When I was in college, “revising” a paper — to me, at least — meant eliminating typos, swapping out a few pronouns here and there, and adding or deleting a few sentences.
Writing a book? Yeah, it’s not like that.
Like many of my fellow Debs, I revised my debut enough times that I eventually lost count. And those revisions didn’t merely involve pronoun swaps and spell check. I cut entire chapters, added new scenes, and changed the occupation of one of the characters. I moved events forward and backward in the story chronology and added plot elements to increase the tension. I rewrote, I revised — a lot.
At first, that process seemed overwhelming. When my editor wanted me to make certain changes, I understood her reasoning, but I also thought, “But…if A never happens, then B can’t happen, and if B can’t happen…then how do I get to C? EEK!” In a novel, events have a ripple effect, and like Marty McFly in Back to the Future, if you change something in the past, that change can have huge ramifications in the future.
But what I learned was that revisions, no matter how involved and overwhelming, always, always, always make the story better. When I think back to my very first draft, I can’t imagine that version ending up on bookshelves. I’d be mortified! Every change I made — every scene I moved or character I tweaked — strengthened the story and turned a Word document on my computer into an actual book. The revisions involved much grunt work on my part, but in the end, every change was worth it.
And you know what? Now I actually look forward to revisions. I know: I’m crazy. But as I work on my second book and come across elements that don’t sit quite right with me, I tell myself, “Don’t worry — you’ll fix it later when you revise” or “Your editor will have an idea on how to fix that in revisions.” There is something deeply reassuring about knowing your manuscript can and will be better, if you put in the time and effort.
Have you ever learned to love a task that once seemed overwhelming? What made you change your mind?