Thursday, August 27, 2015

Head Meet Keyboard...Ruminations on Revision

Recently my husband said one of either the funniest or most devastatingly sad things I have ever heard him utter. When he asked, ‘how’s the book going’, I answered, as I have answered for probably the hundredth time, “I’m revising.”

My husband, whom I love dearly, looks genuinely confused and says, “I thought you did that already.”

Ha. Hahah. Hahahahahah—devolving into sobs.

My face must’ve looked incredibly odd, because my emotions immediately went into a brutal tug of war. One side, ready to laugh uproariously, like that was the funniest thing I’ve ever heard, the other side ready to crawl into the life-size hole my dogs have dug to access the underside of our deck, and crawl inside never to be seen again.

Yes, again, I’m revising. Again.

And I am under no illusions whatsoever I am done. My manuscript is just getting ready to be submitted to publishers, I’m still approximately the sun and earth distance away from holding a copy of my book in my own, greedy, keyboard-palsied hands.

I’m half-way okay with that.

Halfway, because, let’s be honest, holding a word mountain of your own creation in paper form is a moment of supreme pride. You’ve created something that has never existed before, used your complex frontal cortex to weave imagery and characters and plot. The act of creation…there’s nothing like it.

But the other half of me knows and accepts I am new to this. If I ever want to present more word mountains to the world and expect the world to ask me for more word mountains, this particular word mountain needs to be totally, and without reserve, kick ass. Which means making it as good as it can get, heeding the advice of the community of people who are trying to help me get there-- my freelance editor, my betas, my CPs, my agent, and hopefully, one day, my editor.

It takes a village to make a mountain.

 Or something.

Anyway. Probably the most important thing I’ve learned about revision is this: it’s not all uphill. Every change you make won’t *necessarily* make it better. Probably worse than any rejection I’ve received is the feeling of putting in tons and tons of work into a revision, reading it, and feeling abject horror at what you’ve done to your baby.

It happens. Been there.

There is a gift in all this. Not like a Christmas morning gift, complete with instant gratification. No, it's more like the super special vacation around the world that you will take one day, that you spend years readying yourself for, that you hold gently in your best daydreams. It's a gift like that.

Each revision makes us better. Better, because we did something genuinely awesome, marginally better, or because we learned something to never do again. Either way, revision makes you a better, more polished, more experienced, more efficient writer. Possibly even more than actually writing the word mountain in the first place. After all, not all mountains are the same. There's landfills, and there's the majesty of the Rockies.

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