The Pain and Beauty of Revision
Admit it, revision is never a fun process. The joy and excitement of creating something new got on the last bus out of town. There’s nothing left to do but take a long hard look at your freshly hatched baby and realize you’re only a small percentage of the way done. The real work now begins.
I’ve never met one author/writer/creator-of-words that says they enjoy revision. Nada. But it’s a necessary evil if you ever want your work to see the light of day. (Or if you just want to ‘finish the race’ with gusto!)
For quite a while I’ve had a process – an order of revision and editing that I’ve done after the first draft, after Beta readers have gotten their hands on it, etc. But after a recent talk with an agent, he offered to send along some documents he created that have really helped him when revising his own work. (He’s a writer, too.) Yes, I’ve gleaned things here and there from books, blogs or convos with other authors. But this was like a goldmine! Multiple page Word documents with the ‘secret’ to revising with ease! Score!
Or so I thought…
Really, it was just a lot of what I had already learned – and a whole lot more! – that was no less painful to apply than anything I’ve ever done before. Revision is just painful, people. No matter how you do it.
So, I took a look at his Seven Step Process of revision. Then I grabbed his “Weed Word” doc – which, BTW, is way more extensive than I thought possible. (The amount of ‘weed words’ is. killing. me!) It looked painful. I avoided it. I whined internally and made excuses why I didn’t have time to edit that day. I dug my proverbial heels into the ground and tried to avoid what he asked of me at all costs.
Then, I finally sat down and did it.
Aaannnd there was nothing magical about it. It’s been just as hard, time consuming, downright terrifying, as any revising I’ve done in the past. But then there was a new emotion, a strange glimmer, like a sparkly unicorn off in the distance that I wasn’t sure I could trust to be real:
Yes. I felt good about what I’d done. Even after the ‘scary’ of trashing favorite lines, rewriting and slashing and cutting breathtaking phrases that I was sure would have captivated the reader, even after I tossed out those words that just take up space and don’t move the story forward (Dear God! How many ‘like’s and ‘as’s do I have to remove!?) – I stepped back and saw… it was good! In fact, it was better! Yes! Yes, even though I’d gotten rid of some of my most favoritest lines, or I completely cut out whole paragraphs that I was sure the story couldn’t lose… it was still better.
Wow. How was that possible?
I’ve never felt like revision was anything other than a chore. A thing that had to be done before you turned your work over to an editor or agent or just a friend who wants a good read. But now I’m not so sure. Chore doesn’t seem the right word, when it’s something that actually makes what you created even better. When it takes your passion from something good to something glorious.
It’s still painful. It’s still time consuming. It still stinks at times. But, it’s beautiful, too. And I think I don’t mind it so much. Not when I know that what is possible for my words is a million times better than my original vision.
I think I’ll stick with this. Which is easy to say now, but will be much harder when I apply it to the remaining forty chapters of my book. But, I’ll cross that bridge… well, you know.
What about you? Are you in the throes of revision? Has it become your arch-enemy or has there been a time when you’ve seen real undeniable beauty, after the pain subsided? I’d love to hear your comments below!
Happy reading, friends!