Revision is hell. Whereas mediocrity is expected in the first draft, revision is the fabled realm of shiny, awe-inspiring perfection. I tend to forget that revisions are like climbing a up a pyramid: the first step will only get me a little ways up from the cruddy, muddy bottom. On an intellectual and experiential level, I know that this is a phase. From a metaphysical vantage, I’m looking up at the dense clouds obscuring my path and wondering if there is really even anything there to attain.
Here’s an excerpt from a Sunday brunch conversation:
Me: “I just realized I’m writing the world’s dumbest book.”
Mr. Aniko: “I guess we’re at this stage again.”
Me: “Stage? What stage?”
Mr. Aniko: “Where you say your story is stupid, and maybe it would be better to stop. You did this four or five time with Stolen Climates.”
Me: “I did?”
Mr. Aniko: “Yes.”
Me: “Well that was silly. Stolen Climates is good. Not at all like the dumb story I’m writing now…”
I have entered my first This Is Crap Phase of the revision process, and thought I’d share a few tips on what I am doing to overcome it. Yes, I am sharing these tips to avoid revision. I am also sharing because Mari Biella, author of the delightful novel The Quickening, has nominated me as a Beautiful Blogger! I hereby declare the first step to overcoming the This is Crap Phase to be:
1. Befriend other writers that you admire. Find writers who are fierce in their dedication to craft and honest about the legion of difficulties inherent to writing. I am fortunate to have the members of #TESSpecFic as well as Mari in my circle of writer friends. There are others, both online and off, and I can’t tell you how often they have given me the courage to keep going when all I want to do is curl up with other people’s books and ignore my own.
Once you’ve assembled a climbing party, the next thing to do is:
2.Tackle your overgrown yard. Yes, this is a metaphor for revision. It works best if your yard is so very, terribly, embarrassingly, non-HOA-compliant that when you drive down your street, you wonder where your house is. By clearing away the canopy of overhanging limbs, twining vines, and (really!) impressively tall weeds, you discover that you have a house. A cute house. Not perfect, but not the worst house in the entire world. This is the essence of revision: weeding, chopping, rearranging, and discovery.
Now that you’re at your desk, looking out on a recognizable yard & not a jungle, you need to:
3. Paint your nails. You’re going to be looking at your hands a lot because you have a LOT of revision to do. Extra points for nail polish that has a clever name, like “So Much Fawn” or “Commander in Chic.”
4. Tie your hair back. Yes, even the blonde-streaked bangs you got by accident, but turned out to look pretty good. Hair is a distraction you don’t need when fighting off a hydra of hyphens.
5. Wear your most comfortable, jersey stretch skirt. Nothing ends a writing session faster than a tight waist band. If you can wear a matching shirt, go ahead, but comfort trumps style.
Now for the difficult part. Bravery, bravery and nerves of steel! It is time to:
6. DISCONNECT from the internet. Yes, it hurts. Do it anyways.
The final, yet crucial step:
7. Open the file for your Work in Progress, put your pretty hands on that keyboard, and prepare to haul your jersey-clad booty up another level of stony, revision hell.
May your climb be happy!
PS – For those who got an early email with incorrect numbering, sorry! This puppy chose to publish itself before I was ready. A little less polish to it than I like, but my nails sure are pretty! xoxo
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