Revision Hell – Or – Hangups of a Fiction Writer


So, I’m currently on the first revision of my novel, Soul Cavern. I’m plodding through, really unsure of myself. Revisions are not something I do much of. That’s not to say my writing is so phenomenal that I don’t need revisions. I do need revisions. I’m just not used to doing them.

My mentor, Mike Arnzen, tells me that I should take this time and really make my story shine. To show the world all the neat creativity I have. To surprise them, maybe scare them, impress them.

Revisions are difficult for me because I’ve never really done any. So I’m flying by the seat of my pants, fiddling with things in a marginal way, tweaking some wordage. Am I really revising? I have no idea.

Some of my classmates at SHU can take their manuscripts and completely rearrange the chapters, taking chapters from the middle, putting them at the front, etc. How do they do that? Maybe I’m just a linear thinker (so should I even be writing?), but my ms needs to be mostly in the order I’ve written it in. As it is, I’ve got a chapter that I have to find a way to fit in, so I’m going to need to hack two different chapters in half in order to get the chronology right. And that’s freaking me out, in itself.

Something I discovered about myself while writing this book: once it’s on paper, I think it’s holy. Okay, not really holy, but I’ve found that if I put something down on paper, it’s very, very difficult to make major changes to it. Psychologically speaking.

I made this realization about a year ago, when I was coming into the mid-point of my novel. I’d had to write a synopsis several months prior, before I really knew where the story was going. I just made something up for the second half, figuring I could change the synopsis once I figured out where the story was really going.

My muse, however, wasn’t privy to that plan.

When I came to the point in the story where I was supposed to write about my main character and her father hopping a plane to Europe to save her best friend from fiendish kidnappers, my muse decided to vacation for awhile. Maybe in Tahiti, maybe Barbados, maybe skiing in the Alps.

I couldn’t write it. Not one word. I was so frustrated with the writing process that, after weeks of wrestling, I decided to scrap my novel and start on a different project. I’d already written over 50,000 words. And I was going to dump it.

What I eventually realized was that because I’d put that BS on the paper, for the second half of the novel, my muse thought that it had to be that way. And I froze. Somehow, once something’s put on paper, that is The Way It Must Be. Isn’t that crazy?

So revisions are a challenge for me both in polishing the prose, but in also forcing myself to tear off the chunks of the story that have been written but need to be cut. Or moved. Or merged with something else. I guess for me, the paper is sacrosanct.


Oh, by the way, I ended up not even using any part of the second half of that synopsis. My poor main character ended up in a hedge maze being hunted by baddies. And it’s a much more interesting novel for that!

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1 Comment

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    January 31, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Oh, I know your pain all too well. Revising is the most tedious part of the writing process for me. I just recently finished doing it for one of my books, Mythaleg, and it was a huge relief. Unfortunately, I still have to do it for my other book, Molecular Splendor. I am still working on revising that one, but it’s going…slowly but surely.

    I guess I have technically already done it, but I am going through it again to adjust anything else that I feel needs to be there, or take out whatever seems to mush together and cloud the readers vision. It’s a pain in the butt, but once you do it, the story typically comes together much better! My advice is just to keep on working on it and you’ll see where your writing holds itself together and tells a beautiful story! Good luck ! 🙂

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