Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Why Revision Makes me Fall in Love Again

I may be an oddity among writers: I love the revision process. It is not unusual for me to revise a poem dozens of times and still not consider it finished. (Yes, I know there is a danger in getting in an endless revision loop and work hard to avoid that trap.)

This seems to have been the year for revisions. Since January, I have substantially revised 2 of my novels and am considering diving into a 3rd. The project I am currently working on, I initially wrote in 2005/6, revised in 2008, and then put away until a few months ago. It's been fascinating to look at this novel--the writer's version of an archeology dig--and see how my process and my writing has evolved.

The bones of the story are sound; the story needed work. At the time, I didn't have the resources to do the kind of revision required. Now, I believe I do. And I believe I can do justice to the story.

I'm really excited about it. And the tools I needed came in the mail last week. I read through Blake Snyder's "Save the Cat," and am currently working my way through Larry Brooks' "Story Engineering."

(Inevitable digression: I have an addiction to craft books. I figure it's like a chef's need to collect recipes.)

I think if I had read these books as a fledgling writer, I wouldn't have gotten so much out of them. Reading them now, I can apply them to the specifics of my own work and you know what? It's so cool! I have 5 pages of handwritten notes with a plan for sharpening theme, character, stakes, and pacing. At the end of this process, I will have a story that rocks the house.


  1. Hurray! I'm growing to love the revision process, too. But 5 pages of notes! Sweet! Right now I'm in the middle of a revision for my science fiction novel, but I put it on hold because I am so, so, so close to finishing Saboteur (sequel to Sedition).

    Go, Lisa, Go! Kick some revision batoosh!

  2. As new writer, I'm still learning to like the revision process. Could be that I have so much to learn and minimal time to do it, so the process drags on. So, thanks for reminding me that revision can be a positive experience.

    I loved "Story Engineering"! I created a one page cheat sheet to help mold my stories. I'll have to check out "Save the Cat".

  3. You're not alone. I love the revision process. The initial draft is what makes me tear my hair out. Revision is where all the magic happens, for me at least.

    I also have an addiction to books on the craft. I loved Save the Cat. Another favorite of mine is The Fire in Fiction. You might like it, if you haven't already read it. :)

  4. @aimee go you!!!

    @anne I think that no matter where we are in the learning process there's new things to learn. It's really a lifelong process.

    @ t.s. thanks for the recommendation! Craft books--crack for writers. lol

  5. I love editing too. I did NaNo last year and there were times when I thought: aaah, this is sooo bad, but I knew the revision would be good. Talking of which, must get back to it.

  6. @Michele--I hope your revision is going well.

    Every fall, I think about NaNo for about 12 seconds then run away. LOL. I am in awe of writers who can silence their inner editor for the breakneck pace of getting that first draft on paper. Maybe one year, I'll try it.