Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Nasty Side of Revisions/Edits

My number one beef with revisions/edits for an unpubbed writer is that they...

NEVER END!!!

Seriously, if you're a pubbed author, the edits come to an end when the deadline arrives, but if you're like me, unpubbed, there is always time for one more round of oh, I'll just try it from this angle instead, or, oh, now I just learned this, so lets get back in there and incorporate that somehow in this older story, too. Or, oh, I learned this new wonderful word, it's such a strong adjective and I remember in such-a-such-a-story this happened and I just have to replace that dull adjective with this one now. And of course, once you get in and make that one change, you start cooing and ooing over your old baby from start to finish again, making just one more round of revisions that magically morphs into several more.

And if you've set that story aside for months, even a year, think how much you learned through those craft books and at conferences to start the whole rewriting process again. It's like that song:

This is the song that never ends,
it just goes on and on my friends,
Just when you think you have reached the end,
the song begins again.

This is the job that never ends,
it just goes on and on my writing friends,
Just when you think your story sparkles bright, you discover something new,
and the edits begin all over again.



My second hate of rewrites/revisions/edits, is the initial overwhelming feeling that paralyzes me. Do you ever experience that? It's like you're trapped in a shed with knives hanging on every wall and a tornado comes smashing and howling in your direction. You curl up in a little ball, and start praying for God to just take you now before you feel the stabbing pain of each of those sharp, sharp daggers flying straight toward you. There are just too many for little weak you to conquer and heal over. It'd be better just to die of a heart attack, or bleed to death given the circumstances ... than bear the long, painful, tedious recovery ahead.

And thirdly, and I'll stop here, since I'm getting depressed, is that you go cross-eyed with the repetitive process of reading and re-reading as you layer in your revisions and make sure your I's are dotted and your T's are crossed, and your Was's are no more.


Taking a deep sigh here.


Boy, am I glad NaNoWriMo is just ahead. I'm wrapping this current ms first draft up by Saturday at midnight, then I'm packing it away in a box, and delving into another exciting first draft. And for one whole month, I will not think of revising any of my previously written stories. I will not allow myself to think of fresh new wording for any of those stories, period. I will just dance in the glory of first draft writing, denying all that is to come.


Thanks for listening to my rant. Got anything to add to my list of horrors? Halloween is coming, after all. This is when the ugly masks are allowed to come out and play.

P.S. I have an article posted on Writers' Rest today regarding my Monday night experience at a Writers' Collective. Would love to see you over there, too!


Surrendering to Him,

Eileen

34 comments:

Rebecca Nazar said...

LOL. I'm lovin' this post and you're getting a big ditto from me. Ugh, editing . . .

Why do you think I write short stories? There's less to slog through.

Gwen Stewart said...

It's the pits, Eileen. That's all I can say right now. The pits.

I desperately need a new story to write, which is part of the reason I'm going to bust through the rewrites. Just so I can be done with this dag-nabbed story and move on.

Hang in there!

Joanne said...

Oh what a journey we venture on with our words! I recently wrote a short nf piece that my trusted reader was disappointed in. She said my "voice" was nowhere near strong enough. Which was true, but not a concrete technicality to improve, more of an abstract feel I had to work in. Back to the keyboard I went ...

Jessica said...

Haaahaa! Too funny! Yes, you're completely right on with this list. I've felt all those emotions. Grrr...

btw, I'd love to hear you sing that song in your cute accent! LOL

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

Man, you had my teeth chattering inside that shed. :D
It's no fun, but knowing it is working to improve things helps me.
~ Wendy

Angie Ledbetter said...

You pretty well described the feelings surrounding the revision process. Ground Hog Day meets Saw II. :)

Robyn Campbell said...

I shall visit you over at Writer's Rest, Eileen.

And may I say that it appears WAS is my most beloved and cherished word.

I agree with you that the edits NEVER END. But there does come a time when we MUST say It's DONE! Because we can edit too much and risk loosing our story to revisions. It will change so much that it isn't what we wrote and loved. Great post! :)

Anna said...

You hit three nails right on the head!

The way I look at it, after the initial writing, then comes another creation of sorts. The framework exists, in varying degrees of completion, and it's like a puzzle, or how I see embroidering. Placing stitches in strategic places, for maximum beauty.

The more I read (not necessarily edit, only reading) a MS, then I find I have a better feel for what I've written, and what needs assistance. It's a bit daunting when you first jump in, but there are the words set down, words that came from someplace in our hearts, souls. As we daily are hoping to become more Christlike (and what a journey THAT is!) so do our manuscripts evolve, which at times seems just as painstaking and cumbersome as this daily life in faith.

Having said all THAT, I've been editing all month as well and cannot WAIT for NANO to begin!!

Diane said...

Sorry for the crossed eyes. Definitely a heads up to stop and take a break. :O)

Stephanie Faris said...

Honestly? I just walk away. I refuse to get caught up in a pattern of editing the same manuscript over and over again, so I write it, revise it once, and send it off. If an agent/publisher requests revisions, THEN I'll dive back in but only then. I move onto the next manuscript, always moving forward. But that's just my method.

Forgive me but I skimmed over that "Song that never ends" song...once that song gets stuck in my head, it's there ALL DAY!

Natalie said...

I hate that first revision, or any revision where I know major changes have to be made. Stressful! But it will end eventually, and every pass makes the manuscript stronger.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Stephanie, I wish I could be like you. I go onto the next ms, but my old ones always call me back to them periodically and then I get sucked right back in. I keep moving forward with new stories, and I do see an improvement with each new first draft, but that makes me want to improve the old too.

