The joy of revisions

msagara and others have been discussing revisions in her journal.

I find myself thinking–perhaps because I’m in early first draft mode now–about the fact that I really do enjoy revising.

For me, the hardest part of the writing process is getting a book down on paper at all. Once it’s down, I can begin to move it towards something that works, through several layers of revision–usually starting with tackling large scale issues, then eventually getting down to polishing the prose. For me, writing is a series of successive approximations, moving towards a book that works. And the hardest stage of this is the first, where I’m moving from “nothing” to “something.”

The revision after that, where I may still throw half the book away, can also be painful. But by the time I get through both of those passes, I know my characters better, I know my story better, and I find myself working more and more intensely–more and more engagedly.

I think I knew how to revise before I knew how to construct a story in the first place. This resulted in some very polished stories that didn’t work, for reasons that were hard for me to figure out, because everything sounded so nice.

A good revision letter–one that comes up with ways to strengthen the story that I hadn’t seen–can be a joy to me.

And revision itself isn’t what I do once the book is done–it’s part of how I get the book done.

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