Friday, September 3, 2010

Reviled revision

I know there are people out there who enjoy revision.  There must be.  Personally, though, when I've finished a novel and am about to start revising it - well, that's when I tend to come up with a brilliant new idea that I just have to write out, and revision gets put off for another day - oh my God, I think I just figured out why I haven't sold a novel yet!

All kidding aside, revision is one of the most important jobs every writer takes on.  Revision is when you tease out the best bits of your novel and carefully shape them until they make something worth reading.  The best simile I can think of is that writing a novel is like building a nice piece of furniture.  First you construct the basic form (writing) and carve the rough shapes of whatever decoration it will have (rewriting), and then you begin the endless sanding and polishing process (revising).  If I've left something out, please don't correct me.

Everyone has a different process that works for them.  I find it helpful to print a clean copy of my manuscript, stick it in a three-ring binder, and go through with a blue or green pen, writing sarcastic comments wherever they're deserved.  When I have enough distance, I go back through and find the places where I was most sarcastic - usually these are plot holes, moments where my characters act out-of-character, weird things like that.  I fix the big stuff first, and then (at least in theory), when everything else works I go back and start polishing sentences themselves.

The preferred book on revision seems to be Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. You can get a copy of it at your library (I guarantee it).  In the end, though, revision is a matter of sitting yourself down and working  through your novel, one page at a time.

Or you could just write a new novel.  Revision only matters if you care about improving your writing.

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