These past few months I have been submerged in revising one of my novels. It has been sluggish, at times arduous and discouraging, taking up a good chunk of my energy, which partly explains why I have been less present on this blog.
I tend to approach revision of my work like a ten year old might approach having to clean her room on a Saturday morning.
There are so many more interesting things to do, right? After all, the sun is shining and I really should take advantage of one of the few nice days left before winter settles in.
When it comes to editing my work I need all the help I can get not only to get my brain cells functioning out of slumber but also to once again get excited about my work.
This week, to help boost my enthusiasm over my novel, one of the members of the writing group I belong to forwarded to the gang this article on revising by Jane Smiley. Her essay titled The Purpose and Practice of Revision was published in Creating Fiction, edited by Julie Checkoway.
So, I was gleefully pleased when I read this passage in Smiley’s essay:
A good revision should involve you more deeply in your work and make you more eager to get at it. As a good reviser, you will gain two boons. First, your work will get better, and so will be more likely to get published. Second, you will like doing it so much that you will care less and less about whether it ever gets published.
Hmm. Like doing it so much. That sounds like an enticing promise to me. Somewhere between first draft and God only knows how many more drafts I lost interest. What was the point of going on when I already knew the story? Obviously, the point was to keep improving. We’ve all heard some form of this: a real writer writes.
The first idea you need to give up when you begin to revise is that you know what this story is about.
If you’re in revision mode, Jane Smiley’s article is a guiding light to shine on your process. In less than a dozen pages, Smiley has managed to capture the soul of revision, not a small feat when you consider that many books attempt to do so in hundreds of pages.
Her advice is precise, concrete and uplifting.
You can read the entire article here.