This month (July heading into August 2022) the Monarch Writers are looking at some readings on revising our writing, with an excerpt from a book called, what else — ‘On Revision’ subtitled ‘The Only Writing that Matters’. We’re currently reading through the first couple of chapters of this book, which is available on scribd.

On Revision: The Only Writing That Counts

By William Germano

In my own writing I have always had issue finishing my pieces, and this book is helping me to focus in on strategies that can combat that. For example, the approach here that targets non-fiction or academic style revision approaches as well as fiction is catching up a lot of necessary considerations – rather than making it feel less relevant, the details of what makes for engaging work seem to ring true across genres because the advice is applicable if one applies it to their own tendencies to make mistakes.

If an art guidebook says ‘when painting a portrait, one doesn’t want the face’s expression to be inscrutable as one emotion or another’ one can apply this to landscape painting as well to say it should be clear whether it is raining or sunny – or if it is shading between the two, the advice about portraits should allow one better conscious approach to highlighting the depiction of the con-fusion. In other words, any advice that makes you think more clearly about what you are doing towards doing it with awareness towards an effect of quality and craft and clarity is advice that is worth hearing.

For me the best advice in the first two chapters of this book came with admonitions on staying focused mainly when writing an academic work – to stick to ‘The Three A’s’, because it hit on what I was struggling with in my own revisions.

ARGUMENT – stick to the argument – you are making the case for one line of thought and don’t want to stray into tangents too much.

ARCHITECTURE – keep an eye on your structure. You want to make a solid home for your statement.

AUDIENCE – know who you are writing for and don’t give them information that they aren’t likely to connect with. This also helps you know what to put in vs leave out so that you share in a way that connects more fully and clearly.

These are my summaries, but for me these three resonated, especially ARGUMENT, because I am most guilty of, even when trying to write a short story as I am now, wanting to add more details and ideas and expanding the world until it loses focus.. so that a short story becomes a novel, and a novel becomes a mess. This is because I have a lot of ideas I want to talk about and lots of things I want to experiment with writing about, but it is a way of making sure nothing ever gets finishing in your writing! I believe the way the author of ‘On Revision’ put it was ‘an argument can’t be about everything’. I think if you are having an argument with your relationship partner and it’s ‘about everything’ that’s a sign you’re not trying to fix a problem or make some point heard, but are instead headed towards a breakup. Probably the same way with a piece of writing.

As you write and try to become a more serious writer, you are sure to want to read some books on writing, and this is one that I can recommend ‘On Revision’, though I have only read the first two chapters so far. It packs a lot of insight and helps one to rise above the fray and look at your writing with a true eye toward pushing it to get better.

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