Revision Process

Hey all. Thanksgiving Break is coming to a close, and it’ll be time to get back to the final grind to end this semester. Our rounds of workshop revisions will also be over, but we all know there’s more to come when we finally sit down to complete that final portfolio. It took me forever just to get through the revision I handed in to class; so, of course, I always get nervous around this time. In fact, I find it much easier to write an entirely new poem than to revise an old one. How does everyone else work through the revision process? Do all of you tend to open a blank page and start anew, or do you just build off of the poem that’s in front of you? Seriously, though, I’d love some advice–perhaps if I utilize the same techniques as all of you, the revision process won’t be something that I’ll always dread. Cheers!

3 Replies to “Revision Process”

  1. Hi Jay,
    I soooo agree with you; I really struggle with revisions. Much better at scraping everything and starting anew (both in CNF and poetry, it seems). My general strategy is (if there was a workshop) to compile a list of the changes I’m interested in making. I also ask myself a list of questions – sometimes about the piece as a whole or about particular lines. My recommendation would be to draft up these lists before you start the work; its just easier that way. Of course, I’m kind of a list-focused person, so idk if this will jam with your creative process.

    Some of the questions I like to think about with my poems:
    1. What is my main focus in this draft? What do I want it to be?
    2. What am I sacrificing in this draft (i.e. sound, character development, narrative)? Why? How do I build up that aspect?
    3. What words can I cut right now, and still keep the rhythm and sound I’m looking for?
    4. How can I express these feelings differently, either through different metaphors, word choice, sound focus, etc?

    Some of the questions will be specific to a piece and the comments you get back on it. It’s also worthwhile to just write a new piece sometimes; not every piece is worth the time it would take for you to revise it, when you can start over now that you’re nearer to the truth you wanted to explore in that draft.

  2. Okay, so here’s what I do.

    If I really like my poem, I’ll work off the draft that I already have and try to mix in the changes that people have given me. I’ve done that with When you smell burning about three times. Now that I want to administer newer changes that deviate more than I’ve previously thought, I’ve opened a new page to start fresh. I’ve got a physical copy in front of me with notes and I’m hoping to salvage lines that I do like while completely changing up the white space and line breaks to give a new meaning.

    But yeah, I hate revisions. I get so pumped thinking about doing them and then I sit down and I’m just like, shit. Sometimes, I create a completely new poem just from one line that I like and try to weave in ideas given to me in the workshops. It’s a tedious process, but with only two days now, I’m working my ass off to try to make it better.

    Good luck revising!

  3. Jay,

    If I’m not excited about the poem and devising new ways for the meaning of it to develop further or if it’s already fully developed to come through to the readers more clearly, that’s when I just open up a new document, try my best to extract either the general feeling or meaning behind the poem or a word or phrase from it and begin anew. Thankfully, hearing and reading through the feedback that we get in workshops usually galvanize me towards either developing the meaning or making it more clear. In that case, I like to work with two documents open: the original poem alongside the new poem, so I can watch changes develop and also backtrack if I go too far.

    If I’m really stuck, thats when I attempt to make a radical revision, something that’s not necessarily even related to the meaning or structure of the poem, for instance I might revise all of the pronouns out, or I might eliminate all of the former line breaks and create a prose poem and so forth. While this doesn’t always lead to a new poem that I like any better, it can help me to understand more about the meaning of the original poem, and what elements of it I am unwilling to sacrifice.

    Best of luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.