Shift Perspective

Try another deep revision exercise. Rewrite your narrative from a different point of view. That is, if the story is told in the first person, rewrite it as told from a third-person limited perspective. This revision process will be more involved than substituting pronouns. With a limited perspective, interiorities are limited. On the other hand, if you wrote from a limited perspective and are shifting to omniscient, you will have to rethink scenes from other characters' perspectives. What else do you notice shifting when the point of view changes?

I sometimes think I'm not a writer but a reviser, the worst example in the country of a compulsive revisionist. I'm the kind of writer who calls things back from editors, with the despairing apprehension that it could go on forever. If I were writing in a world without pressure to finish, I probably never would.

—Leonard Michaels

Too much revision can end up dulling the original material, taking out its freshness and spirit. I like words that don't seem poetic—those that just come out when talking, unrehearsed. Colloquialisms like that are spontaneous and can't be revised ...

—Steve Orlen

I write a first draft quickly, in longhand, on thick 20" x 30" art paper, 3,000 words to a side. Then I do rewrites and inserts on the other side. Rewriting is always heavier at the beginning because each book has a voice of its own, and you have to find out what that voice is. 1 don't believe in rewriting sentence by sentence because the first draft is written in an almost trance-like state, from the gut. Stopping that flow by being your own critic shows insecurity. As James Thurber said, "Don't get it right, get it written." I agree.

—Mary Lee Settle

Eventually, you have to call it good. All stories end. As Michaels and Settle suggest, sometimes continued revision is more about the writer's insecurity than the narrative's quality. If you've completed a few drafts, let someone else read your story now. Get some critical feedback from readers you trust. As you develop as a writer, you will discover a revision process that works for you.

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