Which do you enjoy more . . . revising or writing (first-drafting)? Just like the universal plotter vs. pantser question, this is one of the most enduring discussions among writers I know. Maybe you’re in one camp more than the other? Or maybe you’re somewhere in between.
Until recently, and without hesitation, I’d have answered I was squarely on Team Writing. But lately I’ve been thinking differently about revision. Not that it’s an either-or versus writing, but that there’s a closer link between revising and writing—a different way of looking at the relationship. But not in the obvious way—of making a given manuscript better—but as a writing tool. As a way to enrich the writing process, to reinvigorate your approach to writing.
Let me explain. I used to love the thrill of the blank page, of getting lost in a new story. That was before I hit the slump of all writing slumps, which I’ve written about here and here. I’d lost the real passion for my writing projects, and I was never able to get anywhere near that magical “writing zone.”
Go Team Revision!
As part of my attempt to get my writing back on track, I turned to revising a novel I wrote four years ago. My thought was that I already had a completed body of work, and by starting with that, I could avoid what had become a fear of the blank page. A fear of writing. It didn’t hurt that I believed the novel was worthy of revision—I’d gotten good feedback from an agent in the form of an R & R (Revise & Resubmit)—which she ultimately passed on. But I did have her extensive notes.
Neil Gaiman said, “. . . Put [the story] in a drawer and write other things. When you’re ready, pick it up and read it, as if you’ve never read it before. If there are things you aren’t satisfied with as a reader, go in and fix them as a writer: that’s revision.”
That’s what I did. At the beginning the process was frustrating. I had some of the same problems I felt with writing new material—I was afraid I just couldn’t do it. I knew that the second half of the book was the most problematic with both plot issues and a weak character arc, but I wasn’t quite sure how to fix the problems. I consulted an editor. She allowed me to see the story through her eyes, and that helped, but what really swayed me into Team Revise was that I’d been away from the story for a long time. I was able to read it more as a reader with less emotional resistance to making changes—I was able to be more objective—and for the past three months I’ve been deep in those revisions.
A lot changed on the way to “THE END 2.0.” For instance . . . the end of the story. It didn’t change completely, but it changed enough to offer the main character more transformation and growth. In addition, some secondary characters took on larger roles, some smaller, one disappeared altogether. I added more description and breathing room; I took out unnecessary description and narrative where less was needed. I added a lot more emphasis on the main character’s responsibility for her own growth vs. reliance on other characters for her story development.
All these changes added over forty-thousand new words—in short, I was writing again.
Read Like a Reader
Maybe you’re where I was—stuck with your writing—maybe you don’t feel ready or capable of starting something new. Maybe, like me, you have an existing WIP that offers tens of thousands of words to work with, and revision is a good solution for that manuscript because it has some legs. And, maybe (like me) one of your fears is starting from zero.
If you can relate, you might want to give my revision method a try. “All” you need is: [Read more…]