Monday, November 12, 2012

I Call Foul!

I know that, as a writer, I’m supposed to have an undying reverence for all that is 
*cue backlighting and sparkles and choirs of angels*

Revision is where the magic happens, right? Where you take that undefined lump of clay that is your first draft and mold and carve it into a masterpiece.

Problem is, one run-through never provides the kind of glimmer and shine that will get a manuscript through the mill and out into the world.

Not even close.

There’s the first revision where you fix any major problems, obvious typos, plot holes, etc.

Then the second one, where you do all that again, but better and more in-depth.

Then there’s the third draft that comes from incorporating beta-reader notes.

And the fourth draft that comes from incorporating more beta-reader notes.

And then maybe a fifth draft that comes from incorporating agent notes.

And, if you’re lucky, maybe editor notes.

And copy-editor notes.

Yes.

Revision is where the magic happens. Where writers prove their true grit. It’s something we all must aspire to revel in and adore.

Well, I call foul!

Revision isn’t magic. It’s work. And it blows goat cheese. 

I've tried. Really, I have. But sometimes I suspect writers as a whole try and make revisions sound a lot more fun than they are because, well, they're such a huge part of the writing process.

I admit, however, to being one of those unfortunate writers whose creativity caps out in the makings of that first draft- where characters surprise me and the story elates me and I can revel in that indescribable feeling of power and awe over the words I’ve pulled from the etherlands and put together to form something that didn’t exist only weeks ago.

Going back over those magical words, and realizing they kind of suck? So not as much fun, imo. Don’t get me wrong, big changes I can handle. I don’t mind writing new scenes and rewriting old ones. 

It’s the little things that drive me crazy. A character quirk here, an over-used expression there. The same word spelled wrong a million times. A slow in the pacing. A confusing feature that you can’t seem to explain right now matter how many angles you tackle it from. 

And spelling. And grammar. And punctuation. I want to stab them all in the eye. You think you’ve got something down pat, but then every person who reads it has a different way of doing things. Even books and websites disagree. 

And so you fix it, and you fix it, and you FIX IT! But it’s never right. You read the same scenes over and over until you wonder why you even wrote them to begin with. Changing just a few paragraphs feels like you’re walking through thick mud. Every word weighs heavier and heavier until you can barely lift your fingers off the keypad.

And you think, how in God’s name can anyone enjoy this? It’s absolute torture! 

Yet, I see other writers who get all excited about revisions. They post about their rewritten chapters, and their dropping word count, and their gleaming prose. And I sit back and scratch my head. Are they in denial?

Maybe something’s wrong with me. Never in my life have I woken up and said ‘Gee, I can’t wait to revise today!’  Of course I feel fabulous once it's done. Because, well, it's done.

But for me, revision's always been a necessary evil. 
Like bathing my children. 

I mean, am I weird? (don’t answer that) But am I the only writer out there who doesn’t think revision is a magical ride through musical valleys of accomplishment and glee? 

Is there anyone else out there who thinks it's one of the most tedious and laborious of activities of being a writer?

35 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Most writers don't enjoy revisions. I'm not in denial - I really do enjoy it. That first draft is torture for me as I try to get the damn thing on paper so I can do something with it. It doesn't come alive until I start revising.
And don't throw anything at me unless it's Hot Tamales.

Sarah said...

For me, it depends on the project. I have to say, though--the chance to have another crack at a ms before it makes it to readers is something I usually find a relief. I'm currently in the midst of the most intensive revision of my writing life, and I'm so happy my editor is pushing me this way. If either of us was complacent, the story would disappoint readers, and that would suck more than all the hours I'm spending ripping my novel apart and stitching it back together.

Huntress said...

It's like cleaning the toilet. No ones wants to do it but it has to be done.

Christine Danek said...

I enjoy the first couple drafts then I want to take my laptop and bash it against the wall. It's the final drafts--all that nit picky stuff that kills me. I have a love/hate relationship with first drafts. I love the flow as it pours all over the page, but I know how much work I'm going to have to do to make it "something". I guess it's the anticipation of it. There's pros and cons to everything, right?
Good luck!

