I’ve been in the revision cave since November last year. At the time I gave myself a one-month deadline to revise. Right. As if that would ever have happened. I’m learning that revisions take time. Even with an outline, my first draft turned out to be messy as hell. Here are a few things I figured out along the way.
The ending will improve the beginning
Tone and voice become sharper as you write, and by the 50% mark, you’ve got a good handle on the plot and narrative flow of the story. Voice and tone become more pronounced and you continue to hit the key points of the story. Pacing evens out and by the time you’re done, the first 100 pages of your story may be very different from the last 100 pages.
Some days feel like starting from scratch
The first thing I did at the start of the revision process was to write a new outline, incorporating all the notes from the initial read-through. Still I didn’t expect having to add so many new words. I’m talking about entire chapters – chapters that change the trajectory of the entire story. Revising is slow and meticulous work. Blasting out words without inhibition during the first draft felt great. Picking them all apart during the second draft is agonizing but it’s an opportunity to strengthen and deepen the story, add layers of tension and action and craft multidimensional characters that hopefully, readers will love.
New writing projects are calling your name
Procrastination is kicking in. I spent a month trying to break through a single chapter. Call it brain fog, or the post-Christmas slump, who knows, but I just couldn’t muster up the drive to push forward. I kept thinking about all the other projects in the pipeline. I could work on the outline of my next story. Maybe punch out a short story real quick. Recognizing the many faces of procrastination is the easiest way to beat it.
Self-doubt becomes a back seat driver
Is this book even any good? Will anyone want to read this? Is this going to grab an agent’s attention? A quick glance online is a reminder of all the really great children’s books out there right now. Books that are way better than anything I could possibly think about writing. I’ve questioned everything – from the value of each character, to the motivations and goals. It’s hard not to compare but by blocking out the inner critic and focusing on telling the best story I can – I’ll avoid caving into a spiral of self doubt.
Learning to let go
No words are wasted words. So I had to delete large chunks of the first draft and replace it with new words. I prefer not to consider these words wasted. They helped propel the story forward and without them I may not have finished when I did. Revision is recognizing the areas that hold your story back, and cutting them out. If a particular scene no longer works – then let it go and accept that ruthless slashing (i.e unflinching use of the delete button) is all part of the process. End game is to create the best possible version of our story, and at the end of the day, isn’t that what all writers want?
What have you learned from your revision process?