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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Revising When You Don't Want To

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an author's feelings toward her manuscript fluctuate in degrees that would give a roller coaster envy. And yet authors, for all their points in creativity, tend to have selective memory.

I'm neck deep in revision for my third novel right now, and revision is almost always my favorite part of writing. The words are down, and it's time to make them perfect. But recently I've wanted to do almost anything except work on it. I sat down last night with a journal, after distinctly spending all day doing Anything Else, to figure out what was wrong.

And, it turned out, I was in a stage of hating every word I've written, sure the story wasn't working, that it was stereotypical and flawed, and that I could never make it good enough. Then I reminded myself that I was revising, and revising a first draft, at that. The story didn't have to be good enough yet. Still, getting back to work was difficult, but I did it, working through two more scenes.

When you feel like the work you're doing isn't good enough, isn't there yet, isn't anywhere near as good as what so-and-so is writing, remember that writing is a process. No one claims to write good first drafts. An author I know (Cathy Lamb, who writes women's fiction) goes through fourteen revisions before her book makes it to press. And that isn't a typo. Fourteen times, and by the end, she's sure it is all drivel and won't sell and no one will like it. Which never ends up being true, of course.

What separates authors from people who think they'll write a novel one day isn't the first draft. It isn't the second draft and sometimes isn't even the third draft. What separates authors from those who don't make it is getting to the end of their rope and writing anyway. So if you're in a tough spot right now--written into a huge plot hole in the first draft, struggling through revisions like me, or having a tough time with querying (or submission, or wondering if people will like your ARCs), remember that feelings fluctuate, and what makes you an author is that you keep going anyway.


Claudette Hoffmann said...

THANK YOU!-Did someone let you know how much I needed to read this today?
The pep talk was greatly appreciated.

Dwane Knott said...

I am not alone in having a draft that needs hospice care. What I have revised is hardly better that the draft in my eyes right now. Thank you for the uplift.

docstar said...

I often think part of the problem people have revising is that they constantly hear that the first draft will be/should be crap, and so they write crap the first time out and then drag through myriad revisions, hating every moment of it.

Yes, there are people who write clean first drafts. There are successful writers who revise/edit/rewrite as they go. It's not that hard, and makes the "revision stage" either unnecessary or short-lived (other than working with the publisher).

"The first draft is always shit" is a myth, and causes waaaay too many problems for new writers.

Dwane Knott said...

That is a perspective I don't think I have read before. I appreciate it and will keep it in mind.

Mirka Breen said...

Thank goodness I've never experienced hating *every* word I've written... How dispiriting. I may have the opposite problem, which is a real issue when revising. I am in debt to all my beta readers who set me straight.