The day I decided I wanted to write my first book I had a vivid idea in my head. I sat down at the computer to begin and the words started to flow. To say I was beyond clueless in that moment is a mild statement. I thought all I had to do was form the words on the page, arrange my thoughts in some cohesive order, and the story would fall into place.
That first book began with all the cliché newbie mistakes: prologue opening (basically backstory info dump), a dream, and the very unoriginal look in the mirror to describe my character. Now, many years later I know better, but was I wrong to make all those early mistakes? Absolutely not. Those mistakes were all part of a process I had to go through in order to become a better writer.
In reality, writing is all about making those missteps and then going back and correcting them. It’s all about REVISION.
You can outline all day long. Create a chapter-by-chapter analysis of everything you want to accomplish: tension, stakes, driving plot forward, but in the end creativity and story take over. Many times I find my characters have something different to say or another path they want to take. Instead of adhering to that outline, I let them guide me. Take me where they need to go with the idea that if I get off track I can rely on my good friend, revision to get me back to the right spot.
Often times when I’m working on an edit for a client I find myself trying to frame the feedback in a way that will be the most positive. Challenging them to dig deeper in their characterization or narrative. But no matter how the words are delivered, one thing remains the same: the notes may sting. Even so, there’s still a need for change. For reshaping. For rethinking how a scene plays out.
Which brings me to my next point…There is NO SHAME in revising. Cutting that manuscript to shreds and putting it back together like a 500 piece puzzle is perfectly normal. While the first attempt at a draft is glorious, the real work comes with that second, third, or even tenth revision. It’s about shaping that story into a tale that will draw readers in and never let them go.
The revision process is a necessary step in writing. Please don’t let anyone tell you something different. When you receive feedback from a CP or beta reader it may be bruising, but there’s hope in those notes. It’s a chance to look at your story through another set of eyes. To see what is working and what needs to be refined. It’s okay to be a little shocked if you get six pages of feedback, but don’t get frustrated or angry. And certainly, please DO NOT GIVE UP. Give yourself time. Let the notes sit for a while. When you’re ready, go back and look at them with a clear, rational head. It’s in those moments you’ll find clarity and understand where your work needs to change.
Again, I’m not ashamed to repeat it…REVISING is what makes a story. Own it. Embrace it. Then get back to work, tearing the crap out of that manuscript until it becomes a beautiful book you know readers will love.