by Kelley Lindberg
Seems like every writer I know is in revision mode right now. Must be something to do with spring – renewal, rebirth, re-emergence of optimism… After a long, cold winter, we’re all ready for some fresh ideas, so we’ve dragged out our dormant novels and are attacking them with budding optimism.
I’m on the last legs of my (current) revision. I’m going back through every scene to make sure my main character is growing the way I want him to. First he was a little too stand-off-ish. Now I’m worried he’s too whiney. Or maybe he’s too decisive. Or possibly not decisive enough. Or maybe he should be more demonstrative. Or less so. But wait – perhaps he should be more optimistic, or less optimistic, or stronger, or more willing to show his weakness, or…
Sheesh. Second-guessing oneself is a constant hazard of writing. Because there has never, ever, in the history of writing ever been an absolutely correct way to write anything, we authors can quibble ourselves to a total standstill in less time than it takes to say “The quick brown fox jumped—no, wait, let’s change that to pounced—over the lazy—wait, are we sure the dog is lazy? Maybe he’s just dozing contentedly in the spring sun….Oh, never mind.”
On the other hand, without all that revision, our stories would be as flat as a pancake (no wait, that’s a cliché—let’s go with “flat as a sundried frog on a freeway at rush-hour”), lifeless (isn’t a dead frog already lifeless?), and
inadequate subpar second-rate.
So as an author, I sometimes find myself walking that very blurry line between “not quite good enough” and “stop messing with it,” between over-writing and under-thinking, between “I’ve finally got it” and “I’ve blown it all to bits.”
This week, when I’m not having futile little heart-to-heart talks with my main character, I’m also reading a friend’s novel. I’ve lost track of which revision she’s on, but it’s amazing how far her character and story have developed. I’m thoroughly enjoying this version of her book, and it feels to me like this is probably the version she can start submitting. And that is the perfect reminder I needed that revision is, indeed, a beautiful thing, and that there is a reason for all that self-analytical anguish that comes with being in revision mode.
Despite our misgivings, second-guessing, and love-hate relationship with the Delete key, the revision process is almost always a slow but steady progress towards something better. Something fresher. Something tinged with the intoxicatingly green hope of spring.
Bring it on.
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