Is there any writer alive who loves revisions? Who actually enjoys poring through their own work to cut out its weaknesses, and to smooth out the clutter and clunk?
Well, I actually don’t mind it. Because, the bottom line is, all work can be better. I’ve been up to my neck in revisions this past week and a half, going through Sleepwalk Society for what feels like the millionth time (and still finding tons to change!) and also going through my new novel, doing revisions requested by my new agent.
Sure, in the beginning, when the work is in process, we want our first drafts to sparkle. We want our first readers to ooh and aah, and tell us what a great story we’re weaving, and how they can’t wait for more. This is what they should say. Because some of us, me included, can be temperamental creatures who will never again allow them to see our baby-work. However, everyone needs a good editor. And after the first draft is finished, and maybe the self-critiqued second draft as well, our readers should still give us loud and wondrous compliments. Only they should do it while wearing their but-face.
You know, the but-face. The "I really loved how this character internally processed all of this, BUT"
This is never an easy thing to hear. Buts are never good, but they are necessary. If you’re too hard-headed to listen to well-intentioned feedback, if you think that the first thing you pop out of your mind and fingers is ambrosia and Megan Fox, (or Eric Bana, if you’re me WOO HOO!) well then just stop it. Because you’re a turd. Yes, I said it. Now, I’m not saying that every piece of feedback or suggestion should be heeded or taken. Some suggestions are a matter of opinion, and still others are just crap, and people don’t know what they’re talking about. But every one needs to be heard, so you can determine whether it is a matter of taste, or whether you need work.
If someone is confused by a passage, or a plot point, consider revising. Your readers are probably not total dopes. If they are, who the heck are you giving your stuff to? Just because you know what you mean, doesn’t mean it comes over clear. I’ve cut more things than you can imagine, just because I got way too many "huh?"’s.
If someone thinks something is too abrupt, think about how you foreshadowed it. Fixing something like that can be as easy as one or two well-placed sentences. If someone wants more from a scene, consider giving it to them. How did you write it? Did you write it in a frenzy? What might be missing from that scene? A common thing I get is forgetting one of the senses. That is, I describe how things looked, and perhaps how things smell, but there’s a certain tactile component missing.
Ultimately, it is your work. But your work does deserve to be the best it possibly can be. Don’t take suggestions and feedback personally (though I know it’s practically impossible not to, we’re talking about your brain-child here! It’s like someone hinting that your kid has a lazy eye). Rather, try to approach it with a workshop view. That is, after all, why we give our work to people to look over. Find those faults and fix them before you send it off to be judged by harsher eyes. Because once they get hold of it, there will only be more revisions to do.
Learn to enjoy it. One writer said that they view revisions as more time they get to spend with their favorite characters. As I sit in the middle of revisions, some fairly big, some more like copy edits, I miss my workshop gals and guy in London. A reader with good intentions and a sharp eye is invaluable. Even better is a clever one who knows how to pad an ego before dropping the bomb.
I don’t know why I’m writing this today. I’m sick as a mutt and doped up on a delightful cocktail of over the counters. One last piece of advice. Don’t do revisions when you’re sick as a mutt.