Revising Struck by Chocolate Part I

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Revisions are, hands down, my least favorite part of the writing process. Reading my unpolished manuscripts, trying to figure out how to fix them without breaking them worse, getting into the nitty gritty of line editing and word choice. It’s enough to make my head spin.

Me, after three hours of revisions

I also know that revisions are crucial. My first drafts are not publication ready. Some short stories may get close, first time around, but novel length works always, always, always need a lot of work before I feel comfortable sending them out into the world. Curious, how I say that like I’ve done it a bunch. Because I haven’t. Since I got serious about writing in 2010 I have written eight (what!?) novel length manuscripts. I’ve revised one. ONE. In four years. Not a great number.

I think my aversion to the revision process is multifaceted.

  • Lack of knowledge: It’s the same hurdle I faced when looking down the barrel of my first novel, but worse. At least then, I was creating new words, something I was relatively familiar with. Revisions call for skills I haven’t developed, simply because I haven’t sat down and developed them. Identifying plot and character problems, figuring out solutions, optimal word choice…the list goes on.
  • Fear of failure: This one is double sided. Initially, this is the fear of reading what I’ve written and hating it. Finding it irredeemable. Unremittingly boring or crass or flawed. That’s scary, looking back at something I’ve poured so much time and effort into. Once I get over that, though, I’m still faced with the fear of either ruining what magic is there by ‘fixing’ the wrong thing, or putting yet more time and energy into the revision process and having the book still be irretrievably broken.
  • Desire to create: I love writing. I love the process of laying down words, discovering new worlds and characters. During the revision process, the amount of time I spend creating is drastically reduced, and I feel it, right in my bones. Writing helps me stay sane and grounded, helps me stay happy. Revisions–because of the reasons listed above paired with the reduction of new words–make me cranky.

The year, one of my goals is to revise four novels, including Struck by Chocolate, which I’ve already done a lot of work on. Which means I need to conquer that list of issues, one at a time.

Lack of knowledge is the most straightforward problem I’m running into. I’ve read countless blogs, delved into a number of books, all in the hopes of getting that magic revision key. But, like writing, there is no magic key. There’s a lot of advice, a lot of pointers, but it comes down to applying the techniques and finding what works for me.

Addressing my desire to create is simple, but not so straightforward. This, I think, will involve working on multiple projects at once. Maybe short stories, maybe another novel. Something that will get me creating while I am also working on revisions.

The fear of failure one is neither simple nor straightforward. My instinct here is to forge ahead, nose to the grindstone, etc. I’m pretty freaking tired of letting my fear stand in the way of what I want, but at the same time I believe I should acknowledge that fear and try to address it. Deal with it instead of just ignoring it, in hopes that next time, and the time after that, the fear will be less. Or, at least, I’ll have the tools to adequately deal with it. But how?

Well, I’ll let you know when I figure it out. If you have any advice on conquering fear (or revisions!) I’d love to hear it.

Next time on EE: Revisions, step one: Spreadsheets and color-coding and second-guessing, oh my!

2 responses »

  1. I’m rather comforted to know that someone else hates revisions as much as I do. I know lots of writers who are all, “Revising is my favorite part of writing!” and I just want to stab them in the eye. For me, a big wedge of the fear pie chart is dread of fixing the wrong thing, and with another wedge of awful paralytic confusion over what to do with this three-wheeled cart I have. It’s kind of a pretty cart in places, and yet no one wants a cart with only three wheels. If only I could find a wheel and put it on. But every wheel I try is the wrong size or the wrong shape or made out of rice pudding or something decidedly non-helpful. Yet it seems so wrong to just leave that nicely decorated cart by the side of the road and walk on.

    • Yeah, I’ve heard that line, too. Gah.

      I completely agree with being afraid of fixing the wrong thing. What if I ruin the one thing that really makes this story unique? I love your cart analogy. Stupid rice pudding wheels. Abandoning your cart is *sometimes* the right answer (Chasing Smoke will never, ever, ever see the light of day, or the slice of a red pen. It’s my perfectly broken first attempt at a novel.) but more often it’s just about that damn wheel. Or figuring out how to make a bitching wheelbarrow.

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