Friday, October 26, 2007

Why I Hate Revisions

So many bloggers have waxed eloquent about the joys of the revision process that I spent some time last night figuring out why I hate it so much.

I don’t hate sitting down first thing in the morning with a cup of tea, a pen, and the chapter I typed up the day before. I don’t consider those revisions. At that stage it’s just a matter of smoothing out language, moving things around a bit, taking a first look at the rough product of my previous day’s creation and making it prettier. That can be pleasant.

What I hate are those crucial, end-of-the-book kind of revisions. At that stage, the pressure is on. It’s time to fill in all the blanks I skipped (frequently I literally type BLANK), figure out some way to finish those scenes I left hanging, find just the right words for those expressions of emotions that wouldn’t quite gel before. It’s time to plug those plot holes I didn’t see, provide a motivation I’ve suddenly realized is lacking or at least weak. Everything I’ve put off dealing with either because it required me to invest days of research finding some niggling little fact, or because figuring out how to make it work was just too hard, must now be dealt with. The time for putting off is past. Worse, at this point I’m usually under a gun with my deadline barreling down on me. And with it comes the inevitable fear: What if I can’t pull it off? What if I can’t make this book work? What if I’m just not good enough? It’s a hideously stressful time. I don’t sleep well, and it goes on for weeks.

I really, really wish I enjoyed revisions. But I don’t think I ever will. Now I understand why.

61 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I had some of those kinds of issues with "Cold in the Light" because it was a pretty complicated book, but not so much with the Taleran novels. I remember that I didn't enjoy those problems either so I sense where you are coming from. When I say I like revisions I usually mean the "make it pretty" kind.

Steve Malley said...

My first drafts lookl like that too. And I'm just about as happy about fixing them up...

Chap O'Keefe said...

Another "me, too". Like you, I try to do the revision as I go, checking over the previous day's work and tweaking rather than rewriting.

I've recently being doing the kind of revision I least like -- taking bits out at the publisher's request, not because they're gratuitous, but mainly because he has a fear of what librarians might object to -- "regardless of whether or not anybody has complained we are issuing books for the public library market and I am sure the average librarian is well aware of the fact there is nothing to stop children borrowing these books."

Aaargh!! The publisher has already taken similar material from myself and other writers and it's out there on the library shelves. It's saddening that the responsibility should be regarded as the publisher's/author's if parents allow their children to borrow adult books from libraries.

It also makes for revision work of a kind I just DON'T LIKE.

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