For a first timer like me, Revision is a worrying word. When I started my book, I hadn’t encountered the idea of revision before, and had no idea what it entailed as a part of the writing process.
The internet was less than helpful. Some gems of advice included: “Congratulations. You’re finished. Now burn it. All of it. To cinders. Start all over, and you’ll have your first draft.”
And Holly Lisle’s course (one of my heroes) on Revision goes on for a thousand weeks.
Okay, maybe not a thousand.
I was crushed. And dubious.
I’ve learned that Revision doesn’t have to be such an intimidating concept, depending on your process. On my locked blog, one of my Betas assuaged my fears pretty effectively by pointing out that each story section had been heavily revised already, and the final draft just needed to be tied together properly. Theme had to chiselled out. Technical engineering had to bolted down. One character needed to be changed to a female, and all of her scenes rewritten to match her new identity; things like that.
Revision is the ‘finish work’ on the new house. Picking out the cupboard door handles, and making sure they match the wall paint. Shutters or window-boxes outside? Argon-gas windows, or refurbishing the old wooden sashes?
Which, it turns out, is a great deal of fun to do. And you need help. You need expert input, and fresh eyes to take a look at it.
But here, I think, is the secret.
You have to finish the rough construction first.
You can’t paint studs. That would be stupid. People would judge you. You can’t nail roofing shingles down into thin air without sheathing. You can’t put in a bathroom without plumbing.
And that’s your first draft. The bones.
Nothing more can happen until you’ve got that thing poured, fastened, framed, covered, weather-tight, and signed off for inspection.
Right now, that’s where my novel is. In the hands of the inspectors. It’s an agonizing wait (two of my beta readers are young dads; there is no spare reading time to be squeezed from their schedule), and I’m busting to get started on the final draft.
But there’s no hurrying an inspector. It just makes them grumpy.
So, in the meantime, I decided to start work on the next book. Because once you realize you can build a house, you kind of want to build more of them. There are new tricks you want to try, new nuances to play with. New kinds of hammers and nails.
Joss Whedon, Guillermo Del Toro, Lovecraft, King; all the greats beckon with the same advice.
Just keep writing.
To stop (and wait for my hard copies to return), would let my hammer arm get rusty, and help me forget what kind of solder to use on the pipes.
Now, after opening the blank document for the next book, and watching the cursor blink for only about 3 seconds before my characters tapped the back of my head to get their scene underway, I think I get it.
Like any crafts-person, you’re only as good as your next project.
And there’s always a next project.
Onwards, to sequel!