February 7, 2011

Learning to revise, turning a sloppy first draft into a slick and punchy story, is the thing that helped me get published.  It hasn’t really gotten any easier, because every story has its own idiosyncrasies, its own structure and quirks, so needs its own solutions to make it a better book.  Every single time, I despair that it will ever come together.

My subconscious has all the same weird verbal and organizational hiccups it’s always had, that I have to fix on every single rough draft.  That never changes — going over the rough draft and feeling absolutely mortified that I let anyone look at this.  I appear to have used the word “looked” about 9,000 times on this one.  That first draft spew is going to be sloppy, there’s just no getting around it.

Revising means working on the thing for six hours and ending up with exactly the same word count I started with.  I have to remind myself I actually have made progress.

There’s a famous Dorothy Parker quote:  “I hate writing.  I love having written.”  I actually love writing.  I love that first draft where I’m discovering everything and getting lost in the story.  For me, I hate revising, but I love having revised, because I know how much better the book is after.

Back to work now…


5 Responses to “revising”

  1. ZacharyG Says:

    I did my first honest-to-god revision on a short story I was submitting to a contest a couple months ago, and whodathunkit, I won first place. It’s a process I loathe on every level, especially since I’m such a reactionary and instinctive writer, but you can’t argue with results. =P

    For my part, you’re one of my favorite writers right now, so you’ve got to be doing something right!

  2. spiderorchid Says:

    Do you know what Theodor Fontane (the author of “Effi Briest”, among other German classics) said about being a writer: “Writing a book is wonderful, but after that you have to do the terrible rewrites!” (paraphrased translation from the German original by me – that’s roughly what he wrote). That was in the 1890s… some things never change. ^_^ Keep the good work going!

  3. LupLun Says:

    I’m strange — I seem to have the opposite problem. The first draft is always the toughest for me. Revising I actually find more fun, I’m not sure why. It could be getting the pleasure of reading and writing at the same time. Or it could be that there’s less heavy lifting after the first draft — you don’t have to craft anything new, you’re just making what’s there the best it can be.

  4. Ty Says:

    Revising makes my brain taste like burning.

  5. Liz Kreger Says:

    I tend to revise as I write … so my first draft tends to be pretty tight. Still needs lots of work, of course … but not horrible. The downside to this method is that it takes me twice as long to write.

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