Repost: Writing about Re-visioning, Writing Paths

I’ve been working on revising stories this week and this post resonated with me, so here it is again:

An old guest post by Bryan Russell on Nathan Bransford’s blog caught my eye today, and it talks about “re-visioning.”
He writes that a great way to talk about revisions is to see it as a renewed “vision”. Not just look at the surface, but also at its heart. Russell further emphasizes the point here in his post “Destiny has many faces.”

I agree.
Some stories come out fully formed in the first draft, complete with the voice and the stability of the first internal thought concretized, but these are rare.
More likely, each story starts as a kernel from which to grow, or as a sort of marble slab, from which to carve out the shape of the muse. You either build on a small paragraph and expand it (in a linear fashion or in all directions), or you trim the excess from a large chunk of words to reveal the voice and shape you want.
It is hard to see one’s way around, to build or trim, to re-vision. I’ll now try to document what I have been doing so far, and would be very grateful if someone can point out any part I could improve.

A. In my completed (under-publication stories) I’ve gone through the following Writing Path:

1. I finished the story to a level where I felt I had done the most I could on my own and threw it out for critique.
2. I assimilated the critique, without working on the story. Stewed on it.
3. I worked on the story after a few weeks. At this time I decided if the story needed structural changes.
4. For structural changes, I broke the story into its scenes, put them on index cards and played with them till I had the story order I liked.
5. If I found that the critique overwhelmingly pointed towards a different voice or POV, I did that.
6. I sent it for a second round of critiquing.
7. Made further changes, and then once I was satisfied that the piece had emotion, and was going in the direction I wanted it to go, I launched into editing.

Each writer has a different process, and this was mine. I’m terrified it would work only for short pieces.
It would be interesting to hear what other writers do.

B. Things I kept in mind while re-visioning:
a. Always kept the first draft somewhere around, because it was where the deepest emotion lay. It contained the heartbeat of the story, and in re-structuring I did not want to leave out that heartbeat and kill the piece.
b. Gave it time, lots of it.

(One short story lay in a folder for almost an year before I returned to it. It went through 3 changes in POV. 23 drafts. 2 plot overhauls and changes in story endings….in all the story took 3 years from inception to fruition. But the good news is, with more writing and practice, I have been able to reduce this time-line to 3-6 months.)

C.When did I know my story was nearing completion?
1. The protagonist had a clear “yearning” for something.
2. There was a change in his/her character, however small or subtle.
3. There were plot developments, however small or subtle.
4. The story had something to say, not a moral, but a sort of a way of looking at the world.

5. Instinct: the story “felt” right. This I think develops more and more as you read and write more.

I would so like to know about what other writers do…especially those who have gone on to publish, and achieve success.

What is their Writing Path, and what are the things they keep in mind when they follow it? And how do they know when their story is done?

I love comments, and I always visit back. Blogging is all about being a part of a community, and communities are about communication! Tweet me up @damyantig !


Add Yours
  1. Damyanti

    Terri, yes, yearning is SO important. Feel foolish asking, but what is GMC?

    Isabella, thank you so much for your kind words and advice. Comments like yours is why I love blogging.

    Misha, lovely analogy!

    Jayne, yes, I think as writers we never stop developing!

  2. Jayne

    It sounds like you are doing all the right things. My process is pretty similar. I think the instinct definitely develops the more you write, at least I hope so! I am still developing. 🙂

  3. Misha

    Basically, I had an idea that I explored in the first draft. Used that draft as a foundation of my plot outline. Rewrote the entire thing.

    Once the rewrite was completed, I found that I now had the foundation and wall done. No need to even change the structure. Now I'm putting in windows and doors during first round revisions.

    After that, I will send out for crits so that I can put on the plaster and finishing touches.


  4. Isabella Amaris

    I like what you said about maintaining the heartbeat of the story. I've definitely noticed that over-writing can kill the spirit of a story if a writer's not careful.

    Hmmmm, otherwise, at this point of time, I think character development is something I pay lots of attention to. Also, I came across an interesting post on capturing rhythm in writing. It was an eye-opener for me, and has made me revisit my pieces more carefully. Have blogged about it here:, if you're interested. Would love to have your thoughts on whether keeping rhythm in mind is useful.

    Btw, one of your earlier posts gave me the impression that you were thinking twice about writing novels because you were unsure about the process involved. About this, I just wanted to say, don't hesitate if a novel is peeping up at you, saying 'write me, write me!':) If novels seem intimidating, it's only because you haven't given yourself a chance to write them yet, Damyanti. Once you get your teeth into writing a novel, the difficulties and challenges will work themselves out, I think. I've read some of your work and really enjoyed them. I can see your writerly visions translating into longer pieces for sure. You should give it go. You just might surprise yourself with how well you take to writing novels.

  5. Terri Tiffany

    A few books ago I had to learn about giving the character a deep yearning and to make that really clear in the book. I read the book GMC and that opened my eyes!

  6. Damyanti

    Bryan, you're welcome. Your posts were very useful, and inspirational.

    If this process can be transferred successfully to longer work, that makes me a happy camper, I haven't tried anything long, yet…

    From what I've read of your writing, I'm sure I'd like to read your novel.

  7. Bryan Russell (Ink)

    Nice post, and thanks for the links.

    And I must say your process is not so much different from mine, and it transfers quite well to novels. Lots of work, but there's no real way around that. I don't use cue cards, though. I want it all on one sheet, so I write out each chapter and give a short one line description of each scene in that chapter. With a couple columns, I can fit it all on one page. That way I can see the story in its mechanical form, and thus can switch things, move them, insert scenes and chapters, etc. I want to be able to see it all at once, rather than to shuffle through cards.

    But other than that, I think my process is pretty similar. Add a few rinse and repeats. My novel is somewhere in the 20s for drafts. But I'm pretty happy where it's going.

  8. Damyanti

    Thanks for your comment, and going by your series of character voices, you're writing one exciting novel.

    I like your idea of writing in scenes,but that means I would have to plot it out in advance, won't I?

    I'm a kind of an organic writer, where the story writes itself, and I have no idea where or how it would end…potting terrifies me. But I guess I would learn, and I just have to work on it.

  9. Piedmont Writer

    I've found that in writing my first book and nearing completion on my second, the biggest change I've made is structural. I wrote the first book in story form, from beginning to end. In the second book, I wrote the story in scenes.

    I found it to be much more liberating, not only in my writing, but my focus as well. I could concentrate on just that scene and not have to worry about the "whole" story.

    I also have to agree with your taking a step back and leaving the ms. alone for awhile. At least a month, and when I come back to it, I can see what needs to be changed.

    Nice post.