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I'm with Alex. The first draft is torture for me, at least until I get to the climax when it all starts pouring out. Prior to that point, I'm never sure if I'm really going to make it to the end. Even with a brief outline (and I sometimes do have them), I'm not sure I can force the whole thing to make sense right to the end ... until I do it.

Revisions can sometimes be frustrating - and incorporating agent or editor feedback is sometimes a struggle -- but I know there's always *some way* to make it work. A confidence I never have in the first draft.

Louise Bates said...

The only time I like revisions is when something suddenly clicks, and I find myself weaving the story together even tighter and better than before, usually in a way I couldn't have envisioned earlier. Every other part, though? SO NOT FUN.

Creepy Query Girl said...

*throwing tomatoes at Alex and Dianne* :)

Yes, Huntress, Louise, and Christine! I'm a lot like that too.

Sarah- I can imagine at that point the importance revisions and how good it must feel to do what needs to be done.
I admit, I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes with finishing a round of revisions. The actual process bites, though:)

Gina said...

LOL, sorry Katie, but I much prefer revisions to drafting! I am super hard on myself when I write, and I do a ton of editing as I go. Of course, it's never enough, but I feel better knowing I having a solid foundation before I start hacking away at the "building" so to speak. Getting that first draft down on paper is like climbing Mount Everest for me!

Wendy L. Callahan said...

I HATE revising. Ugh.

I write, then go back and revise, then send it to beta readers, then revise, then another beta reader or two, do any final polishing, then the story goes to my publisher.

And THEN there are - yes - more revisions from the editor and copy editor.

For me, it's fun to tell the story. Perfecting it for publication is the actual work part!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Sorry but I love revising. And I do many because I seem to have a lot to correct. At least in my first book. For whatever reason, my first draft this time around is feeling like torture.

Lisa Shafer said...

Hilarious. All the parts you're whining over are the parts I like! For me, the painful and difficult part of writing is getting that skeletal first draft onto Pages. After that, I flesh it out over and over until it feels right. THEN I let the betas have at it -- and then I tackle it again! True, the last 4 or 5 copy edits can get dull, but they're worth it to have a polished book.
Still, to each her own. :)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I love revisions, but I know the importance of taking a break from a project to allow me perspective. And because I tend to get busy with a new project, the other one gets to go on a looooong vacation.

SA Larsenッ said...

It blows goat cheese. Hahaha!!!!!!!!!! See, now, this is how I feel about the middle of the first draft. Ugh... Just completed edits for my YA, all sent to my agent. Now, I'm fiddling with a sequel, another YA, and my MG, all of which are stalled just after Act I. Shoot me now!

Meredith said...

Oh, it really is torture. But I tell myself that it's amazing and magical to help myself get through it. And I make sure there's lots of chocolate involved. :)

jaybird said...

I hate revisions. I find them tedius and boring and I never feel "finished". I love the freedom of my first draft. Where I'm not hindered by anything, and I just get to go with the flow.

I definitely agree with you Katie, revising, "blows goat cheese" LOL

Old Kitty said...

Awwww you're not weird!! You bathe your children for goodness sakes! LOL!

Awww I hate hate hate revisions. Hate it! And yes, because when I revise a story I've written I realise how crappy it is really! LOL! Take care
x

Rachel said...

Katie- I both love and hate revisions. I did 6 revisions on a draft of my novel before this September when I realized....I needed to REWRITE THE WHOLE THING. I'm halfway through and I am feeling pretty good about it. I have off days sometimes where I hate everything I write and I think its junk and I want to throw it out and then I have days where I think my writing is okay. I know my beta readers will clear the air for me, LOL. ;)

Nicole L Rivera said...

One word: Amen!

You've described exactly how I feel about revisions. I mean, why can't first drafts be as good as they feel when they are being created? Why?!?!? Sometimes I wish there were professional revisionists out there that could do all this re-writing stuff--but then I wouldn't think they did it right and I'd have to re-do their revisions. Ugh...

Thank you for sharing though, now I don't feel like I'm the only one :)

Matthew MacNish said...

I've had it go both ways. It can be enjoyable when it's actually working, and you can actually see it improving the story, but I've also had it feel like a slog through the ninth circle of hell, and that's no fun at all.

Chelsey said...

