Revision is scary. I’m not sure if this is a sentiment shared by the majority of writers, but it terrifies me, almost to the point of panic attack.
It’s overwhelming to ‘finish’ a project, then find out that you have so much more work to do on it. Moving scenes around. Adding/deleting characters. Rewriting large chunks (if not the whole thing). It’s enough to make you want to scream. And, of course, any writer can revise until the cows come home, spending months or even years on one project until it’s absolutely perfect. Which it never will be because by definition, art is not perfect. Perception is what matters. And the longer you spend on a project, the more revision happens because your perception changes over time. Your writing style changes. You read a book that featured words you hadn’t thought of that you would love to include in your own work and suddenly the draft is littered with ‘ornate’ and ‘voluptuous’ and poetic phrases that you will fall out of love with a couple weeks later, replacing them with other random words and phrases.
When does it end?
As I posted yesterday, I’m currently stuck in the limbo that is the revision process. And with that process comes the inevitable, love it/hate it mood swings. Sometimes I want to delete the whole file. No. I want to print it out and rip it up. That seems like a more satisfying way to destroy something. Sliding it over to the recycle bin just doesn’t produce the same satisfaction as physically tearing something asunder until it’s no longer recognizable.
‘Work’ for me lately has meant sifting through books about writing. And if any of you have ever looked in the writing section of the library, you’ll know that there are a million of them. Some are useless. Some are fantastic. Most fall somewhere in between. So I’ve been combing through them in the hopes of finding some little nugget of information that will magically make the revision process easier. Something that jumps out at me and says, ‘Here I am, the answer to all your questions and problems!’ Something that prompts an epiphany and makes me feel more confident in my task. I have yet to find it, and I’m almost positive it doesn’t exist, but I’ll probably keep looking.
The main thing I’ve learned from the hours I’ve spent (wasted?) pouring over the words of advice from other writers is this: you just have to do it. There’s no magic formula, or even set process. It’s all subjective. What works for one won’t work for another. Oh, how I wish there was a step-by-step list of things to do in the revision process! A nice checklist of tasks. That would be nice. Alas, I’ll just have to plug away and hope that I figure it out myself.