Friday, February 6, 2009
I can't write five words but that I change seven. - Dorothy Parker
The problem with revision is that it never seems hopeful to me; it just makes me feel like I failed the first time around. And I can't really complain successfully (meaning I get sympathy) to anyone unless that person writes. Then I can get lots of sympathy.
Actually, I almost never talk about writing, particularly my writing, to anyone I see on a day-to-day basis because where we live (a small seaport village that mostly supported McCain/Palin and doesn't miss a televised football game) no one:
a) believes that writers live anywhere near here
b) believes that I am one no matter what I say -
since the "real" ones don't live so close to the Chumbucket Bait Shop.
So I can only complain here. I tried complaining to my boys and they put their Ipods in and motioned that they couldn't hear me. My husband shrugged and said, "Just get it done." When I tried to complain to my daughter, she said, "Is it the middle grade story with the girl in it?" When I told her it wasn't, she walked out of the room. (Maybe flounced is a better word there).
What's so awful about revision? Well, look at the word a minute. It's a re vision which means you have to go back to a story you have mentally finished envisioning and face all the holes and gaps and weirdness that you ignored or didn't notice the first time around. I don't want to face them; I just want them to go away or fix themselves.
I have a friend who writes all the time, but she is still unpublished. She has such a better attitude than I do that she deserves to be published way more than I do. She's never surly about anything. In fact, she always tells me how she feels this wild sense of hope when she sits down to revise (see opening sentence) and I say encouraging things to her like, "What is wrong with you?" She sees revision as an opportunity to make her writing really shine, to learn from her mistakes, to pull everything together.
I know she's right, only I know it on an intellectual level, not on an emotional one. I feel extraordinarily put upon when I have to revise. I love to WRITE novels, not tinker. And what is this obsession editors have with logic and chronology issues anyway?
I get even crabbier when people (the ones I live with who are starting to get hungry and wonder when I am going to start dinner) say, "How's the editing going?" Editing is easy; revision should never be confused with editing. Editing is fixing grammar, spelling, tweaking a few sentences; revision is going into the structure and reorganizing the walls. It's work and writing is fun.
I can't imagine going through the revision process with other people. My friend (see above paragraph) belongs to a writers' group and she revises publicly - meaning, they sit around a Starbucks and tell her where her work needs to change. And she likes this, she drives there on cold nights to listen to their thoughts on revision.
That amazes me. I find it much better to hunker down, feel really sorry for myself, put a stack of chocolate next to my desk, and talk about how awful revision is because as long as I'm doing that, I can keep avoiding it.