Monday, January 14, 2013
The Beauty, and Agony, of Revision, by Matthew MacNish
Revisions, just in case there are any out there still wondering, can take many roles in the complicated process that is the drafting of a manuscript for publication. The second draft, or first pass, is very different from the first, and the seventh draft (or however many it takes to get you ready to share with your CPs) can be very different from the sixth.
Being the only un-agented, unpublished author here at Project Mayhem, I'm perhaps the least qualified to post on this subject, but then again, so what? The whole point of blogging about publishing, and connecting with other writers is for all of us to learn from each other, right?
So even if I don't have anything to say that helps, maybe we can all learn something from each other, even if the comments are more illuminating than the post itself.
Now, there are several things we, as writers, must focus on during revision. There are little picture things, like grammar, spelling, sentence structure, repeated words, formatting, punctuation and so on, which if you have a contract and a paid copy-editor, maybe don't seem that important, but surely we all care enough about our work as professionals to get these things as close as we can to perfect, before we hand our writing off to ... whoever may be the next person involved in our process.
Then there are big picture things, like pacing, character arc, theme, voice, plot arc, and so on and so forth. These are the kinds of aspects that can make or break a story. A well executed story, however perfect its details, does not necessarily make a great tale. Of course, sometimes it's a very fine line. If you do have a professional editor you work with, they will often make suggestions about these big picture items, but even if you don't you can sometimes utilize critique partners and beta-readers to help you find holes in these building blocks.
Personally, as the title of this post suggests, I find revision to be both the best and the worst part of writing. It's nothing like the natural high of drafting an exciting new project, which can often carry me through months of feel good, productive days, but it does have its moments.
The hardest part of revision is plowing through things that you knew didn't work in the first draft. Missing scenes. Extraneous scenes. Mis-placed scenes (it's not all about scenes, they're just coming to mind right now). Finding a way to force these things into a working format can be so hard, it often takes tens or hundreds of times as long to fix them as it did to draft them.
However, the best part of revision, the moments when you take a good turn of phrase, and make it phenomenal, or when you take a strong, tense scene, and turn it into an edge-of-the-seat-nails-chewed-to-nubs type of scene, and you have that moment where you sit back, look at the page, and sigh, so satisfied that you finally figured out what you were put on this earth to do? That's the moment when you remember what it's all about. When you remember why you started writing in the first place.
At least, that's how it works for me. What's your revision process like?