Monday, June 18, 2012

Creating the Book I Originally Wanted

I heard an interesting quote the other day: “Money doesn’t make people bad; it reveals who they really are.” That’s so true, isn’t it? It occurred to me that revision works the same way.

I've done a lot of comparing my most recent draft with my first. I originally thought, “It’s a completely different book now,” but it’s not. It’s the same story, the same characters, the same themes. The difference is this new version is more like the one in my head when I started. You could say this draft is more similar to my story than the old novel.

In the first draft, I was constrained by my flaws. My betas’ comments would often frustrate me. “Why don’t they understand what I’m trying to say?” I would think, or, “How can they not see what I’m trying to show them?” I had a great novel planned out, but I wasn't capable of bringing it to fruition.

It’s a lot like painting. Everyone can come up with a beautiful image in their minds, but few of us can stand in front of a canvas and bring the image to life.

I have skills now I never had before, and those skills have freed me. Revision, in a sense, has freed me.

This reminds me of one of my favorite writing quotes: “You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you.  And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.”  ~Arthur Polotnik

Revision takes courage. There’s always the fear we’ll just waste our time, or make the book worse. Be brave! Learn all you have to so you can create the book you always wanted. I've spent a lot of time in revision, but I don't regret a second of it.


  1. You're incredibly smart. I love this post so much, especially the part about painting. It's so true! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I think it's funny. I'm doing something similar to you right now - revising a novel again, after querying again...and I was realizing this morning that this new version is more like the original than pretty much anything that came in between. It's just more....more. Glad you're like the way it's turning out :-D SO exciting!

  3. Oh so true. Love this post. It happens all the time when I go back again and again to edit or revise some of my writing. There's always something to improve on. Love the quote by Polotnik. You're awesome.

  4. I think one of the biggest fears I have as a writer is not being able to do justice to the story in my head. I want the writer to know the story absolutely as I imagined it, and I want them to be emotionally engaged in the same way I am.

    And the greatest joy is when the story becomes so much more than you first imagined (in a good way).

    I'd be interested to know what skills you have learned since you wrote the first draft?

  5. Thanks for this post! It's inspiring to hear that revision can reveal what the true story is, rather than turn it into something you didn't want it to be, which is always a fear I have with revisions!

  6. Thanks, guys! Charlotte, I could go on and on about all the things I've learned. If you click on the "Sacred Fire" posts at the top of the screen, you can scroll through some articles I've written on that topic. In summary, though, the most important things I learned are: 1. Follow a story structure with a main plot that has a central problem (my novel read like a series of short stories), 2. Flesh out your characters before starting to write, and 3. Thoroughly organize your research.

  7. I think this is an inspiring way to look at revision! I've felt that way about it, too-- that as I continue refining my story, I take what I said and turn it into what I meant to say.

  8. welldone Teralyn! I'm sure the final outcome will be great! I am rooting for you!

  9. Revising is scary! I know I get these tendencies to think that I need to make my first draft as perfect as possible or else it just won't be what I intended it to be. But I have to keep reminding myself that I can actually improve my story through revisions and make it even better than I thought.

  10. Great post! Revising is so intimidating to me - like you said, it's sometimes uncertain whether the changes you make are helpful or hurtful. Congrats on finishing a revision that you are pleased with :)


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