The “R” Word

For most writers there is a dirty “R” word and it’s called…revision. There is nothing more painful or disheartening than going back and reading through old unpublished works that desperately need to be reworked and then some.  I have had to battle myself many a time  in deciding whether I should scrap a whole story or try to “fix” everything that’s wrong. You do this enough times and it gets easier, but it still hurts.

There’s nothing worse than a finished work that is so bad you let it sit for months and months, if not years in my case sometimes. Leaving a story unfinished is almost preferable to that. Annoying but still a work in progress. But fear not, my most recently published work ( rejected over three years ago and took me all that time in the interim to revise and finally get an acceptance.

Going back through your dusty duds can feel like digging up old bones in a graveyard, but it does help one to appreciate how much they’ve improved over time. Sometimes all you need is to put your pride aside and cut into yourself to get the gem that you envisioned in your head before you even sat down to try and put it into words. “All great writers revise” right?

So here’s what helps me, I pull up the worst of what I’ve kept and read through it. Really let every sentence hit me and then walk away for a day or two. Usually by the time I come back I’ve tortured myself enough, having the idea fresh in my mind, and I go through and mark everything that needs to be taken out. Then I start with a new document and begin to rebuild with a vengeance. Sure it doesn’t always work. You can’t always get your ideas to take the proper shape. That’s when you say “Trash!” and dramatically crumple it up and toss it, or just click delete depending on your style.

The dirty “R” word doesn’t have to be as bad as we often make it out to be. Some of the greatest writing out there was once in some writer’s trash pile. It is up to the artist to trust in themselves and save that really bad one or just let it sit for long enough to let your brain bubble. Yes I just compared the creative process to making stew but it works.

I am a very eccentric, impatient person. I know, that can make for a lot of fun in the writing industry. But even though I’m often dying to submit work and spend way too much time creating characters that have no bearing on my “real” life, I do my best to s-l-o-w down and take a breather. The more I do that the less I have to revise and the better my work is. That’s not to say that I haven’t produced some real bombs lately, but I’m not nearly as apprehensive when it comes to digging around and gutting a story to bring it back to life.

Write and revise, the two go hand in hand.

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