#IWSG Learning to Have a Relationship with Revision

In my previous ROW80 Checkin post I admitted that over the past few days I’ve found myself taking a total break from my revision tasks on my work in progress. This came just after I’d drafted out the following post in readiness for my Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog.

It was a bit of a shock to find that I’d suddenly gone from almost loving the revision process, to facing a bit of revision block, but now that I’ve had time to consider this, it makes sense. The following post has been added to with my latest.

Getting it Done

I used to be in a hurry to get published. I know the pressure. If I went the traditional publishing route and was fortunate to find an agent and publisher, I would still be sitting under a contractual deadline to get my story into a publishable quality.

My thriller writing course tutor, an author who has had two novels published traditionally, tells her students that their editor will help them with that. (I’m not so sure nowadays, as more and more agents expect to see queries on manuscripts which have already passed through an external editing process).

Those contemplating the indie publishing route have to do it themselves, and face constant internet advice telling us two things that can often appear contradictory. For a successful and long professional career in writing, we are told that we must –

  1. Write a book, publish it, write another one, publish it, repeat and rinse many times. A successful author builds their reading platform by producing more and more books for their readers to read. Most authors don’t find success until their 3rd/10th/[enter a double digit here] book.
  2. Pay for a professional editor (or several) to look at development / high level improvements / copy editing for grammar and spelling mistakes etc. Publish a book only when it’s of high enough quality to not irk the reader. Publish a quality book.

Juggling the age old quality versus quantity debate, the indie writer also has the consequences of looking at this from a budgetary perspective – how much can I spend in the hope to earn? And despite buying in experts who help us (possibly) to improve the design and content of our story, ultimately the decision of whether the book is ready to publish – that decision of quality – is based on one person’s eyes – ours.

And then there’s the romantic pull of the next story. It’s crying out for us to start it, to move on from that dreary old thing.

Good from Bad in Revising

My first attempt at revision has been, as expected, difficult. Revision will most probably always be difficult, at draft two, or even at draft four. Or five, seven, or ten – whatever the manuscript takes.

I’ve read a lot of books, courses, blog and web pages on editing, self-editing or revision, and general writing craft, seeking help in method from those who have gone (done?) before me. Each adds a little bit more to my drafts.

From all that reading, there’s one thing for certain – as with the writing process, each and every writer out there has devised their own way of revising, and no full method I’ve read of will completely fit my own needs.

As I develop my own style, it changes anyway. I expect it always will change. So, as I go about the actual doing of it – the revision tasks, my revision process is in development alongside.

Writing for me is easy. I’ve got 2-3 draft manuscripts filed away in a bottom drawer to test this out for myself. Writing for me is quick – I can normally first draft in a month (I purposely slowed myself down this time around). But this is the first time I’ve gone into self-edit mode. And revision, I’ve learnt, is not at all similar to writing, and is a much longer process.

The Love and the Hate

And boy am I frustrated: some days I can’t motivate myself to get in there, and must seek something else creative to fill up my mojo cup; some days I go back and yet again rework that same chapter again, because I have a new idea, or brainstorm that requires it; some days I finish after a few hours quite satisfied but look forward and realise how much more there is to do.

And some days I take a chapter into another format, read it elsewhere, and realise there are still some badly written sentences or sections needing a rewrite, and there I was thinking it looked pretty good.

And just the last few days I’ve been unable to face going into the revision at all – the work has sat there, unattended. I just can’t face all those same words again, not for a bit of time anyway. Just as we are advised to take a break from our first draft before beginning the revision, perhaps there’s something to be said about clearing the mind, and giving the work some more space in between revisions.

Yes, revision is frustrating.

On another side to it, there’s my current grappling with just how many times I go through the script, and where do I just say, “Enough!” In some places I worry that if I touch it any more, I’ll wreck it. In other areas, I think it was pretty wrecked right from the start.

But, despite my moans – guaranteed to continue throughout this process, I’ve surprised myself recently, by realising how much I love it.

When I hit on just the right changes, when a scene is tightened up, when it feels like something just budded where there was only dead wood, or blossomed fully – wow!

When I work back to check I’ve worked a motif or the theme, or a clue, or red herring in there for later, and find that I have, and sometimes it was done naturally in the first draft without me consciously planning it – Wow!

When I reread a passage I haven’t worked on for a while, and a good 90 percent of it doesn’t need anything else, and it is complete – wow!

Drafting is one thing, and a massive accomplishment on its own. Many hundreds of thousands of people out there have started but never completed their own stories. I used to consider that my completion of that first written draft, in this personal respect made me a writer (and of course, it does).

But revision – that’s a whole different ball game. Revision is where I am learning the true joy and pure hope that comes from my writing. And the sheer hard work.

More Insecure writers supporting each other can be found here.

3 thoughts on “#IWSG Learning to Have a Relationship with Revision

  1. I’m with you that, when I can apply the butt to the chair, the initial draft is fairly easy to write. It’s the editing process that slips me up. I’ve tried editing old stories, and have incredible difficulty with it.

    My current WIP novel’s first draft should be completed by sometime in October. At that point, I have decisions to make on how to go about the editing process on something so daunting. I’ve favorited this post, as it gives a lot of good anecdotal advice toward the editing process, and I’m looking forward to making use of it soon.

    Thanks, and good luck to you in your editing!

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