Sunday, September 6, 2009

My Changing Vision of Revision

Recently I've been revising a manuscript, and it's been a lot of fun.

Fun? Revision? That got me thinking.

When I first started writing "fun" wasn't a word I would ever have used to describe revision. "Torture" was more like it.

I hated cutting a paragraph from a treasured piece of prose. I hated changing my opening page. But, most of all, I hated being told my beloved first draft (or second or third or fourth) wasn't perfect.

So, what made me change?

The more I think about my change in attitude, the more it comes down to having a real vision for my manuscripts. The word vision isn't in revision by accident, I realized. When I really know what kind of changes I want to see in my revised manuscript, making changes to it is fun instead of painful.

Those changes can include making more varied poetic forms in a poetry collection or allowing the readers to get a better sense of my main character in a picture book manuscript.

I think the most frustrating part of revision for me now is when I know that a manuscript needs a change, but I can't figure out what. I've got a manuscript like that now, and it's driving me crazy. But, at least now it's driving me crazy because I want to revise, not because I don't.

Sometimes putting a manuscript aside gives me the distance to find a new vision for it. And, of course, wonderful critiques can always help to challenge me to bring a manuscript to the next level.

So, how do you find your vision for revision?


  1. That drives me crazy too! Besides valuable critiques, it's setting the ms aside that helps most with a revision when I don't know what to change. I need the distance.

  2. I recently had to "re-vision" a scene in my novel for a contest deadline. When I started cutting and changing I wasn't sure what I'd come up with. I'd always been told in critiques that the scene in question was a lot of backstory - but I loved it! (still do) Then...I changed it. And while it's still growing on me - I was amazed at how a deadline really stoked my creative fire. Sometimes a little pressure helps!

  3. MG-- It's amazing how helpful that distance can be sometimes, isn't it? I mean some suggested changes just seem wonderful right away, but others take time to interpret. Great idea from the person giving the critique, I think once I get home, but how do I (the writer) actually do it?

    Robin-- Congrats on revising your well loved scene! I totally agree with you about the power of a deadline to spark revision. When I have a deadline of any sort, it really makes me focus on what's working and what's not with a manuscript. Then I want to fix "what's not" before I send it off. Major revisions can happen then (unless I let the pressure get to me).

  4. I'm revising right now --adding scenes and drawing out the ending to heighten the tension.

    I fretted over this for a couple days, reading and re-reading my manuscript, identifying where to add scenes, having a general idea of what I needed to accomplish, but not yet worrying about what exact shape those scenes would take.

    Monday morning, I placed my butt in my chair and started to write. And, as usual, I found that the best revisions are accomplished the same way as the best (or often in my case, worst) first drafts. By showing up, parking BIC, and writing. And this is easier said than done.