On Revising

Revising is so vastly important in the writing world. Unless you’re one of those (1-in-a-billion) wordsmiths where everything you pen is pure gold the first time round (of which I hate and am amazed by), you simply have to revise. There’s no going around it. As writers it’s part of our DNA to think ‘this isn’t as good as it can be’ and type it over and over again until the work quite simply… is.

With that said, though, one of the most challenging aspects of writing for me is the revision process. When I’ve invested a good amount of time in creating a chapter it’s hard for me to go back into it, even when I know it’s simply not my best.

In general, my re-writing process commences as follows:

I sit and gaze blankly at the chapter under scrutiny and stubbornly think, ‘well it’s written all ready, isn’t it?’ then go play a video game or drag a string in front of my cat for a while. After an hour or so of procrastination I yank myself back to the computer (which I’ve nicknamed the Computer of Doom for the time-being while the revision process is taking place), plop down on the chair (hard as a rock even with pillows) and mentally tie myself down with a think cord of rope that will not be untied until the dang chapter is the best if can be. I open a new word document, glance at the old one, and sluggishly begin writing as if my very soul was being sucked out with each push of the key. Usually I just write the same exact chapter, with a few words changed, and then call it a day.

Not a very effective (or pleasant) experience.

I’m not entirely sure why this process is so hard for me to accomplish. I know it’s a huge part of writing effectively, and yet, every time I have to do it, my mind revolts and a stubborn streak I rarely show takes over.

However…

I’ve recently got a chapter reviewed and have a pretty rough revision ahead of me. Essentially I have to re-write the entire thing. But, in an attempt to stave off the soul-sucking, I’ve devised a new plan for tackling the process…

Step 1: review the comments made my fellow writers
Step 2: write down my new ideas next to the comments of my fellow writers
Step 3: grab a cup of herbal or black tea
Step 4: sit down (calmly) in front of my computer (no nicknames present)
Step 5: open up a new document
Step 6: look at my new ideas and figure out a way to include them into my chapter
Step 7: write the chapter, making sure I don’t just type the same chapter over again by 
            constantly glancing at the old one, and yet keeping the likable elements too
Step 8: send it out (again) and see what my fellow writers think (thereby forcing me to 
             actually re-write the thing and not merely change a few words)

I hope this process will work, but if it should fail, I’d like to have some back-up ideas so I don’t spiral into my soul-sucking again. Tell me, what does your revision process look like?

Warm regards,
Kellie

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The Inevitable Writer’s Block

It’s amazing how fast things can grind to a halt when dealing with creativity. There I was chugging nicely along when my muse thought it would be fun to detour me into an unimaginative wasteland. I finished my 6th chapter, started on the 7th and was quite happy with how it was turning out… then screech. Nothing. The blank page was frighteningly daunting to me. It suddenly stopped being the easy-going creative playground I’ve come to know it as and transformed into a white page of doom! It was pure agony!

My writer friends determined that perhaps I needed to make a sacrifice to my muse – a sassy little thing that demands a sprig of rosemary in exchange for inspiration – but that only lead to a conversation of whose muse is more demanding. Bloody lamb shanks and decadent chocolate dominated the dialogue for a while. We ended up deciding our muses should rent an apartment and live together, it was a lovely back-and-forth, but I got exactly no-where in my quest to write a novel. Sadness.

I slothed around for a few days, not really working on anything, watching way too much television (which seems to be the bane of my existence nowadays), and generally just procrastinated the inevitable. Sooner or later I was going to have to have to stop wasting time and actually try to write. I finally sat next to my computer, opened it up, clicked on Pages, and let the white glow of the screen bask over me. My fingers were hovering over the keyboard. Annnd nothing. The white page remained white for the longest time and I just sat there, thinking. Trying to come up with a good plot, an interesting dynamic for my characters, a planetary name, anything really. Nothing came to me. After an hour of doing nothing I ended up doing the one thing that seems to make my life a little bit better. I made tea. But not just any tea, a gaping cup of Lipton black tea with a dash of milk and (probably) too much honey. My happy place. I decided that I tried enough for one night and moved on. It took a few more days before anything else happened. It was completely frustrating, agonizing, annoying. Just plain dang stupid, in my humble opinion, that I couldn’t think of something.

I ended up drawing inspiration from the most unlikely of places. My folks and I were driving down the east coast, traveling from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania. I was sitting in the backseat with my older sister, just watching the scenery and poof. An idea came to me. Maybe I should write a scene with them having dinner, I thought, it’s a natural link to my last chapter. So I did. Maybe I wrote the scene because one of my writer friend’s asked about it. Maybe I wrote the scene because I was hungry. Maybe I wrote the scene just because I wanted to do something other than watch trees flash by. Nonetheless, I did. I ended up writing a tiny little thing that afternoon, only two pages or so. I may not even use the dang thing, who know? But at least it was a start. At least it got me writing again.

Remember, writing is an skill, you have to cultivate it, spend time with it, agonize over it, in order to watch it bloom.

Time for me to agonize again. =)

Warmest regards,

Kellie