Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Revision and Revision and Revision

Excuse me Will, but I've got my own spin on this soliloquy.

 A Shameless Rewrite

Revision, and revision, and revision,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of my YA novel;
And all my earlier work has lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, bad sentence!
A writer’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his angst upon the page,
And then is read no more. It is a tale
Writ by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

With apologies to Shakespeare for my bastardization of Macbeth’s haunting soliloquy (only Shakespeare could make repetition sound so gorgeous) as a way to express most writers’ gloomy attitude as they begin their revisions. Even those of us who feel energized by revision (I include myself in this disgustingly cheerful bunch) can’t help but sigh at the amount of work they must do as they start on page 1 of their 300 page manuscript.

However, it is only through revision that we can make our writing shine. I wish I could compose an amazing piece of fiction first draft, but I can’t. If you are one of those, please know that I hate you and want to knock you severely about the head and shoulders, because I, unfortunately, am not that talented.

You wrote that in one sitting? Take that, you show off.

And because of my lack of initial brilliance, I have become quite the master of revision, hence this post. If you, like me, dump everything into your first draft then you, too, must revise. The key to this process (described below) is to separate yourself from your manuscript; doing so allows you to return to it with fresh eyes and new ideas on how to improve. At least that’s my hope with my latest editor setback. Ah well, enough of my never-ending writing angst, let’s get to work.

When I finish my first draft, I set it aside for anywhere from a few days to a few months in order to let it stew, and perhaps for me to get stewed a time or two. Anyway, after giving both my manuscript and myself a breather, I begin rereading and revising. I rinse and repeat this step until I think the thing is ready for an outside opinion. At this point, I give my manuscript to a couple of friends that read a lot. The first time I did this, they were way too gentle, but now they are more outspoken, which is a great help. After I do this a few gazillion times, I spend the money for a professional critique. Good ones are expensive, but they are worth it. Professional editors help you pinpoint the problems so you can either once again revise or toss the whole thing out and start on something new.

My current novel is in that final stage–do I go on or just chuck the thing in a drawer and move on? As I ponder what I’m going to do, think about what Will would think about this whole blogging thing.

Hey Will, make up your mind already.


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Well done. Most don't get much right on the first draft. We tend to get stuck in gems and surround them by "sound and fury."

Liz Fountain said...

That's one of my favorite Shakespeare passages, and perfect for the revision I'm in right now. Thanks!