Revision – A Little Like Take Pruning Shears to You Kid
Ok, let’s talk revision. This is the hardest part of the process of writing for most of us. Personally it really is a little like pruning my kid; it’s horrifying, especially when it’s one of your favorite kids. (Not that I have a favorite…ahem…)
Revision has to take place. When we write a first draft it is all about getting the story on the page, internal editor be darned. We open the vein and pour everything we have out without thinking about the final project. What happens if you finish your first draft and you are absolutely positive it is the Great American novel? Do you then go back through it and hack it to pieces? Yep…there’s no way around it.
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If you are like me, when my first draft is on the page there is no regard for the little things like spelling, commas or even structure to some degree. It comes out of my head in the same way I hear it and, trust me; no one wants to hear what actually comes straight out of my head at times. The revision process allows the writer to correct the basics, redirect the story in weak places and ensure that they are not running off somewhere they never intended the story to go. It is a chance to take out all those extra words too. Come on, you all know what I’m talking about…writers are the teenagers of the literary world but instead of using words such as “like”, “you know” and “for sure” we just tend to throw ALL the words onto the page. When you write a first draft of 100,000 words you can bet that during the revision process you will discover that you don’t actually need about 20,000 of them.
Three revisions rule
I subscribe to the idea that you need at least three revisions. Revision 1 is to read through and take out all those extra words. Revision 2 takes place so that you can rework the weak parts of your story after having just tightened it. Revision 3 is where you have put the draft in a drawer for a couple of weeks and then come back and re-read it. Sure there will be times when even after three revisions a publisher will come back with their unyielding red sword and cut even further. It’s all a part of the process and if you want to be a writer who sales books…deal with it. Let’s face it, most of us will never hear the words, “No Mr. King, its perfect…no need for editing here….”
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The bottom line is that revision is a necessary part of the process. Think of it as cutting the old growth so that your flowers can actually bloom better…..or…think of it as cutting the mean family members out of your will so that your money goes for the greater good…whatever makes it easier. Revision is the second most important thing you can do as a writer. So get that first draft onto the page and then get out those pruning shears….it’s really for your story’s own good.