Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday Fricassee

Yesterday evening, Mr. A asked, "How'd your writing go today?"

"Fine," I said.  "I'm on chapter 19."

"How are you moving through this so fast?" he asked.

Funny.  "Fast" is relative, but I know what he means.  He's seen me struggle through revisions in the past--he knows what it's like to enter a room and find a wife in the midst of plot angst.  Despite the fact that I adore revising manuscripts, it can sometimes be a fairly teeth-grinding experience, as so many of you know.

This one's different.  You likely remember my near-constant railing against the Draft From Hell, which I started over a year ago and muscled my way through, coming to full-stop about two-thirds of the way and STARTING OVER AT THE BEGINNING.

It was painstaking. Brutal.  But I think that, in the end, the plot was stronger for it.  So there's that.  I don't have any broken plot places slowing me down.

For another thing, thanks to brilliant notes from Danielle and the insight of several readers, I know exactly what I need to do right now.  I've already figured out the one little snag that appeared when I changed something about a main character (thanks, Danielle ;) ), so nothing is twisting me in knots.  Every time I get to a scene that needs to be reworked, I just...rework it.

Mind you, this isn't effortless.  But it really is moving along at a nice, chuggy pace--because I know where I'm going.  And I guess that, from the outside, it looks "fast".

I've got a bit more heavy lifting to do in some upcoming chapters, but it's still with the full knowledge of what has to occur.  So it doesn't feel particularly daunting.  And, hey--I like this!  I like feeling so confident about the direction of these revisions, and I like hearing my husband ask me how I'm moving so fast.

Yep.  Feels good.

I know there are many of you out there who hate revising, who live and breathe for the glorious first draft, when words flow like wine and characters jump off the page to daily embrace you.  But, oh, let me encourage you to view revisions as what they truly are--the means to bring real magic and life into your raw material.  The chance to mold and nudge and tweak and BEAUTIFY what you've done.

A potter can't create anything on an empty wheel.  But give him that lump of clay -- that "first draft" of his creation -- and watch him shine.

Truly, it's exhilarating.  You already know your characters; you've already created your world.  So now you get to walk among everyone and really get to know them and their motivations and their desires and the WHY of everything (because a story without the WHY won't make sense).  And every time you go back to a scene to rewrite or add or subtract, you're in familiar territory, like returning to the house of an old friend.  You belong there, and you are welcomed.  And, because you are the creator of the story, you can do whatever you want to do to make it better.

It's not "homework" and it's not "drudgery" and it's certainly not "penance" (though some days it might admittedly feel that way).  It's the heart and soul of writing a good novel.  It's the place where all the truly good things happen.  Things click.  Character motivations float to the top (as in, "Why didn't I see this before?) (the answer to which is probably, "I was too drunk on the nectar of first drafting").  Your world comes into focus.  Superfluous words die a hasty death.

And, if you're really moving in the right direction, brilliance happens.

So, then.  If you're a revisions-hater, try looking at things differently.  You will find so much more joy in the process if you do.  And the more experienced you've become, the more you will enjoy the revisions, because, well, you'll know what you're doing.

Onward, word soldiers!  And if you're revising right now--or avoiding revising because of unfettered loathing--take a deep breath and dive in, remembering what I've told you about the magic.  It's there for you to find!


  1. I'm one who also loves the magic of revising, and I think you describe it very well. :) I like your metaphor about a potter with a lump of clay. On my blog (where I wrote a couple of posts on this exact topic) I compare it to having a gemstone hidden inside what looks like a muddy rock. The revision process is where you cut everything away that hides the beauty inside, and then polish that gem till it sparkles.

  2. Love this --> "I was too drunk on the nectar of first drafting". That's SO me!! :)
    I took me a while to stop being terrified of revisions - and as I improve my revising skills, I learn to love it more and more! :)