Friday, February 3, 2012

Reasons Not to Revise, but to Do it Anyway

Revising a “finished” book, like I'm doing now, is both exciting and terrifying. Eventually we're all faced with the decision to keep working or call a project "done." There are so many reasons to leave well enough alone, and just as many to keep going. 

Reason #1: I’m eager to make my novel better, but there’s always the fear that I’ll make it worse. I might go through months of work only to realize that I prefer the old draft.

Counterargument: Always, always, always keep past drafts separate from my current draft; never throw anything away. I have a file for Sacred Fire a, b, c, d, e, f, and now I’m starting a file for Sacred Fire g. (I can’t believe I’ve made it that far through the alphabet.) I can screw up Sacred Fire g as much as I want because I can always delete it and go back to f.

Reason#2: I’d hate to go spend dozens of hours on a revision and decide not to use it.

Counterargument: History repeats itself, and I've never regretted a single change I've made to my book, or a single minute I spent making that change. I have no reason to hesitate because I’ve done this before and I know how it’s going to play out.

Reason #3: I'm tired! How long is this going to take?!

Counterargument: Never shirk extra work. Writing a novel takes a long time. Let me repeat that: Writing a novel takes a long time. I’ll never make it as an author if I have a limit to the amount of time I’m willing to spend and then give up when I’ve surpassed the limit.

Reason #4: If a novel takes this long to perfect, maybe it's because the novel is too flawed to fix.

Counterargument: This is a distinct possibility. However, I've been shocked at how much I can change and keep Sacred Fire the same book, with the same themes, plot, and characters. Your novel might be eternally flawed, but you won't know until you try to fix it.

Reason #4: Maybe if I moved on to a different book, it'll turn out better than this one.

IfI don’t fix all the mistakes in this novel, I’ll have to learn how to fix them while writing my second. Even if Sacred Fire never gets published, it would be beneficial for me to finish revising this book so I can be as prepared as possible to move on.

Hopefully, I'm working my last draft!
…until I get an agent and she makes me revise it again. Then, of course, when I get an editor and she also has revision suggestions. What on earth did I get myself into?


  1. I'm currently making revisions to my thriller "Return of the Mary Celeste."
    I'm taking a nine week class on critiquing fiction and this is prompting a few changes in my manuscript. Sometimes it's hard to know if you are making your story better or just different.

  2. So true! I'm in revisions as well and I find myself wanting for it to just be done. I won't rush it. That is a mistake. But I'm excited to take my MS for a spin.

  3. This is a fantastic post! You have really captured the internal battle of the revision process. Thank you for providing such well-articulated counter arguments.

  4. Thanks, Cynthia! I'm glad you liked it so much.


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