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I’m in revision.
I know. Groan, groan.
Of all the post-writing things, I find revision to be the most intimidating. Synopsis and query writing—daunting, yes. But everything pales behind reading through 300 pages or so of your work—multiple times usually—and trying to figure out if it sucks as bad as you thought.
Here’s my take on revision.
There are four different variations of revisers. I’m going to do this like the Myers-Briggs personlity test, with a couple different dichotomies.
*Disclaimer – this is only my opinion. This is based on no real scientific methodology, only my own general observations. In that vein, these observations are worth what you’re paying for them.
Ahem. So. Let me begin.
The first variable is the DURING writing phase.
During writing, either you’re a Vomit-It-Out (V) or you’re a Revise-As-You-Go (R).
Vomit-It-Out (V) – these writers just write full tilt, no holds barred. They do not pass Go, they don’t collect any money (at least not until publication, of course). The ideology: that if you get it on the page, you’ll at least have something to work with. This is the “we can’t revise a blank page” crowd a la the Nora. Advantage – Lots of forward progress, no pause to angst. Disadvantage – No way to know if material is “quality” or not.
Revise-As-You-Go (R) – these writers can’t move on until what they’ve written is up to their standards. They revise/edit each scene they write, sometimes returning to adjust/revise/edit again. The ideology: it’s hard to keep going if there isn’t a strong foundation. Advantages – Not as much revising later. Disadvantages – Plenty of time to stress over every word.
The second variable is the AFTER writing phase.
After writing, either you’re a Wait-It-Out (W) or you’re a Do-It-Now (D)
Wait-It-Out (W) – these writers step away from a manuscript for a prescribed period of time before starting revisions. The ideology: that time will allow the writer to return to the work with a fresh perspective. And maybe a little distance will give a little emotional distance from every word. Advantages – Maybe a little time will make a writer’s eyes fresh. Disadvantages – Sometimes absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. And many writers are eager to get submitting.
Do-It-Now (D) – these writers dive right in to revisions without any honeymoon period after completing their manuscripts. The ideology: that time away might make them forget the things they wanted to fix. Advantages – Done with revisions faster. Disadvantages – No emotional distance from manuscript before making adjustments.
With my first manuscript, I was a VW reviser. I vomited the second half of that manuscript, assuming that I’d come back after I was finished. And lots of people told me that I should wait to revise. So I waited a month. Well, after a month, I started reading it and I realized that I didn’t really love the story anymore. Even though I’d written myself notes, I didn’t find them particularly useful to my revisions and I found that the time away from my story had just distanced me emotionally from it. In a bad way.
Also, as I was vomiting the second half, I told myself that I’d fix what was wrong later. But I didn’t know that I’m not the kind of person who rewrites well, especially at the end. I found the extensive amount of revising/rewriting so daunting, I wasn’t even sure it was worth going through the pain of it.
With this manuscript, I was a RD reviser. I edited each scene as I finished it. And when I felt something was wrong, I stopped and fixed it, including three (four?) adjustments to motivation and two adjustments to two different internal conflicts. And I revised the entire thing—at least what I felt was wrong—right after I finished. I’m guessing as I ask more people to read, I’ll do more rounds of revisions as I go. But this worked a lot better for me.
So, what kind of reviser are you? What do you think are the advantages/disadvantages of each of these revising methods (in your experience)? Anyone else adjust their process as they’ve grown?