Revision Confessions

June 6, 2012

Last week, I received my first editor-requested revisions. The email came in the middle of my in-laws annual 10-day stay, which was sandwiched between an out-of-town family wedding and my daughter’s dance recital. Stressful does not even begin to describe the situation.

I whined to Nicole. (Thank God she listens.) I pouted in private. I stared at the ceiling at night and thought about how unfair life is. I’d waited so long for this shot, a chance to prove my worth as a romance writer, and life was getting in the way.

Scratch that.

I was getting in the way. Me. The person who claimed to want this more than anything else was the person who was sabotaging my dream.

Humpf!

That’s a pointy pill to swallow.

But once I swallowed it, I settled down. I looked life and all its obligations in the eye, and I told it to get the freak in line—behind the writing. Maybe I didn’t shower for a couple days. Maybe my in-laws spent their last days with minimal direction and conversation from me. Maybe laundry piled in the chute until it reached the second floor. Maybe the beds didn’t get made. Maybe the plants didn’t get watered. Maybe we ran out of hand soap for the upstairs bath. Maybe I left the house on more than one occasion in a frazzled state, five minutes late, to run my children here or there. Maybe I downright sucked at all the things I’m usually so damn good at.

But you know what? The revisions got done.

When I opened a fresh document alongside the editor’s email, I cringed. I’d never attempted anything like this. Sure, my CP gives me great advice, and sometimes that advice results in a pretty big revision of an entire manuscript, but there’s no pressure to perform. After all, while I want her to like my work, she isn’t buying it. She’s not the ultimate editor I’m trying to impress.

In the middle of tiptoeing around my list of revisions, I read this amazing post by Victoria James, who deleted 40,000+ words in the course of a revision. Gah! I can almost hear each word crying. But knowing someone else faced a similar daunting task, gave me courage to be ruthless while I revised.

And that has been my single greatest lesson thus far on this writing journey.

It’s not revision if we’re not being ruthless. It’s tweaking. It’s touching up. It’s polishing. But it’s not revision. Revision is gut-wrenching, messy, doubtful, sweat-producing work. At times, it pushes us to our limits and makes us second-guess our commitments. And just when we think we’ve risen to new heights of suckitude, we realize all our hard work has shaped the words into the story we always wanted them to be.

Has that been your experience with revisions? Do you love them or hate them? They still make me nervous, but now I know I can succeed.

Elley

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7 Responses to “Revision Confessions”


  1. My big worry with revision is that I’m cutting stuff out that I shouldn’t be. In my mind, the sentence I delete is unimportant, but then I send off the draft to be beta-read, and the reader comes back saying “Why did you get rid of that hilarious line on page 207? I loved that sentence!” and I wonder if I should just throw in the proverbial writing towel altogether. But I keep on trucking, same as you, and I think that’s the only thing we really can do 🙂


    • Oh, man! I share your biggest worry. I mean, what if I’m cutting out the parts that make me shine as a writer? I guess the thing I’m learning is that it’s not just one line or one paragraph that makes us good at what we do. It’s the whole story and the voice in which we tell it. Of course, knowing that doesn’t stop me from worrying, but it does help me keep writing. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by, Michelle.

      Elley

  2. yhosby Says:

    I love revisions. To see your manuscript look completely different then the dreadful first draft is always a huge accomplishment.

    Keep smiling,
    Yawatta


  3. I love your description of revising as gut-wrenching. When I first started writing novels, I spent a lot of time revising sentences, but as I’ve kept going, I’ve become a fearless reviser. I absolutely keep every word I cut, just in case, and if I’m making serious changes, I save new drafts of a chapter several times in the process in case I mess up. As grueling as the process is, I love how revision can turn a half-formed draft into the book you wanted to write. I’m hooked!


  4. […] mentioned in her post about revisions that revisions must be ruthless, and I got to thinking that it’s not just revisions that […]

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