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Questions to Ask in Revisions

Part of knowing and improving is to know what questions to ask. In editing, where to begin?

Jason F jotted down every question that came to mind and posted them: Questions I ask when reviewing a design-in-progress at Signals vs. Noise.

They work very well for editing poetry as well. Here are a few examples in no particular order:

  • What does it say?
  • What does it mean?
  • Is what it says and what it means the same thing?
  • Do we want that?
  • Why do we need to say that here?
  • If you stopped reading here, what’s the message?
  • What’s the take away after 8 seconds?
  • How does this make you feel?
  • What does someone know now that they didn’t know before?
  • Is that worth scrolling?
  • Why that order?
  • Why would this make them choose that?
  • What does a more polished version of this look like?
  • What’s the obvious next step?
  • How would someone know that?
  • Would it matter if someone missed that?
  • Does that make it easier or harder?
  • Would this be better as a sentence or a picture?
  • What would happen if we got rid of that?
  • What happens when this expands?
  • What problem is that solving?
  • How does this change someone’s mind?
  • What makes this a must have?

It’s a tinker’s fine tuning where everything can come under scrutiny. How does it work? Why does it work?

People get attached to the romantic intactness of their poem. Or they can make it function better with more economical or florid choices.

If every word is load-bearing, there can’t be saggy bits until you get to the end word with rhymes as beams.

Or build something that is an arch to allow for sweeps of large open spaces in the poem. What would that look like syntactically?

When people say it’s good is a pretty low bar to stop jumping. Part of the game of thinking is to craft something that exceeds itself because the creator wants to make something that’s a personal best, to date. That answer of “enough” can only come from within.

I do what I need to do as best as I can determine, regardless of divergent views of ideal according to different tastes and skills of various potential audiences.

I want the sweet spot of producing something I can be proud of. One can choose to be proud of anything arbitrary, naturally. Or be proud and also move on and improve. But I want to improve my skill; life is very short so getting at it asap is best.

It is always a race against time when I have so little energy to work with. Organization is essential and a learning curve since I have never planned well. In order to write better, it is a matter of being better, whole life improvement, more clear-headed, healthier, more organized, more good-humoured, better at holding a line.

Other people are other people. They may rave or rant or more likely are busy with their own lives. The game of improving a piece of writing is only with the writer.

In a more recent post at the blog, Jonas says,

Ignore cynicism. Do what you want, and love doing it.
The Internet appears to run on cynicism. Twitter is a complaint delivery protocol, and comment threads are polluted with meaningless grammar fights and nitpicky personal attacks. It’s hard not to be distracted and consumed by the blustering.

He also says, work with people you enjoy. The upshot of work with work that gives you energy, does that go without saying?

Related posts:

  1. 13 questions of writing habit Mia Celeste‘s had a list of 13 questions about writing habit. Taking that here: Where do you write? Anywhere to draft or compose. Back of hand or envelope not recommended....
  2. Questions A while back you may recall I responded to Silliman‘s style of asking questions in Chinese Notebook by providing my own answers. Luminita Suse has posted a response to Sunset...

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