Say the word revisions around a group of writers and you're bound to get some interesting reactions. For some people, it's worthy of a gallon of ice cream, sprinkled with M&Ms, followed by a case of their caffeinated beverage of choice. For others, it's just another day at the old writing desk.
For me, revision was never really that big a deal because I normally revise as I write. I've tried to do it the other way, just let the words flow and come back when they are all down and tear them apart. My brain does not compute that way. I need the revision time while I'm writing to understand my characters, understand my story, know where I'm going--even though I have my huge plot outline already complete. I may go into the storytelling knowing the plot, but it is while I am writing that I decide how I will tell it. And revising as I go helps me do that.
Another reason I revise as I go is because I send each chapter to my critique partners after I write it. Getting their immediate thoughts helps me to see if the way I chose to tell the story worked or not, and it makes me actively choose the path to take next. Doing this also helps me to shorten my revising time after the story is completed.
But there is another kind of revision out there. A word that used to elicit fear from me. A word that I did everything I could to avoid.
Oh that word is freaking scary, isn't it? Like nightmare, chill to the bones, freaky-leaky scary.
But I've found that strangely enough, it's liberating, too.
Last month, I rewrote my YA Contemporary Romance. I mean I tore it up, taking out scenes, combining them, adding others, changing motivations, sharpening up the arcs, throwing out subplots. It was crazy. But a lot of fun. I also took an editor's suggestion and changed it from first person dual to third person, and went from past tense to present tense. Basically, there wasn't a word in this story I didn't touch. But I think it is a much better story for it. And my critique partners agree.
By tearing up the story and losing some of my 'darlings,' I also lost some of my fear of rewriting. It was much easier the second go thru because I knew these characters already, I knew the story and I knew where I wanted to make my changes. I just had to do it. It called on a whole other level of writing skills and I think by going into the story, digging deeper, I came out a much stronger writer.
Since the rewrite, I started another story and found that I changed again how I told my story. I am going deeper the first time, after having injected emotions and deeper motivations in my previous rewrite. I found I was connecting more with my characters from the get-go, which will hopefully save me a lot more time later.
So I was rocking and rolling, enjoying this new story, when an agent emailed this weekend asking for a revision of one of my stories. I think had this agent emailed me two months ago, I would have said "heck no." Or at least "heck no, not right now." Not because this agent isn't worth it--oh she is, believe me--but the idea was too scary. Too foreign and unknown. Now I am kind of approaching it as a fun challenge, digging back into this story that I love and the character that I adore, and making it . . . more.
Dare I say I am looking forward to it?
Okay, maybe not quite that much, but I'm not shaking in my seat at least, so there's an improvement.
Q4U: How do you feel about revisions and rewrites? Do you revise as you go, or draft fast and tear apart later? Have you had to do a rewrite, either by a personal choice or desire, or for an agent? What did you think about the process and final result?