Thursday, January 21, 2010

To Write Well is to Revise a Lot!

Writing is not easy. It is not for sissies. It is not for the weak of heart. A lot of would-be writers never finish their first drafts. They start many novels, but get mired in the middle never to escape the bog of doubt and fear that they've lost sight of their vision. A few struggle past and pull themselves out of the soul sucking middle ground and race happily to THE END.

Yay! First draft! The writer is officially DONE.

But not so. No. Unfortunately, after a breath of air and a break from reaching the story's resolution. One learns if one is a writer with the guts to go the distance again. Not just once. Not just twice. But often times three, four, five and six times. Maybe more. Each time issues with the story, the characters and the plot are ironed.

Someone once asked, when is it finished? I say not until it's sitting on a shelf in a bookstore or on-line with an e-publisher ready for someone to buy, read and yearn for more of the author's writing.

However, as a writer, I must say that for me the end comes when I've polished it to the point where the only way I'd rip into a plot again is if an editor and/or agent said, "Love your voice, but we want you to do X to make it better." In other words, I want to be under contract before I revisit the book for a billionth time.

And at a certain point, it's time for me, the writer, to take what I've learned and move onto the next project. Hopefully, all will happen faster. There will be less revisions to the overall plot and characters as I grow as a writer honing her craft.

For now I slog on. I have beaten back this story a lot. I've rescued my characters three times. I've reinvented the plot three times. I'm back in for more work. Deep work. Hard work. Unrewarding work (no pay here). One pat on the back I will receive will come from other writers who know all to well the pain of revising (cutting our beautiful words, letting go of the original ideas and moving on--HARD).

The other pat will come from me. To myself for having endured again. And for trying.

That's all I can do. That's all any of us can do.

How do we do this?

At times, for me, it's the mere fact that I refuse to give up on my characters. This is their story. Other times, I refuse to give up on myself. I started this journey. I want to finish it.

And you know what? The craziest part about being an unpublished writer wrestling with words is the greatest reward after multiple revisions is that I get to start a brand new book.

I get to do it all over again.


Zoe said...

We're masochists aren't we?

I used to churn out books and refuse to go back to them until my WIP, but now, 3rd draft in, I feel your pain. But I recognise the joy too, sure this new draft is a pain in the hole, but I can see things coming together, the story is becoming more than it was, my baby is growing.

Christine said...

Hi Zoe: yes we are masochists. I even added more pain to my work by deciding to stretch a category romance of only 50,000 words into a single title contemporary romance with suspenseful elements. That's another 25,000 words and I have to delay some of the emotional elements till later. I guess I must really like hitting myself over the head with my writing bat.

Good luck with your baby. I know you'll get to the end again. Third draft in is usually where I feel the story coming together. Hang in!

Christina Wolfer said...

And sometimes the best reward is seeing the orginal story, the original idea five time better than you thought it was originally. I'm back on book one, something I swore I was done revising and I'm making changes, thinking how did I not catch that before. But I've learned so much in the past two years, so I look for things and at things differently. It can be painful 'cause sometimes you just want to get to the next project and as a writer that is one more thing we have to learn - is knowing when to put it away and truly move on.

Christine said...

Tina, this is so true! I know you're right. And I still visit my first WIP and I know I can fix it based on what I have learned.

Great insight.

Anonymous said...

You have such a way of putting things... it is such a love/hate relationship we have with our manuscripts, isn't it?

Christine said...

Martha, it's true. The relationship writers have with their work is an ambivalent love affair!