Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Revising: Keeping Your Inner Editor Happy

“How do I avoid revisions?”

There’s a way?

Yes, write it perfectly the first time.

If you’re anything like me, this never happens. So, we revise.

The next 30 pages of my thesis novel were due yesterday. I spent the better part of the day fixing the original 30 pages of crap I’d written.

At this point, you may be thinking—“Oh, you’re too hard on yourself. It couldn’t have been that bad.”

It was that bad. One of my crit partners—in response to my Facebook status about needing a miracle to finish my submission by midnight—said to just send it and let him and our other crit partner help. I read that and thought “NO! I’d be ashamed to let another human being read this.”

And, that wasn’t even the worst part. No—the worst part was the fact that I’d already written 30 pages and was, for all intents and purposes, writing 30 new pages. The percentage of original content I had upon completion of said pages was low, and I mean low.

Why do I bring this up? I’m so glad you asked. I’m here this week to give some advice about revising. Given the day I had yesterday, it seemed a fitting topic for this week’s Writer’s Wednesday.

Heed the advice of the above “large, friendly letters.” (“Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” reference ftw!)
No, really. Stay calm. Revisions rank up there with synopsis writing—necessary but not very enjoyable for most people. (Side Note: If synopsis writing is giving you issues, I tackled that one in my post last week.)

-Just write the first time
I have a terrible time with this one. I write something that I think is crap and then my inner editor has nightmares about it. However, I learned something in the last month from working on my thesis and a YA fantasy project—if you don’t keep writing, nothing gets written. Duh, right? But, think about it. If you’re too busy revising, you’re not writing. And, honestly, if you revise now or when all’s said and done, you’re going to spend the same amount of time revising. Get the words on the page. Seeing your word count go up makes the project seem more manageable and promotes a sense of accomplishment.

-Make notes of things to go back and fix
For me, this pertains especially to that ya fantasy I just mentioned. The background is driving me nuts, and it keeps changing. I have a MS Word file of background. I read it, think “that doesn’t work,” and change it. And then, a few days later, I do that again. Oh, and to make this even more fun, every time the background changes, I think of something that I’ve already written that needs to change. So, to save my inner editor some stress, I make notes of what I need to go back over. This has a few benefits. It makes me feel productive, allows me to keep writing without forgetting what I need to still do, and lets me adjust the direction of the story as needed.

-Break the rules
Every so often—again with the ya fantasy—there are things that you just need to fix RIGHT NOW!!!! (I’m fine.) If it's weighing so much on your conscience that you can’t continue the story or if the change will do so much that you end up with a new story, go back and fix it. Just remember to keep writing—keep that word count climbing. But, don’t torture yourself over one or two edits.

This last point, though, also opens a can of worms, which I will leave for discussion because I think the answer is different for everyone. Where do you draw the line between revising and rewriting? For our purposes, I define rewriting as a situation in which the revisions cause the story to become a completely different story—as in you could have two novels the original and the new one. It’s important to know this because…well (and I’ve done this)…it’s no fun having two novels in one. The separation process takes quite a while. Also, if the first half of a novel tells one story and the second half tells another…that could cause problems.


P.S. For any “Hitchhiker” fans—check out my post about the Original Radio Show.

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