Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Courage to Revise

This is your cabin girl, posting several weeks late (for which you can blame my AP history class) on where I am in the process of revising my brick of a manuscript.

Revising is something relatively new to me. The only revising I've ever gone through with has been short stories. But now I'm going to attempt to tackle a larger project. Which is pretty scary.

Always before, I could never get up the motivation to revise anything because by the time I was finished writing it, I was a much better writer than when I started and it wasn't worth it. But my latest manuscript won't leave me alone.

I've thrown it against the wall, re-written the ending three times and the beginning twice, given it up as a lost cause, argued with my characters (out loud on occasion), and come up with brilliant ideas for it that, upon five minutes of thought, actually turned out to be stupid.

And in the end I figured there was nothing for it but to revise because maybe then it will stop pestering me and I can write something else.

But as I skimmed the first few chapters and started working out my plot and setting and character and everything problems, I realized that I needed to be able to see the big picture before I went in and started changing things.

I had to read the manuscript.

This seems very obvious. But I have actually never done that before. I wrote it and then I let some of my friends read it (besides the ending, which was horrible), but then I shoved it in a drawer and let it sit.

I was a little nervous about reading it, because when I was writing it, I felt like the story was dragging me along and I had no idea what I was doing. I worried that reading it would be like that too. Or that it was so bad it really wasn't worth revising.

But I went ahead and started reading it. I'm a little more than halfway through right now. What I've found is very, very relieving: It's good, but has an amateur feel to it. It's very engaging, and intense in some places, but a bit patchy and thin on detail. I have some things I need to do more research on. I have a lot of things that need re-writing. I have a LOT of work to do.

But it means I can master this story. It felt like some insane, enormous, impossible thing that I couldn't control. But it isn't. It's not brilliant, and it's not terrible either, but most importantly, it's not beyond my ability to improve.

So I'm going to go ahead and attempt at a second draft and see how much I can do to make the story the best it can be.


  1. Amber, you've made an incredible leap here, being able to look objectively at your MS, seeing its positives as well as negatives. Bravo! Revising is difficult but a tremendously important step in the writing journey. I'm so glad you're taking it! Best of luck - I know your mom must be very proud of you. :)

  2. Way to go, Amber! I'm so excited for you. Revising is a lot of work, but it's also a lot of fun. This is the part of writing where you get to take your creation and characters and sand off all the rough patches to make them beautifully complex and real. This is where you make the story truly come alive. I used to HATE revising because the first draft was such a rush to write. Now I have to force myself to finish the first draft before I get lost in the pleasure of revising because perfecting each word is so rewarding. Yes, I may be crazy, but I'm totally addicted to revising. Like I said, I'm so excited for you!

  3. Amber, way to go! Being able to accomplish something like this while you're in school is huge. You've done some wise things already - getting feedback from your friends, and waiting a bit before reading it through. Feedback is important, as is giving your MS a bit of space on your part. Both of these enable you to see it clearly, which is such an important part of revising. I agree with Leisha. I used to hate revising, but now I love it. It's like wiping the film off the bathroom mirror after a shower, and seeing what has been there all along, only now it's focused. I hope you enjoy this step. Congratulations!

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