Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Writing and Revision: making the process easier

early morning editing (with paper, pen and poncho)
Now that I'm over the biggest hump of my MFA thesis revision, I want to share some of the tools and strategies I've used to organize my manuscript materials. When working with a long-form essay, scrolling through 10-30 pages of a Word document to find the portions to cut and paste can be taxing on both eyes and brain. That's why there's Scrivener. It's an awesome software program that allows writers to organize an essay or whole manuscript into chunks of text that are easily moved around--just like you might on a tabletop:

The "binder" allows you to navigate between the different parts of your manuscript, your notes, and research materials, with ease. Break your text into pieces as small or large as you want - so you can forget wrestling with one long document. Restructuring your draft is as simple as drag and drop.   --Scrivener website
There's also a "cork board" where you can label "index cards" and write in synopses for each section. You can view/change these in outline form, file form, or--if you're visual like me--on the cork board itself. View several sections at once or side by side to compare them.

You can download Scrivener for a free 30-day trial (30 uses, actually). Watch the brief video tutorial, which I found a bit hard to understand (what with the accent and the speedy rate of explanation). Never fear, you can get a more thorough (and slower) written introduction upon downloading.

Funny thing is, the virtual cork board inspired me to revert back to an old style cut-n-paste (tape, actually) on the kitchen table. Viewing an essay in physical form allows me to catch areas of redundancy, to edit sections for clarity and cohesion, and to move sections around without losing my train of thought. Writing that synopsis (or at least labeling the topic) for each section or chapter is crucial for ordering any sizable manuscript. Today I'm tackling another essay, this time maneuvering between Scrivener and the tabletop. This method, I dare say, makes revision!

reverting back to the time-honored tradition of cut-n-paste on a kitchen table

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