Sunday, December 9, 2012

Revising Isn't for Wimps

As I’ve said before, this writing thing is hard work.  I must be doing it wrong.

Most people have this idea that writing is nothing more than sitting down and transcribing scenes that are going on in your head.  Then, once you type “The End” (which I’ve never actually done), you just have to read over it to find all the typos and then you send it out and it gets published.  Those people are wrong.

Sometimes revisions involve digging through the
dirt and sniffing out the parts worth saving. See what
I did there?
I don’t know about you, but my first draft really isn’t even a first draft.  It’s more like a .5 draft.  Or a 300 page outline.  Because once I’m done revising – and by revising, I mean ripping the guts out of the story and completely re-writing it – it barely resembles the story it started out as.  And it’s exhausting.  No, it’s not as exhausting as mining coal or teaching teenagers, but some days when I'm sculpting my sentences it feels like I am trying to scrape them out of the rock with bare hands.  Seriously.  Again, I may be doing it wrong.

But revisions are what I like best. I love taking a manuscript and tuning it and molding it into the story I’d always intended it to be. The story that caused my heart to beat fast, the characters who had conversations so loud I couldn’t fall asleep until I’d written them down. With revisions I’m able to move things around and examine them from all angles because they're on the page to begin with. When it’s just a blank page, I have to fill it. But when those words are there, I’m more able to see what I did, what I wanted to do, and the chasm inbetween.

But revising isn’t for wimps. You have to come face to face with your prose and admit that not all parts are pretty. In fact, some parts are actually so humiliatingly hideous that you are terrified their shouts of “fraud” actually echo across the publishing world.

Revisions demand fortitude because you have to keep going after reading the junk. You have to have the guts to admit even the pretty parts aren’t perfect, and that scene you love so much serves no real purpose after all and has to go. You have to endure the doubt and self-loathing that mixes with pride and will keep you from making this story what it can be, what it should be, and what you intended all along.

But if you can do that, your story will be that much stronger, and you will be that much better. Write on.


  1. Well said! I so agree. Revisions, when you're really in there and doing them, can be so revolutionary. But getting 'really in there and doing them' is exhausting! Good thing they're worth it, especially on those days when that messy first draft suddenly becomes tolerable and maybe even good.

    Good luck!

  2. OMG YES. I adore revising (drafting is where I struggle), but it's so hard sometimes when you're staring at something you've written and trying to see it in a new light. I revamped two chapters this morning and my brain is mush. MUSH I TELL YOU. And is it just me or does it seem like the more you do this kind of work, the HARDER it gets. Isn't it supposed to be the other way around?! WTH? ;)

    A while back I wrote these posts on revising. I think you'd appreciate them: