Friday, January 6, 2012

My "Re-Vision" Vision

Over the past few days, I've been diligently working on my middle grade novel's revisions. After 30 pages of non-stop redmarks, cross-outs, rewrites and A-Ha moments, I realized something:

I was actually enjoying the revision process. (Wahoo!)

Now as an avid writer, you'd think I'd love every single part of the writing process. And in theory, you're right, but to an extent. I love the moment an idea pops into my head and I just have to get the details written down before I forget the magic in those thoughts; I love when I type The End or click save on my latest draft; I even have come to love (and rely) on the constructive criticism of my critique group members, knowing they have my story's best interest at heart.

The parts I don't like are few, far and between -- but still they exist.  For me, the one thing that stands out the most, is writer's block.  The moment I feel that I am not in the mood for writing, or the moment that I feel what I wrote down is no good, I find myself frustrated.  What other options do we have then to blame it on writer's block, or your cold that isn't making your head feel right, or that hostile conversation you just had with a friend.  Yeah, sure we could blame it on anything; use every excuse in the book.  We've all been there.

However, it's the beginning of a brand new year: 2012. Why not focus some of these pitfall in our writing career and see them as our own personal bumps in the road.  If writing came easy to us all the time, where would our excitement be?  Some of my BEST writing came at the moment where I talked myself out writer's block and put my BIC. (butt-in-chair as Jane Yolen says!) That's all I had to do and lo and behold, some great scenes were created.

What about the challenges?  Another writer once told me "When you revise, shoot your darlings."  I had mentioned to him how challenging my revision was and how one of my best chapters seemed in the way. He explained that while we may not want to, we may whine, complain, groan and moan, sometimes you have "shoot your darlings" and get rid of some of your favorite lines, chapters, scenes.  Heck, I know some writers who have omitted characters because their voice was just not working. And start over. (No!!!) Of course, make sure you save whatever you "shoot" in a separate file just in case you can use it at a separate time in the book.  But his advice was stellar; don't let one or two good moments hold your story back from having five or six (or more!)

Don't we feel even more accomplished when we overcome something difficult?  Sure, if an agent or editor accepted our manuscript after the first time we tried we'd be thrilled.  But think about it.  How much more will it mean to us if after 239 rejections, you finally get that "Yes!"  Wouldn't you be that much more excited versus 238 chances ago?

But I digress.

Back to my middle grade novel. As my first novel, I didn't have any expectations going into the revision process.  I grabbed a red pen, printed out my novel and sat down to read my own story beginning to end.  Boy was I surprised!  Why?  It allowed me to see all of the gaps:

1) My Main Character development needed some work.  i.e. Why would my MC say/do this in Chapter 2 and not again in Chapter 8? Would she really say that? Would she really do that?  What actions or thoughts of hers am I missing when a scene explodes? Why not push the envelope and see what happens if she doesn't hold back here, there, etc.

2) Who are my MC's friends? Why do they fit into this story and how?

3) Tying the beginning, middle and end together so they fit like a puzzle

Along the way I also checked my grammar, sentence structure, spelling and of course, word choice. Tackling these revisions have made my story so much stronger, and with every chapter I edit, I get more excited to share it with readers.  Maybe revision is such an important part of writing because it encapsulates what it means to be a writer: Re-Vision.  There's a reason the latter part of the word is as such.  Writers have a vision.  For some it's to share their story, or their passion with someone else.  Others it's to make an impact or difference in a reader's life.  Or maybe it's all of the above.  To share a story that will crack a smile, elicit a laugh or change one's outlook on life quite possibly is one of the best goals one can aim to reach.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on your revision process.  What do you enjoy most about it? Least like about it? Are there tips you want to share with other writers when revising?