Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Revision Decisions

When I was in high school, I tried to write a book.  I penned (or penciled) numerous pages in spiral-bound notebooks whenever I had the chance.  I imagine I was rarely seen without notebook in hand.  But this method of writing had one major flaw--it was extremely difficult to change anything.  Even beyond problems such as poorly arranged paragraphs, unexpected plot twists were crippling.  While I gained a greater appreciation for writers of yore, it wasn't long before I moved my writing to the computer.

Alas, that only caused a different problem.  As I transcribed the first chapter, I found myself editing freely.  And editing.  And editing some more.  I spent so much time editing the beginning that I never finished the book.  (Yes, I still have the notebooks, complete with computer printouts with yet more editing marks.)  When I finally braved the realms of fiction writing again a few years ago, I made a decision: no more revising while writing!

It is ten years later, and I am approximately 2/3 of the way finished writing another book.  Before I had Kira, I had hit a block, and I had finally decided that pregnancy brain was mostly to blame.  I waited until a few months after Kira was born to revisit my project, hoping that time and fewer hormones would help matters.  I read through all that I had written.  I sat excitedly at my computer, anxious to write once more.  Then I stared at the screen and stared some more.  I was facing the same block as before.  The scene that needed to be written wouldn't be written.  I started a deleted scenes file just for the rewrites I went through on this one section.

What was the core of the problem?  Stumped, I turned to my online writing group, WriteAnyway (if you are interested, you can sign up on Michele Bardsley's blog).  With their help, I realized one part of the problem.  My decision not to revise was actually hindering me.  It turns out that several of the details that I thought needed to be introduced via a sort of "planning session" scene were able to be introduced earlier in the story.  The whole editing process took less than five minutes, and the end result was a much better way to give the reader what they needed to know.  Once I made the changes, the scene flowed beautifully.  No more square peg/round hole problem.

A new lesson has been learned.  It is just as important not to block yourself needlessly as it is not to get sucked into the Pit of Revision before you've even finished.  Both extremes can be bad.  As in most things in life, balance is a good thing.    

1 comment:

  1. Yeah. Revision after writing is an important thing to learn. That and to be willing to cut anything if it will help the story you are telling. The trick there is to know what story you are telling.