Looking Forward

Soon — a matter of days, now — I will have the novel finished.  And then I can begin the fun part:  revision.

No, I’m not being ironic.  I’m just one of those writers for whom generating the first-draft text is the tough part.  Revision, on the other hand, is a pleasure, because that’s when I can take the rough lump of undistinguished prose and work on it until it sings.  (Or shrieks, if that’s what I want it to do.)  At times like that, I’m convinced that the proof of God’s love for writers is that he gave us the opportunity to make a second draft.

Other writers don’t see it that way, of course.  They’re the ones for whom writing the first draft is the pure joy of creation, like God on the first day, and revision is hard, brain-breaking work.

If you’re reading this, you probably know already which kind of writer you are.  But a couple of diagnostics, just in case:

Do you keep on tinkering with your finished story or novel, rather than biting the bullet and sending it out?  Do you tell yourself, “I have to follow up one more bit of research” or “I need to tweak the last paragraph just a little bit to make it perfect”?

You’re a reviser.  Because that’s the reviser’s way of shooting him-or-herself in the foot.  Perfection is always one more iteration away, and until the work is perfect, it can’t be turned loose into the world.

Do you finish your story in a blaze of energy, then put it aside “just for a little while, to get some perspective” — only to have your attention caught by the idea for a new story instead?  Is your desk drawer or your hard drive full of completed one-draft stories, languishing untouched while you pursue the latest and brightest butterfly?

You’re a first-draft wizard.  Your problem isn’t with getting ideas and giving them form, it’s with neglecting them afterwards instead of making them wash behind their ears and put on clean clothes and show prospective readers their company manners.

Either way, there’s only one cure:  You have to learn how to do the part of the job you think is hard work, in order to do the part of the job you think is fun.

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