1. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    The revisions process

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by deadrats, Aug 27, 2016.

    I hate it. I wish I was a good enough writer not to need it. It takes so much time and feels so painfully slow. I end up spending as much if not more time on revision than the initial writing. And I edit as I go. My first drafts are pretty clean and not bad, but they sure can get better through the revision process. Also, I also make things up as I go when I am writing so somethings things need a little adjusting depending on what direction I end up taking my story. During my revisions, my writing always gets better. The story gets better. If I didn't like the results, I wouldn't force myself to put so much work into revision. But now summer's almost over and I have a bunch of newly written short stories that are nowhere near ready. I've been putting off revision. A lot of short story markets close their reading periods during the summer. I thought I was going to be ready to submit a bunch of new stuff on Sept. 1, but I think I will be lucky if I can get one new story in shape to submit by then.

    Have any of you found ways to make the revision process go any faster? Do you hate revision? Do you love it? (I'm told some people love it.) How do I hate it less? It just feels like so much work. And I almost rather do anything else. The last time I sat down to work on revisions, a new story idea popped in my head. I wrote the whole thing in one-sitting (about six hours). Now, there's another story added to the pile I need to revise before I can submit. And that happens sometimes. I get frustrated and just write something new. But it doesn't help or address the problem of needing to do revisions. Did any of you have to change your mindset about revision? How did you do it? Hating the revision process is kind of a problem. These stories are never going to become my best work without it. I just really hate doing it. I would love to hear what you guys think about revision and how if you have any suggestions for motivating myself to get cracking on these.

    I know most of you write novels over short stories, but I think revision is revision. I really want to be able to do this without hating (and I mean really hating) the whole thing. I think the reason I hate it so much is that it really is such a long process for me. Sometimes, if a story is giving me a lot of trouble I just open a new document and rewrite it from scratch. And sometimes when I do it that way, it feels like less work, but that's not always the right path for all of my stories. What is your revision process like? Anything you've learned that made the process easier for you?
     
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  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I usually hate revising right after I finish the first draft. I spent all this time finishing it, and I don't want to go back over it right away. So I take some time off and work on other things. Maybe I'll start another piece or edit something else I finished a while back. I've learned that it's OK to take breaks, and rushing things is counter-productive. This process works for me, and it may work for you as well.
     
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  3. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    Thanks for your reply. Revision just sucks, right? Since you hate it too how do you bring yourself to do it? I guess the only answer is to just do it, but I never feel like doing it. And working on new stuff instead has just seem to compound my problem. I just end up with more things that need revision and more revision I don't want to do. I am making my best attempt at being a full time fiction writer. I'm trying to treat it like a job. I know revision is part of that job. And like I said, my plan was to have all these stories ready to send out on Sept. 1. I've managed to put it off long enough that I there is no way I will be ready. It would just be really foolish for me to take a break when I'm already behind schedule. I need to somehow figure out a way to not be so completely turned off by revision. Have you figured out anything else that works for you other than writing new stuff?
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Not really. You're going to just have to sit down and make yourself do it. It's a part of writing, and even though you may not like all aspects of it, the goal is to have a polished piece. Revision is just part of that process. Good luck!
     
  5. Sal Boxford
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    Sal Boxford Active Member

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    I really like - most of the time. There's one piece I'm revising at the moment that's making me want to cry. I'm basically rewriting it over and over liking it less each time. But most of the time...

    As I see it, my first draft, I generate the raw material, then I chop it up, move things around, make some bits bigger, others smaller, make notes like 'hint about this here', 'remember to mention this here', 'you seem to have forgotten about character X here' and turn a vaguely story-shaped collection of sentences into something coherent, engaging, affecting. (Hopefully.) That's when it actually becomes a story, which is really satisfying. And because it happened piecemeal, it's like you can't even quite trace how it came about. It's a wee bit magical.

    (It's worth noting I've only ever finished 6 stories.)
     
  6. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Rewriting is essential. But first you need to work on your judgment.
    Without good judgment you won't recognise problems. Or you might
    recognise the problem, but can't do anything about it because you don't
    have the know-how. You'll rewrite it to within an inch of its life
    and then give up.

