Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How Many Revisions Can You Make?

Yesterday, I told you about the problem I was having selecting a title for a new fiction story. I asked for help from a writer friend who happily complied with a nice list of possible titles. I'd sent her the story so she'd be able to choose from the subject matter.

Next, I started reading the story through again hoping some phrase would jump out as the perfect title. What happened was that I kept spotting little things that didn't sound right, so I'd change a word here and there. I kept reading the story over again off and on through the day, and each time, I'd find some small thing to change. I even added a full line in a couple spots.

On the umpteenth read last night, I added a gesture to a character that made an entire paragraph more realistic, not just a long dialogue. And I finally sat back and asked myself the right question. What is this story about? Two words popped into my mind, and they became the title. Short and sweet but it's what the entire story is about.

Maybe I should read the story one more time before I print it and add it to my other contest entries. That is what slipped through my tired brain, but I gave myself a firm NO. There comes a time when you can make no more revisions. It's time to say the piece is finished. You could revise a story so many times that it is no longer a viable, marketable story.

We must do some revising, but make it a reasonable amount. Nothing is ever going to be 100% perfect. Get it to a point where you feel pretty well satisfied and send it out.


  1. Revising is a pain, for me at least. Not because I'm bad at it or I find it tedious--quite the opposite, I find it easier than writing the story in the first place. When I'm struggling to spit out the next few pages, I fall into the trap of "I'll take a break and revise what I have so far."

    Oh, titles. :P When titling poetry, a professor told me, go three lines from the end and that's your title. It's not the same as novel/story titling, but the trick is that you often find out/summarize what the poem is about the third line from the end. So it's basically the same concept you used. :)

  2. Laura--I love the trick about trying third line from the end of a poem to get the title. Must give it a try.