Thursday, February 14, 2019

Dear O'Abby: I hate revising. Do I have to?

Dear O'Abby,

I love writing.  I've written more than seven novels now, and I just adore the flow of ideas onto the page and following my characters where they want to go.  But I hate revising.  Which is why I've written seven novels.  Instead of revising the one I just wrote, I freeze up at the thought of it and then abandon it to go and chase the next shiny idea.

When I've gone back and re-read my older novels, they're actually pretty good.  I like them, anyway.  Do I really need to revise?

Thanks!

Non-Editor

Dear Non-Editor,

At the end of the day, you don't have to do anything you don't want to do.  No one is sitting there with a gun to your head telling you you have to revise those manuscripts (if there is, please call the police).

But if you want any of those manuscripts to ever be published, you're going to need to revise.  I don't think any writer ever gets everything 100% right on their first pass.  If you've re-read and you think the story works, and the characters are lively and realistic, that's awesome.

But has anyone else taken a look?  And have you checked for things like inconsistencies in time and place and names?  I re-read a manuscript about three times before I realized for an entire chapter I called a character Harry when his name throughout the rest of the book was Henry.

And then there's grammar and tenses and all kinds of other niggly things that sometimes slip in and need to be weeded out before you send a manuscript out.

Revising is an important part of writing, even if you don't cut whole scenes and rewrite the beginning to fit better with the ending.  Or merge two characters into one because neither of the original ones really pulled their weight.  Or changed the POV because it didn't really work in first person...

And that's only your first few rounds of revision.  After your critique partners and beta readers get through with it, you will probably need to do a couple more rounds to fix things they noticed and you didn't.  If you get an agent, it's likely she will ask for another round or two of revisions too, before she feels the MS is ready to go on submission.

So the answer is yes and no.  If you are writing to be published, revision is imperative.  If you're writing for yourself and don't have any ambition to be published, feel free to skip any part of the process you don't enjoy.

But I used to be just like you.  Revision bored me.  Now I love it.  It's actually almost my favorite part of the writing process.  I love shaping something wonderful out of the word-vomit I spew when writing a first draft.

So maybe give it a shot.  You might just surprise yourself.

XX O'Abby

1 comment:

  1. Abby, your comments were great. I,too,have grown to love revision. Now I hate drafting!

    ReplyDelete

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