Tuesday, July 21, 2015

7 Reasons to Learn to Love Revising

I meet lots of writers who say they hate revising. Others have told me they just write a draft and give it to an editor. Done.

I don't understand. Revising is writing. Therefore, if you love writing, you also love revising. Yes, it's a complex and difficult love, but it's just that which brings the greatest reward.
Love takes care. Image "banksy - peaceful hearts doctor - 3" (CC BY 2.0) by Eva Blue
And because I don't want you to miss out on this amazing love, I think we should talk about the reasons a writer needs to buckle down and commit his heart and soul to revising his novel.

Before I do, I'd like to define a few things very briefly:
     Drafting is the writing of the story--getting it down on paper for the first time.
     Revising is rethinking the story and producing additional drafts that usually change the story--evolve it.
     Editing is tweaking--looking for consistency and gaps, problems in voice and perspective, smaller but still large things.
     Proofreading is correcting grammar and sentence structure.

Granted, as an editor, I can give you a lot more detail on what editing and proofreading are, but we're here today to talk about revising and it's amazing ability to transform suck into beauty.

1. Revising your novel tests your love for your story and characters. If you don't love them enough to stick with them through the revision, then readers won't love them either. You have to love them more than anyone else in the whole world--even if they annoy you.

2. You get to see where everything goes awry and you get to figure out how to improve it. This makes you a better writer when you are working on your next book--you'll have a better idea of how to work through the kinds of problems stories present you.

3. Your characters will grow and become more complex, complicated, and richer. This will make them more memorable to your readers.

4. You get to really hone the narrator's voice and the role of the setting. With all the plot-based fiction going on right now, we often give less attention to these things that involve the reader more--things like context and perspective.

5. You find themes and symbols that start to show up, and develop them throughout the story. Readers love to interpret these things. Also, when you find those themes and symbols that come up organically, you begin to think a little more about yourself and how you process things--bringing you greater enlightenment for your next novel. Soon you will find you are an incarnation of the buddha.

No, no... but you should be bringing more insight to the next book.

6. You will be bringing out the best in your novel and your writing. I don't care if you think your draft of your book is brilliant right now. When you go back and read it a year and a half from now, after reading lots of great published books, you will be shocked at how embarrassing it is. A revised version will be closer to your vision of your book than one you simply wrote and edited.

7. When you send it to your editor, she will hate you less and will do a much better editing job because there is so much more quality to work with. (Never complain about editors doing a crappy job because they didn't pick up on errors and didn't change X. You gave her that to work with. If you can see it, why did you give it to her?) Also, when an editor gets to work on something she enjoys--and she never enjoys tons of mistakes or poorly developed stories--she may charge you less per word.

That's all I've got right now. It's time for me to get back to my revising.


  1. Thanks! These points help take the sting outta all the revision work in which I'm presently immersed.

    1. Good to hear, Walt! I put these things up to help me through the process, too, and remind myself of why I do this. Positive thinking!