Jody Hedlund said...

I love your analogy to the shed in the tornado! That's too funny!! But I can relate to all of these in a VERY real way! But it does seem unending, even though I now have deadlines. I know that even though I'm laboring HOURS over these rewrites, that I still have another BIG edit to go--the line edits where I'll have every single word and line of my MS analyzed! I'm scared about that one too! Because I know how much work it will involve! We can tell ourselves how much better our books will be, but it still doesn't ease the pain before the gain!

Erica Vetsch said...

The shed and the knives was a very vivid picture! EEK!

I'm proofreading galleys right now, and even at this late stage, when I've edited this manuscript many times, I see things and think "I wouldn't write it like that now." But I can't change too much at galley stage, this is a time for minor tweaks and grammatical/formatting errors, not restructuring.

Yay for Nano and releasing our writing inhibitions for a month of literary abandon! And NO editing.

christicorbett said...

Eileen,
I have one to add...all the paper and printer cartridges you have to buy to print out all your "new and greatest drafts" Then, two days later you find yourself hitting print again for another version.

Super expensive!

Christi

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Still love line editing.

Still scared of macro editing.

Having finished my second novel, which is now under submission at a few major houses, I am going back to my first to try to improve it while I wait for news. This is a daunting task! Scene by scene, there's a lot of good stuff in there, but it needs a major revision to unify the storyline. It's hard to make those choices myself.

Wendy Love said...

Eileen,
This could be my rant too! I am also looking forward to putting it all aside for the month of November and just sitting down to my computer and letting it all pour out, with no thoughts to fixing it up, or using what I learned.

Cindy said...

I feel many of those same things about editing. I hate that overwhelmed feeling and not knowing where to start. But the good thing is that we learn and grow as writers with every revision. All working toward a bigger goal. Have a great day!

Julie Dao said...

Eileen, I agree with everything you said in this rant. It's incredibly frustrating sometimes! But it's terrific that you are looking ahead to NaNo when you can just put this story aside and start a whole new project. Sometimes all you need is some time away and when you start revising with fresh eyes, for some reason it comes so much more easily!

I've passed an award on to you at my blog! :)

Susan R. Mills said...

I totally agree with your hates. I would add wasted paper to the list. I have to read from a hard copy, so I tend to have stacks of paper all around me. It is one of my hates.

Ava Walker Jenkins said...

Great imagery on the knives from the ceiling.
I am not at the revision stage yet, but I can relate to it with home projects. "We need a new computer, but I don't want it on that old desk. If we are going to move out the old desk, we might as well paint the walls. Oops, the curtains certainly don't match the new paint color anymore. Have you seen these new carpet samples, sweetie?" Then we are on to the next room or in your case, the next chapter. Best of luck to you.

Need More Words said...

Your descriptive writing is great, I was curled up in a ball in that shed with you.
May NaNo be a time of refreshing and laugh out loud fun for you.
Diane

Jill Kemerer said...

I'm with you! The river isn't far from here. I'd gladly throw myself in to avoid revising! Ha!

NaNo hear you come!

Danyelle said...

Yes, editing and revising is painful. It's my least favorite part of writing because of the whole crossed-eyed effect one gets from analyzing so many words at a time. But, once the revising is over, it's the most wonderful feeling to hold that polished story in your hand.

Georgiana said...

You're sooo right. I read a quote once, and I *think* it was Jerry B. Jenkins who said that when you're making your manuscipt DIFFERENT instead of BETTER, it's time to stop. Of course, I've never been able to find that quote again, so it might not be him.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

It's so true. I get really tired a lot quicker when I edit. It does seem overwhelming and like it goes on forever. I think the latter might be a writer's curse--always finding something else to change, even after publication.

Tabitha Bird said...

editing *sigh*
though I know it makes my work stronger, I sometimes just wish I could wave a magic wand and have my words be perfect.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Eileen -

Oh yes, I can relate to edits never ending. It's like living in the movie, "Groundhog Day," where the main character lives the same day over and over.

It's a relief working on a new first draft.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Krista Phillips said...

I TOTALLY get this! Just one more edit...

AT some point we have to let our little bird-book fly.

*sigh*

VR Barkowski said...

Oh, so true. Editing never ends. I can't figure out how it is that I can go in to add a single comma, and I end up re-editing the entire MS. I'm convinced the only answer to the never ending editing loop is publication.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Too funny! Rant all you like! :) Because we know exactly what you mean!

Sarah Forgrave said...

I'm hopping into this discussion late. I'm sooooo feeling all these rants right now, because I've been editing and re-editing my current wip far too long now. It doesn't help that I'm trading different chapters with different CP's, so every time I get it back, I have more edits. Aargh! I'm close to ditching this one for a while to start a fresh new story. :-)

KelliGirl said...

It sounds like you have your work cut out for you! I have a hard enough time editing an article, I can't imagine editing a book. Definitely a test of perseverance.

The thing with words is that they are infinitely perfectable. Knowing when to say "enough" is a talent.

Go get 'em at NaNoWriMo.

Regina Quentin said...

All that you say about revisions and rewrites is so true. It's the writer's form of R&R. Instead of resting and relaxing we are up all the time, always looking for the better way to do/say something in our ms.

My main problem is starting. I have the hardest time sitting down and going for it. It is overwhelming to start edits. I'd rather start a new story.