Revisions: Throwing Down the Gauntlet

Finishing a novel is one of the best feelings in the world. After so many thousands of words and  character developments – it’s over. Sweet bliss.(Until two weeks later and even you’re sick of all those SNL reruns.)

Now you have to get down to business.  Roll up your sleeves and throw down the gauntlet, it’s time for revisions.

Revising is one of the most difficult parts of the writing process. Writer after writer moans and groans about how they hate revision. Why? Because they have to change the story, because they have to push themselves to create something better – that’s what revising is all about. It’s not about getting words down on the page anymore – it’s about making things better. You want it to be so good that it hurts.

So it’s going to hurt you.

Only if you’re doing it wrong.

Even if you’re revising correctly, it’s still going to be hard. But it’s not going to be as painful. Revising isn’t about the superficial and eternal lie vs. lay battle, it’s about what makes the story better. Part of revising a good story is knowing:

A) There will always be something you could have done better.

B) There is the way that one author edits, and there is the way that you edit. Find your way.

C) That you can take breaks when you’re tired (this doesn’t mean quit after five minutes because ooh there’s that story to write and it’s new and shiny. It means, write that other story on the side, but don’t totally forget editing because writing a new story is more fun).

Making a story better is always distressing – because sometimes it’s the parts that are the worst that you love the most and that you had the most fun writing. Now, it doesn’t always mean that you have to throw them out entirely, you can cut and paste and reword. If you love it then it means that something there is really good. There’s a reason why you love it.

Everyone’s revision process is different, but there are a lot of common overlaps. Many people have a critique partner or critique group. One thing about critique partners is that they should be either a writer or a prolific reader (note: Manga/comics do not count). Another stipulation: they should not be related to you or your best friend. Your best friend is going to tell you what you want to hear. They may usually be honest, but they’re probably going to lie. That’s good – you need cheerleaders (yes, they do have a purpose at football games), but when you’re revising choose someone honest.

Here’s the great thing about revisions: when you’re done the story is better. Why do we start writing? Because it’s fun. But we keep writing because we want to be better. Revising is about give and take and learning how to find that balance.

And knowing that pretty soon, it’ll all be over one way or another.

Emily Chinn

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Categories: Essays / Personal Narratives

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