Sunday, February 07, 2010

Swimming into the Gap

As you begin revising the next stage of your work-in-progress, you need to prepare yourself to swim into the gap.

What gap?

The gap between the original images and thoughts in your mind, which prompted you to put words on paper, and the words that you selected to convey those images to the reader.

You need to notice if there is a difference between the pictures that the words on the page create in your mind as a reader and the original picture that evoked the words in the first place.

Swimming into this gap involves learning to recognize when the full, original images–and the words needed to convey those images–are not yet on the page.

This ability to notice that something is lacking, that there is a gap between the original images and the images that the words on the page create (or fail to create) in your mind, is a crucial step in the revision process.

Once you notice this gap, you can see where to begin your revisions.

Swimming into the gap requires a simultaneous process of immersion and withdrawal.

You need to immerse yourself deep into the scenes and thoughts that gave rise to the early drafts, and, at the same time, withdraw yourself from the scenes and compare what you thought (and hoped) you’d written to what you actually put on the page.

You have to ask yourself about your expectations for the work--whether it evokes in you at this stage the feelings and thoughts that you’d set out to share with the reader or if the work is lacking in some way.

And then you have to be able to resolve the differences between your expectations and reality so that the words on the page accurately reflect the words or images in your imagination.

Unless you are able to maintain the critical distance necessary to see the difference between what you’ve written and what you thought you wrote, you’ll have a hard time swimming into the gap.

Sometimes you need time away from the page to gain a critical distance.

With that distance you can see and understand that the words necessary to recreate the full, original image in your mind and transfer it into your reader’s mind aren’t yet on the page.

That distance is what lets you return to the page and compare where you are to where you want to be so you can bring the fullest, clearest picture to the page and into your reader’s mind, making the gap disappear.

For more on the swimming into the gap, visit:

1 comment:

Julie T. Ewald said...

I love reading your blog; your posts are always incredibly lovely and poignant and passionate.

Now that I have that out of the way, your take on self-editing is wonderful. The idea of actually attempting a visualization of your revisions and your original vision is a great way to look at an important element that is so difficult for many writers at all levels. This is a fantastic explanation. The importance of distance in the process is also imperative but often forgotten.

Thank you again for the amazing post!