will work: I'm showing you the rough draft, then my thoughts on how I should revise it, then the revision of the rough draft. Now when I say this is a rough draft, I really mean it. For me the first rough draft is for getting the facts down in some kind of logical order. In my rough drafts, I’m not trying to write a beautiful passage, I’m just trying to get the bare bones down on paper-well the screen at least.

      So here goes...
William Lee was with his master when General Washington rode away from Mount Vernon to attend the Constitutional Convention in 1787.  In the sweltering heat of Philadelphia’s long hot summer, state delegates argued and argued over what would become the United States Constitution.   Washington was elected president of the Convention.  No doubt William Lee stood near his master the entire time. 
During their time in Philadelphia, Washington ordered Will several things including a soap powder puff, black silk handkerchief, and a new pair of breeches.  Twice Washington gave Lee cash.  
To keep their discussions secret, all the windows were kept closed so no one could overhear.


Earlier in the manuscript I developed that Will and Washington were both excellent horsemen.  Here I needed an active verb when the left Mount Vernon. 

I wanted the reader to know Will had a black handkerchief before they find out about the heat. 

I mentioned exactly when and where they were because the building-and the room-can be seen via website still today.  (I’m always thinking about how a great teacher could use my book.)

I wanted to show the authority Washington was given at this event.  I mentioned his chair because it is a great detail and the chair still exists.  I don’t know for sure, but maybe I could use the photo of the room or the chair in the book.   

In this brief section, I’m setting the scene for the Constitutional Convention and the fact that William Lee was there with his master, George Washington. 

 Will mounted his horse to follow his master again.  This time they headed for the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.  Washington bought Will several items while they were in the city including a soap powder puff, black silk handkerchief, and a new pair of breeches.  Twice Washington gave him cash. 
Once the delegates were gathered at the Pennsylvania State House (later called Independence Hall) they chose George Washington to act as the president over the discussions.  He sat at a raised table in the front of the room in a mahogany armchair that had a gilded rising sun design at the top. 
In the sweltering heat of Philadelphia’s long hot summer of 1787, the battle over the U.S. Constitution began.  The windows of the Assembly Room were closed so no one could overhear what was said.   


I am actively at work on this manuscript and will revise the text many, many times.   This revision above is only the first step after the rough draft.   By the time the book is published, this section will not be what you see here.  Each section of the text is affected by everything that comes before it and everything that comes after it.  In the final version this section will blend in with the story of the life of William Lee, George Washington’s enslaved valet.      

Revision is where the text becomes alive with nuance and voice and passion.

Carla Killough McClafferty

Revision is like building a sand castle.  You start with nothing and make changes until you're finished.
Images from 


Carmela Martino said...

Thanks for sharing this specific example, Carla. Love the sandcastle metaphor.

Carla Killough McClafferty said...

Thanks, Marti.