For me things just get so much better with revisions, that I don't like writing first drafts anymore. I used to hate revising but now I seen how much better things can get, and I like it. Plus there's also something great about being able to go back to that world for a while

TC Avey said...

Thank you. I needed to hear I'm not alone in this. I'm doing revisions and yeah, they suck! I just keep telling myself they will pay off...

Laura Hughes, MittensMorgul said...

I like the technical minutiae of editing. What I don't like is the revision part. I could cry at the thought of trying to unscrew the screwed up bits of plot, and then figure out how the ripples from that change will affect the entire rest of the story. That's what drives me to drink. Missing commas? Screwy grammar? That's where I'm a Viking!

Botanist said...

Dammit, Katie, I could have written this post! Now I'll never be able to, knowing that you already said it better than I could.

Not only do I not enjoy revisions, they go utterly against core values that I've spent years cultivating in other areas of creativity. In so much of what I do outside of writing, a small mistake early on snowballs and costs big time later, so my whole ethos is "do it right first time." You can guess how well that sits with the normal writing process!

Wonky73 said...

I thought everybody disliked revising. I view it as nothing but a necessary evil. During a first draft the energy and creativity flow freely. So what if I have a character completely change personalities or even races.

LTM said...

LOL! No! Revision is NOT magical. And it does blow and suck at the same time. It's a freak of nature! :D

But what's magical is putting the MS aside for a while (like months) and then going back to it and being surprised by how good it really is. (After those revisions, of course.)

Good luck with yours, Katie! <3 ((hugs))

D.G. Hudson said...

Love this:

It’s the little things that drive me crazy

As the revision numbers mount, I get this sinking feeling I'm removing the life of the story, bleeding it via word deletion.

That's when I take a break. In a past job, I did editing, but I get tired of scrutining the same words ad infinitum. (I'm better at editing in the morning).

Good Luck.

Cynthia Lee said...

I like revising but I don't do it more than three times. I just refuse. I can't understand people who will revise for years for an agent and some of them get dumped by said agent anyway. Ugh. No way. I have a life to live, you know?

I suspect I'm rather in the minority on this subject.

Nancy Thompson said...

I enjoy them only because I like to see how much better I can make it. They allow me to be even more creative. But that's not to say I agree with all edits. And as an editor myself, I know my authors will not always agree with my comments. But if someone sees a hole, recognizes a missing piece, then others will, too, so we have to fix it, no matter how wrong we think they are.

Haley Leder said...

Well I can't speak from much experience (I'm only just writing my first novel now with NaNoWriMo), but I think it must depend on personality type. I confess that I'm more of creative mind trapped inside an analytical thinker. So the blank-page-creation stage is fun, but doesn't come to me as naturally as fixing something that's already written. I suspect I might be one of those nuts you don't understand, who actually has fun with the revision process.
I do completely understand the sensation of continuously tweaking something forever. After a while you just don't know what to think anymore and the good stuff and the crap just all starts blending together.
That's the point at which I brew some tea and watch Downton Abbey until I stop seeing double :-P

prerna pickett said...

I have a hard time with first drafts, which is why I prefer revisions. But yeah...it's rough no matter what.

Melodie Wright said...

I do prefer revising over drafting...but revising is much easier when time has passed and you're not sick to death of the thing. Distance is a wonderful thing.

Lexa Cain said...

I never want to revise .. but I never want to write that darn first draft either. It's all very hard WORK! Hmm. Remind me why I'm writing for years and having my ego stomped on by rejections? I seem to have forgotten... Was there any upside to all this work? Well, not now, but maybe some day. :-)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I enjoy both. I'm an organizational nut, and revising is where I get to organize and sort and make order out of chaos.

Carrie-Anne said...

I've grown to love revising, since it shows how much I've grown as a writer since I wrote my first drafts many, many years ago. In the time they were locked away from me on obsolete file formats on disks, I've developed to the point where I no longer think editing is a sin and a pox on creativity. It's fun to write all new scenes and lines, and to rewrite original material that could still work from another angle. Then again, I don't have any betas or critique partners, so all my editing and revision ideas come from only me.

Steph said...

I can hardly call myself a writer, but I hate revision! I never thought of myself as a perfectionist until I started to dabble in writing. Turns out, I am surprisingly detail oriented!

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