Revising is a difficult process, for many reasons. We are frequently so close to the topic/material, that it is hard to see it fresh. That is why a lot of advice is to let things sit for a while after you finish a draft, so you can look at it with new eyes. You should also consider letting other people read it, people you trust to be both kind and helpful.
In my work as a book coach, I help writers with revisions by providing professional feedback, sometimes suggestions of choices they might make, help with structure, etc. I understand that sometimes the feedback we get is not what we were hoping for. Rarely does it begin, “this is perfect just as it is…”
I recently had a revision experience of my own as a writer, and I understand how difficult it can be to hear things like, “you need to move this”, or “this doesn’t make sense.” I wrote an article for the Jane Austen Society of North America’s online journal Persuasions based on a presentation I gave at the Annual General Meeting. I worked hard on it and I thought it was pretty good. But there were notes, suggestions, tweaks, corrections (!) sent to me as part of the editorial process. Nevertheless, I persisted, and you should, too. The result is a better, tighter, cleaner piece.
Here are some examples of what great writers have said about revising:
“Books aren’t written- they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.”
“It is no sign of weakness or defeat that your manuscript ends up in need of major surgery. This is common in all writing and among the best of writers.”
If a teacher told me to revise, I thought that meant my writing was a broken-down car that needed to go to the repair shop. I felt insulted. I didn’t realize the teacher was saying, ‘Make it shine. It’s worth it.’ Now I see revision as a beautiful word of hope. It’s a new vision of something. It means you don’t have to be perfect the first time. What a relief!
Naomi Shihab Nye
“Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”
Colette, Casual Chance, 1964
“Read over your compositions and, when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.”
Go forth and Revise! Need support in the Revision Process?