    The most important thing a writer needs to do is recognise when something
    is absolutely shit or just right.

    Be brutal with yourself. You never know, you might have some sort of
    Steinbeckian breakthrough.

    I'll probably read this later and think it's absolutely shit.
     
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  7. nastyjman
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    nastyjman Contributing Member

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    I'm weird. I like revising and editing, but I agree that it's a longer process than writing.

    On my first draft, I write with no outline or a very rough one. But on the revision phase, I start building a reverse outline and a proposal outline for the 2nd draft. I found that I like making outlines but hate using them during the 1st draft.
     
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  8. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    At a writer's conference recently, I heard a speaker say that for many writers, the first draft is the writer telling him/herself the story, and revision is to tell the reader the story. I find there's a lot of truth in that.
     
  9. Laurin Kelly
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    Laurin Kelly Active Member

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    I hate revising and find it tedious in the extreme. It took me almost as long to edit the first draft of my novel as it did to write the damn thing in the first place. But it was sorely needed before submitting the MS, so I put in the effort even though I'd have much rather been moving on to the next thing.
     
  10. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    I just can't seem to get through this revision crap. I am so sick of this story I don't even want to read it again, but every time I go through it, I find something that needs my attention. It's a good story, and I don't want to blow any chance I have of publishing it because I didn't work hard enough on it. And this is just one of many lined up for me to edit and revise. And if everyone is going to reject me anyway, is there even a point to all this? I just want to scream and pull my hair out. And I want to publish. I really want to publish. Grrrr.
     
  11. Scot
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    Scot Active Member

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    @deadrats : You want us to critique that? ;)

    @Sal Boxford : You finished six stories? My stories are never finished, not one! Every time I open one I edit something.

    Is there a difference between revising and editing?
     
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  12. Siena
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    Siena Active Member

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    I just ask myself how I make the story better. Like that movie you saw and felt unsatisfied, how would you make it better?
     
  13. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    Thanks, Scot. But I'm not really comfortable posting a story for critique since I plan to submit these pieces. But it's a nice offer. And it's not like I'm stuck. I just want to be done and move on.

    Did you mean you haven't finished one short story or a novel? On here they both seem to be called stories. I lost count a long time ago as to how many short stories I've written. Somewhere between 75 and 100, maybe. But that's just how many I've had to write to get to this point. It's like I have to write a few sucky ones to get out a good one, and this cycle has been going on for years. Foolish me, the lonely writer. Okay, back to work. Thanks, everyone, for your support.
     
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  14. Scot
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    Scot Active Member

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    @deadrats : By 'that' I meant your post about the revision process. Where's a tongue-in-cheek emoticon when you need one.

    Finished implies complete, never to be edited again, done and dusted.
    My one and only paper publication ran to two (short) print runs, the second of which differed from the first; if I ever get round to a third it too will include edits.
     
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  15. Dr. Mambo
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    Dr. Mambo Active Member

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    Wait, that's... abnormal? :confused:

    I spend twice as a long, at minimum, on editing and improving a story as I do writing it. Actually, it's much higher than a 2:1 (editing:writing) ratio for me. Most of my stories I've edited 20+ times. Like @Scot said, there's always something else to change.

    I generally enjoy editing, though. I'm not quite sure why that is. Part of it is being borderline OCD about my writing. Ever read a book and think, "wow, this author/editor is really damn lazy" or something similar? I never want someone to read my stories and have that thought. If people think my stories suck, it isn't going to be because of careless SPAG errors, inconsistencies, contrived dialogue, or anything like that. Keeping that goal in mind makes editing enjoyable for me. If each change is a legitimate improvement to the quality of the story, however small, then what's not to like about it?

    Admittedly, when I get to edit 16 or 17 I have to put the story aside for a while and come back months later with fresh eyes. I'm also very patient with my stories, though. I'll let them sit as long as necessary and go through them as many times as necessary until I think they're ready for submission.
     
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  16. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    I generally revise and rewrite as I go along, so at the end I shouldn't need to do much to the whole thing (I hope)
     
  17. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    Thanks for your support. I wish you a lot of luck. You'll get there.
     
