24 October 2007

I Hate Loathe Detest Revision

I really hate revising. I know I'm not supposed to admit this. As an English teacher, I always pretended to love revising. Actually, as an English teacher, I did love revising, but only when the kids did it. Offering suggestions for revision, and then watching someone else revise, can be an absolute joy. You get to be a kind of midwife for their work, helping to turn and shift it so that it comes into the world fully formed and lovely.

If the editor is like the midwife, speaking in soft, encouraging words and dressed in muted earthtones, it follows that the writer is the one giving birth, screaming and sweaty and begging for drugs.

I really, really hate hearing authors rhapsodize about the joys of revision. I mean, if you loooooove revision, that's great, but please acknowledge the fact that it is HARD and it is WORK, so that those of us who don't sit down with our magic pens and zen-like appreciation for every task don't feel completely inadequate. Revision can be tricky, intricate work, like brain surgery, where you attempt to fix the things that aren't working without hurting the things that are. Revision means thinking analytically about all the tiny, subtle details that make you a terrible writer. Revision means facing the gaping plot holes, the sloppy characterization, the confusing time frame and setting, and embarrassingly awkward phrasing of your first draft. And you call yourself a writer? Were you DRUNK when you wrote this?

Of course, the awfulness of revision is nothing compared to the horror of seeing your humiliating first draft actually published. And maybe that's why authors profess to looooooooove revision so much. It's HARD and it's WORK, but it sure beats public humiliation.


Anonymous said...

Has anyone ever done a study on why all the stuff we think is brilliant when we first write it becomes Instant Shite when we re-visit it later? Because, seriously.

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate your recap of the party and for making me think a little bit about this new generation.
great entry!