the account of my progress has been slightly overstated (but not my wordiness)
on the up side, i was able to get another 8 pages this morning, finishing chapter 19, and it’s only 8am. not bad.
on the down side, my numbering yesterday was off by 8 pages. i had only reached page 130, yesterday, but posted 138. at least i’m there, now. a little disheartening, though.
which leads me to some thoughts on revision. i blame myself for not making better process, yet, as i try to get my students to understand, revision is actually harder than creation. there a few basic reasons for this:
- it’s natural and human to think that the organic creation process has resulted in something that should stand on its own merits, particularly as it felt so good as it was being created. creation is intensely personal, and to admit that it’s not good enough the first time is to admit the creator is not perfect, which can be hard even for the most open-minded of us.
- revision often means getting rid of stuff, particularly as regards writing. i have to be willing to accept – actually, i have to be willing to agree and support – the idea that what i wrote the first time is not actually right for the story. no matter how much i may love a particular turn of phrase or scene or bit of dialogue, it may simply not belong in the piece i’m writing. this is incredibly hard.
- revision is intended to make something better, and, for me, this means a consideration of every single word, striving for just the write tone of a character’s voice, or the most concise and powerful way to evoke a mood or scene. the difference between one longer sentence and breaking it up into two shorter sentences, for flow; the difference between an ‘and’ instead of a traditional comma, for emphasis; the difference between ‘think’ and ‘believe’, for the connotative differences or simply to avoid repetition; the difference between ‘they will’ and ‘they’ll’; the difference between starting a sentence with an article or a prepositional phrase or a gerund, to lead the reader in a specific direction or other; the difference, in essence, between good enough, and something better.
now, i’ve worked hard to avoid feeling so invested in the creation itself that i can’t see, or be shown, the flaws and weaknesses that exist (and they most certainly do, particularly in the first stages).* getting rid of things i like but which don’t fit has been a bit harder, but once i am able to recognize the issue, i’m able to make the cut (i imagine it kind of like an old-fashioned blood-letting, to get the humours out).
the question of ‘good enough’ though, is one that constantly haunts me.** the image here shows a couple pages I did, today. it’s a little fuzzy, but you can make out all the scribbling, the scratches, the scratches of scribblings, the arrows shifting sections around, the scratches of the arrows, the scratches of the scratches which are then circled to keep as they were to begin with which are then scratched out and arrowed to another place entirely (with a couple more scribbled edits). it’s no wonder this takes so long, eh?
perfectionist? yes, to a point. i don’t believe i ever have the perfect way to say something, but i do think there are better ways than others. yes, this process is slow, and yes, it often snags on a point that perhaps no-one will ever consider or even be aware of (an ‘and’ or a comma? seriously?). this is not always a good thing, and can lead to symptoms not unlike unhealthy behavior.***
and yet, i love it; bizarre and microscopically focused as it may be certainly is, i love it. it’s part of the craft, part of my learning, my education. i believe, i hope, it is reflected in the end result, and i work to incorporate what i learn from all the markings and minute decisions into earlier drafts of successive works. i don’t ever expect to write a final novel or story in a single pass, but i do hope to steadily reduce the amount of revision as i go forward.
okay, that was a really really really long way of stating the obvious. anyway, now i’ve spent a half hour writing this, it’s time to get back to work.
* one doesn’t always succeed, of course, but one tries.
** and my long-suffering wife, who listens to me complain about these things and use them as excuses for not being finished, yet.
*** ‘lead to’? i hear you cry. fair enough.