Friday, August 15, 2014

Why Revisions Matter

This reminds me of myself, as I try to rework my manuscripts.
The art of creation is something most of us writers thoroughly love. Creating new worlds, fascinating characters, conflict-driven situations, suspense, and the gorgeousness of a romance is what writing is all about (at least to me).
You all know (because I've said it before) how I feel about revision. It sucks sometimes (okay, a lot of the time). You wrote something that you think is amazing, and now someone's telling you to change it?


Before you drop that critique partner, editor, or agent for daring to say anything critical about your work, here are some reasons why revisions matter:

1. Your first draft is NOT that good.
Yes, you read that correctly. And it's true. First drafts are important because they allow the writer to get the story down onto paper. At least the nuts and bolts of it. The fact that you finished a draft is impressive because--let's be honest--most don't. However, if someone decides to play a game of basketball with little practice, knowing only the rudimentary skills and knowledge of the game, is that first game going to be exceptional? Brilliant? Poetic? Magnificent? Make-you-want-to-cry-because-that-person-is-so-talented? Probably not. Now what would happen if said person continued to practice after that game? What if they took what they learned and went back to the court and kept working at it? Would the game be improved?
So, why-oh-why are you holding onto that first draft? You've got some untapped potential in there, but revisions help you tighten it up and make it that much better.

2. Revisions strengthen your skills.
The more you revise, the more your eyes are opened to shoddiness in writing. This works not just for yourself but when you study other works as well. Revision forces you to go line-by-line, sentence-by-sentence, page-by-page with a critical eye. This involves critical thinking and advanced skill. Don't believe me? Go teach at a middle or high school. I've taught for fifteen years and most novice writers think that first draft is beautiful thing. Why do you think they wait until the night before to complete it? I've written about my first novel. When I finished it (seriously, as soon as I typed "the end"), I started submitting it to the big houses. I thought it was a million dollars waiting to be discovered. Now? Ten years later? When I'm done drafting, I let the novel sit for several weeks, so that I can go back to it with fresh eyes. Because I KNOW it will need revision.

3. Revisions show your willingness to work and listen to others.
Who wants to be in a critique group with someone who always defends their work, or who will not take any constructive criticism? I WANT to know what is not working in my novel. I WANT to know if I've used a word too much. I WANT to know if my sentence structure is confusing, or if my paragraphs are too long, or if my dialogue is too stiff and formal. Why? Because I want my novel to be the best it can be. I want an agent and editor to see a tight, exceptional manuscript, one that shows that an immense amount of time, effort, and creativity went into it. I also want agents and editors to know that I will work with them. If they want me to fix something. Done. I'm not going to argue or give them a headache. (This doesn't necessarily mean make EVERY change, but at least be open to fix what needs to be fixed).

So, do revisions matter? Yes, they do.
Take the time to revise. Your writing will only be that much better and that much stronger.

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