Revision blues

I have revision blues. I was so excited about starting to revise my WIP but I still have no real understanding of how to go about it, and when I can’t do something it makes me sad. Not very helpful or grown up, I know. If my daughter said such a thing to me I’d tell her it just takes practice and it’s okay to ask for help. She’s three. It’s okay not to know how to do something when you’re three!

I like to think it’s the impossible deadline (combined with a killer cold) that has sucked my motivation, but that’s just an excuse. I’m good at excuses. If I’m honest (in a way you can only really be with yourself at 1am) the difficulty with revision is that it exposes how little I truly know about writing.

I hate being a novice.

I nearly sobbed in rowing today because the coach was telling me I was doing it all wrong. It was only my fourth lesson but I’d done so well the week before it was crushing to be told I was rubbish. No one is more critical of me than me and I get extremely frustrated at myself if I can’t do something. To the point that – like my stroppy three-year-old – I stomp my foot, yell “Can’t do it!” and chuck whatever item I’m holding across the room. (Did I mention I’m more of a child than she is sometimes?)

I read another instructive blog by Kristen Lamb this week, this one was about structure and how it separates the beginners from the professional writers. I confess I didn’t completely understand the blog which probably puts me firmly in the not about to be published anytime soon camp! I do at least own the Plot and Structure book she quotes from: I just need to read it.

So, as well as trying to polish a first draft in an impossible six weeks, just in case I’m shortlisted for the Mslexia award, I’m trying to learn how to write and how to revise all at the same time. It’s no wonder I’ve picked up Garth Nix’s Keys to the Kingdom again. I’m already on Drowned Wednesday. I may not know much about scene and sequel or Goal – Conflict – Disaster but when it comes to displacement activity I’m a master.

The one positive I’ve had so far is discovering a useful revision summary by KittyB78. It doesn’t tell me how to revise but it does give some things to look for, such as scene flow and characterisation. I like the idea of highlighting different parts, like dialogue, internal thought, characterisation, in different colours. There are also some other great revision tips in the comments.

My biggest challenge this year might be resisting the urge to do NaNoWriMo again. I love it and several of my (unfinished) novels were born in November. However the last thing I need right now is another first draft to nag at me and distract me from actually finalising one of my existing manuscripts. Kristen Lamb is always talking about writers being distracted by the next new shiny.

That’s me!

Writing first drafts is so easy compared with revision and yet seems more like Writer work, so I don’t feel guilty for being unemployed as I do most days. If only they could do a revision equivalent of NaNoWriMo, to help and motivate you to beat a Nano first draft into shape. Now that I’d sign up to!

Anyway I think my darling son is finally asleep, despite the tap-taping of my mobile phone and the eerie sight of me up-lit in the darkness, so it’s back to bed for me. I haven’t revised more than a page in a week so must get a good day in tomorrow.

May the muse be ever in your favour.

6 thoughts on “Revision blues

  1. Revisions are difficult. Have you posted it through any critique groups yet? They really help to pinpoint what is and isn’t working, and why.

    Personally I like to go scene by scene instead of chapter by chapter.
    So, take your first scene and check the dialogue to make sure it doesn’t sound fake, or forced. Make sure it’s tight and moves the plot forward.

    Then there is the characterizations. Do the characters {main characters} have any little quirks about them?

    Several books I’ve found immeasurably helpful with revising are :Sol Stine’s On Writing, and Holly Lisle’s How to Writing Page Turning Scenes, and Self Editing For Fiction Writers by Rennie Browne and Dave King. 🙂

    • Thank you for your support. I admit I am terrified of critque groups and generally only let my husband read my stuff. He’s usually pretty good at critquing but he’s been so busy with work recently he’s only read the first couple of chapters. I also feel I can’t use a critque group unless I’m prepared to give as well as receive, and I don’t feel I know enough about writing to critque someone else’s work!
      Thanks for the suggestions of books – I actually have the third one and have read it cover to cover so at least I’m moving in the right direction! Interesting that Holly Lisle has written a book – I’ve heard of her course (see other comment) but don’t feel I have the brain-space to do a course or the confidence to be taken to a point where I hate my work: parenting has left me so fragile it would take very little for me to give up writing for good in the belief that I suck at that too! 🙂

  2. I understand how you feel! The revision journey itself is such a crazy roller coaster ride it’s inevitable that you feel despair at one stage. Just remember what you want out of it and what you want your finish book to be like. I have my moments when I get so impatient with the process but I have to remind myself to be present in the moment and the revision instead of jumping into ‘Why am I not published now?’ kind of mind frame.

    Honestly, I am so lost when it comes to revision and had no idea where to start hence the fact I took Holly Lisle’s revision course (which is now available lesson by lesson) which made me hate my story because it showed me everything that was wrong with it in clarity. But it also shows you how to fix things and all that time working with a rubbish first draft and hating everything about it is beginning to pay off. So just take it one page, one scene at a time 🙂

    • It’s very comforting to realise I’m not the only one who is completely lost when faced with my first full revision. I have been very tempted to take the revision course you mention – I’ve heard about it on a few blogs – but as I put in my other reply I just don’t have the capacity right now. Hopefully as the kids get older (and sleep better, have fewer tantrums) I’ll be able to face finding out that my writing is rubbish and have the strength to learn and grow from that experience rather than quit entirely! I keep reminding myself that I can be a writer forever and I’ll only have to juggle small children for a little while!! The pressure comes from needing to prove (to myself) that I can make some money as a writer, otherwise I need to go out and find a real job! I don’t have to make millions or even thousands, just some!! 🙂

  3. I don’t know how your manuscripts read, but I did touch the Follow button while reading your post on revision. To the end. I also check to see if I follow you on Twitter (yes). Here’s hoping that you find your path to power. You already know how to engage readers. Blessings and peace.

    • Thank you for your comment and your Follow. It’s my birthday today so haven’t got much revision done but I did treat myself to a trip to a real bookstore (for the first time in years) to buy a bunch of Young Adult novels. Not sure my manuscript compares favourably but it is helping to remotivate me! Thank you for also following me on Twitter – I’m afraid I don’t say very much, but having a new follower will increase my motivation to engage!

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