Revising a novel is a very different undertaking than writing one. Granted, when I write one, I seem to be perpetually in revision mode even while I’m generating new content; I tend to start new sections only after reading a few already-written ones, and I inevitably tinker with wording, add new dialogue, or in other ways alter existing writing. But I always have an endgame: a new scene that I’ve at least partially blocked in my head.
Revising is in no way as straight-forward for me. Right now I’m overhauling the first novel I wrote, Stowe Away. I started at the beginning, and had planned to work my way through the story in order. After I got halfway through revisions, life events (and the holidays) got in the way of my progress, and I had to step away from the novel for a month. Now that I’m diving back in, I find myself starting at the beginning again, which is perhaps an advanced form of procrastination. Indeed, the traps of revision are many:
– Feeling too precious about your material and therefore unwilling to dig in and cut or change what isn’t working. When this happens, you end up just reading your novel cover to cover and congratulating yourself on it. And celebrating with chocolate.
– Spending way too much time on a single scene, which will of course never achieve the perfection you can see so clearly in your mind. After days and days laboring over 3 pages, you suddenly realize that the whole novel is longer than 250 pages, and you’re supposed to share this scene and the three that follow with your writing group tomorrow, and maybe you should move on. This revision trap is why publishers and editors (and self-sufficient writers) create deadlines. It’s also one of the best reasons to have a writing group. At least when there’s a deadline you have to stop writing, at which point you deserve some chocolate.
– Feeling no attachment whatsoever to anything you wrote. This dialogue needs to be cut, and that sentence is awful, and this whole paragraph absolutely must be deleted. Actually, it’s all tripe that no one would ever want to read, and why did you ever think you were a writer to begin with, and maybe you should do something more worthy of your talents like scooping the cat box. Thank god you save backup files of your writing so that the next day, when you are feeling better about yourself, you can resurrect most of the material you cut the day before and examine it with a more reasonable attitude. And chocolate.
I suppose it’s worth mentioning that Astrid had asked me if I wanted to contribute a blog post about my writing process, not my neuroses (or my chocolate addiction). I more or less think they’re the same, though, and I suspect most self-respecting writers would agree.
Anyway, I’m revising Stowe Away and, when moments of inspiration hit, writing scenes and bits of dialogue for the sequel of Barring Complications, entitled Benched. Both projects are probably going better than I’m letting on, and I’m excited about them. They’ll be coming your way this year and next, and I hope you enjoy them! In the meantime, if you’d like to read previews of both projects, here’s the link for Stowe Away and Benched.
Happy reading (whatever you’re reading these days)!