For our purposes, we will claim that there are three different levels of revision.
And, yes, it is obvious to this reviser that numbers 2 and 3 might be considered synonyms in some circles, but definitely not this one, no way, no how, until we’re done with this little month-long exercise and move back into talking shop about revision at parties where people think that macros are those cool things you can set up your Word program to do, if you know how, which most people don’t, but if you do then you’re pretty amazing.
Oh god. I’ve been reading way too much of The Rejectionist.
On with the show: Micro Revision
Yes, we’re going to start off easy.
What is micro revision? As it sounds, it is the smallest possible bit of revision you can get away with while still calling what you’re doing revising.
What this means is that you’re fixing typos, re-aligning sentence structure from hazmat to completely livable, fiddling with words using the tiniest bow ever, and perhaps removing phrases, then putting them back in, then removing them again, then putting them back in, then you know what I mean by now.
I make it sound like this is the most worthless endeavor ever, no? How, in fact, is this revising? How is this non-substantial meddling with the text going to improve my novel?
Well, a novel is like a poem. A really, really, really long poem.
And, just like a novel, a poem is a collection of words. Granted, far fewer words. But the principle remains the same.
[What principle? –ed.]
I’m glad you asked.
[Were you just going to wait in silence until I did? –ed.]
[I hate you. –ed.]
The principle is this: every word is important. Every bit of phrasing, every slip of description, every rhythm that the words call up. Today I changed this
They silently watched the body burn.
Silently, they watched the body burn.
The first phrasing conflates the silence and the watching, the second separates the two. For my purposes, that separation, and the hard stop after “silently”, work more effectively.
And, it’s true, that’s not all I did today, but a lot of it was. Whenever I sit down to revise, most of the revision effort is taken up with such small matters, because these small details are what make up the fabric of the book. The plot is important, yes, but it is this fabric that the plot is sewn onto, and if the fabric is too flimsy, the plot will rip right through, leaving you naked in the coffee shop, still in line to buy a cup and now humiliated and uncaffeinated.
Now if only you’d paid a little more attention to details, this would never have happened.