Pesky commas, Da Vinci’s pockets and more

Do you revise? Do you get something down once then go over it again? And again and again? And again?

No, scratch that last “And again?” It’s too much.

No, it’s good. It adds emphasis. It demonstrates emotional commitment on the part of the author.


I know musicians revise their compositions and painters revise their paintings. There’s a story that Da Vinci carried the Mona Lisa with him where ever he went and took it out from time to time to change something.

I can’t imagine him carrying around his painting supplies and, in the middle of a papal audience, adding an eyelash here or removing a birthmark there.

I wonder about photographers in the pre-Photoshop days of film. You couldn’t do lots of revising because 1) often what you were photographing only existed for a moment and 2) film and developing were costly. The same thing with sculptors or anybody who works in a physical medium. Chefs can eat their failures, but would they want to?

Much of revising is recognizing what needs to come out, what needs to change, what needs to be added and all with the goal of making the writing better.

Define “better”.

I joke about taking out a comma and putting it back.

I write two different ways (I explain them in more detail in It’s Autobiography…I swear!). The first way occurs when I’m overcome by the muse. The whole story, front to back, is fully realized in my head and I’m just a reporter sharing what’s going on. There’s no pausing, no hesitation.

The second scenario occurs when I have a scene or two and develop a story around that scene or two. Alternately, the muse is through with me and I’m cleaning up the mess. In these cases I write paragraph by paragraph, sometimes sentence by sentence. Sometimes I work over individual words to get them “right”.

What does “right” mean?

For me both “better” and “right” equate to voice, character, internal believability (not internal congruity, that’s different), flow, atmosphere, tone, plot, theme, linear topology, morphic dichotomy, …

Okay, I’m kidding about those last two.

Sound good, though, don’t they?

I’ll be writing a series of posts on what I’m learning about storycrafting. I hope you’ll find them interesting and useful.

My next entry will be Characters Part 1 – Main, Principal, Central.


Meanwhile, if you’d like some help with your storycrafting, book me for a critique (I’m ruthless).