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  18. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    I would never be able to put in that many revisions. I don't even think I would want to. I am writing far to many new stories to go back to all the old ones as it is. I have never read books and thought what you mention. Maybe we are choosing different kinds of reading material. But, sh!t, I think you're right on the ratio.
     
  19. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    Yes, I thought the same thing. And I still believe it's true every time I write.
     
  20. Sal Boxford
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    Sal Boxford Active Member

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    Well, I created a folder called "ARCHIVE" and transferred them to that, to try to tell myself: these are done, leave them alone, move on. I might have made a couple of tiny tweaks since.
     
  21. Sal Boxford
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    Sal Boxford Active Member

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    I'm absolutely with you on this. I definitely need to move on in my 'development as a writer' and start looking beyond this stuff but since I started writing, what has bothered me most is that people might look at something and think 'hell, that's clunky' or 'yikes, that's comical'. I accept I might have my priorities wrong.

    I suppose it's because I'm unreasonably harsh on this as a reader. There are a lot of books I've found really imaginative, really compelling, but that I find myself stopping on almost every page and wincing at awkward phrasing, unrealistic dialogue, out-of-place detail. I guess it depends what the writer's goal is whether these things really matter or not, but if you can fix them without fucking up the story, why wouldn't you?
     
  22. Dr. Mambo
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    Dr. Mambo Active Member

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    I do the same thing as a reader. Sometimes it's hard to turn off the critical eye and just enjoy reading. It's a useful personality tic, though, because if I can ever get a story to the point where I'm happy with it, then there probably aren't too many other people who are going to read it and knock me for the minute things we're talking about.

    I think they absolutely matter. Just recently I spent four hours nitpicking a short of mine that I had more or less considered "done." Was it a good story before I did that? Yeah, I would say so. But it's also unquestionably better now that I've examined it in such detail and tweaked and tweaked and tweaked until every sentence serves a purpose. I don't think I have the time or patience to do that with a novel (!), but I give anything under 20k words the treatment.
     
  23. Sal Boxford
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    Sal Boxford Active Member

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    But not everyone thinks that. I've just had to abandon an award-winning novel because of things that I feel should have been edited. "Yes, you can name a lot of streets in Geneva or wherever. Well done. You went there, or looked at a map or something. Is it relevant? Is a list of street names what the characters would be thinking - especially in this emotionally charged situation? No? Cut it." Clearly, a lot of people are fine with the things in this book that are driving me crazy. Almost certainly I'm missing out on a great story. But it's making me want to punch walls, so it's going to the charity shop.
     
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  24. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes and no. I did an outline after the first (actually second) draft of my WIP and I think that cut about a year and a half off the revisions (it's a novel, not a short story). I also wrote out index cards to trace important elements throughout the story and that helped with pulling together a synopsis. And I think that likely cut down on revision time, too.

    With a filthy black passion, even more so just before I roll up my sleeves and start.

    The only way I've found to do this is to immerse myself in it 100%. If I can reconnect with the story, the whole process gets less painful. Also, the closer I get to the end, the less I hate it.

    Yes, big time. I used to avoid revisions and rewrites; never did them. Since I changed my attitude, sucked it up and just started doing the work, I think I've improved as a writer. I could be wrong on this, though.

    Sucked it up, did the work, ignored the fact that I hated doing it.

    Visualizing the story playing out in my head helps a lot.

    • skim the story so I can put plot points on index cards,
    • trace important elements and make more index cards,
    • find a wall big enough to tack up those index cards (using that gummy stuff)
    • lay out the index cards with the x direction as time, the y direction as various elements being traced in time
    • rework the index cards until they make sense, have rising action, hills and valleys of tension and a big damn climax just before the denouement,
    • write up a synopsis based on the index cards,
    • rewrite from scratch.

    Suck it up, do the work. :)
     
  25. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    By comparison, it took me 15 days to write the first draft of Aliens Don't Bend at the Knees. Rewriting, to date, has taken almost 15 months (nine days short ATM) and I fully expect it to take another few days to go back and add in things I've found that need to be established before I send it out to betas. I also still have 55 pages I still need to go back over for a spit polish.

    All in all, I expect these revisions to take 16 to 17 overall months before they're finished.
     

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