Revising

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It is the end of my weekend, and I have officially completed the “pre-revision” revision for King’s Mark chapter 10. My writing group critiqued chapters 8-9. I have also done my content edit for chapter 11.

Note: Because it will be the end of my weekend throughout the summer as well, I decided that Monday would be my official weekly posting day. I might throw a few more in throughout the week – we’ll see how it goes. Summer at the wildlife center can be antithetical to free time!

Since this was mainly a revising weekend, I thought I would do a post on my revision process. I received a sign from above that this is appropriate, as this week’s Writing Excuses topic is revision. (I love Writing Excuses!)

So why in the world do I need a “pre-revision” revision? How many revisions can a manuscript possibly have? And why, in the name of all that is fluffy and cute, doesn’t my progress bar simply reflect how far into my book I am?

To understand this, we have to go back a little bit. If you know me at all, you know I am a bit of a perfectionist. OK, in the spirit of honesty, I can be downright neurotic. I used to try to world-build a beautiful, complete world. I used to try to outline my story perfectly. I used to spend so much time getting the exact right words on the page that I could never complete anything. I got very good at beginnings, but stories are not made from beginnings alone. I burnt myself out on the prep-work, and never got to writing. I worried so much about it being perfect that when I did write, I never got anywhere. This is bad. Writers should write.

So now, I just slap it on the page. And you know what I realized? I’m a discovery writer. I do much better when I’m just sort of imagining the story happening. When I ask “what’s next?” without worrying about what I originally thought would come next. When I jump without a net. It is exhilarating and scary at the same time. And since I don’t always know where I’m going, sometimes writing is like pulling teeth.

But I power through. And you know what I realized? I write about the same quality of work whether my “muse” is active or whether I’m forcing each word out through sheer stubbornness. In other words – I write pretty crappy the first time around.

My work is full of passive voice, peppered with pronouns and evil, prevalent, weak words like “was,” “thought,” and “had.” For pages at a time, every sentence will start with the same word. But the key is, IT IS ON THE PAGE. Now I can polish the gem. Now I can content-edit and make sure my characters have the same color hair. I can check that the things that happen are the events that should be happening. Then, I can rework the stuff on a sentence level. I can craft each sentence so it means what I want it to mean. I can make it simple and clear and beautiful – or I can try. Because after I’ve revised it, I send it on to my writing group, and they tear it up for me. It is always better when I put it back together.

It’s a long process, but it is worth it. This week on Writing Excuses, Tracy Hickman quoted someone (I have no idea who, and neither did he, apparently). He said:

“We write from the heat of our passion, but we edit to see the fire through the smoke.

Isn’t that cool?

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