Saturday, October 16, 2010

Revision Purgatory

I'm in revision purgatory. This is why I've not been blogging recently.

I looked up the word purgatory; it means a temporary state of suffering and punishment. I'm not calling it revision hell, because I'm pretty sure hell is a permanent state of suffering and punishment, and I'm full of HOPE these days. Hope that this revision thing will not keep going on forever, which is, I admit, what it feels like.

Oh the joyous day when I typed "The End" on this manuscript back in June (mentally, figuratively, because no former English teacher would ever actually write those words on a manuscript. That's the rule. Do not write The End. Trust the reader to know that when you've stopped writing, it's the end. This is one of the every present purgatories of the middle school English teachers).

Where was I?

Oh yes, figuratively typing THE END and thinking I would only have a month or two of really good, solid revisions whereupon my manuscript would be polished and pretty and ready to send out. That was before revision purgatory, where I am in a constant (but hopefully temporary) state of suffering. This manuscript will not be tamed. I think it whispers that to me in my sleep. I will not be tamed. I will not be tamed. Every time I start a new draft, I think, this is the last one. This will be just a quick polish.

But it never is.

I am almost to the end. I am within 40 pages of finishing the revising and I realize, a whole scene needs to be moved to the end. It's the end of the story. Why didn't I write the end after it? Maybe if I had actually written the words, "THE END" I wouldn't have kept writing and ended up with 40 pages of necessary material that are not where they belong.

I know someone is thinking, "Why not just cut and paste? Click and hold and drag?"  Because, dear readers, if I do that, I have to change the entire timeline of the book. A book that takes place over fifteen days would have to take place over ten. An entire holiday and its events would have to be thrown out, necessitating moving those necessary events into other places. Conversations spattered throughout the book would have to be changed. Whole scenes would have to be rewritten to fit the new timeline. Plots will have to be twisted. My head is spinning just thinking about how much needs to be changed.

The thing is, I could keep it as it is. Everything in me - almost everything - is screaming to leave it be. You're almost done! You can see the end! 40 pages and you're there! It's a breathe! A hopscotch! A small leap! If you keep going, you could be done by tomorrow!!

But a tiny part of me - a very loud tiny part - is screaming I need to rewrite and revise again, because if I don't, I'll always know it could have been better, could have been stronger. I'll know it's not the book it should have been.

I'm past the point to just be done with a book to say I could write one. The first book I wrote was to prove I could write and finish a novel. The second one was to prove I could write one worth publishing. This one... needs to raise the stakes even more.

And if it takes time to do that right, I guess I'll pay my dues.


  1. Listen to your inner voice--do it the way you know it should be. I've taken shortcuts in the past and none have paid off.

  2. I like what Terri said. Short cuts are tempting, especially in a society where fast seems somehow more important than quality in many professions. To go against the grain is hard but to listen to what you think will make your work the best it can be is oh so worth it, especially for your own soul.

  3. That's frustrating. It almost makes you wish that your standards were not so high. That you could write those 40 pages and be in a state of ignorant bliss (somewhere between purgatory and heaven) that you had done all you could.

  4. Short cuts call to the lazy writer inside me. I have to swallow them down and silence them (sometimes with chocolate) to keep moving forward and getting better. I still have a long way to go, but I through taking short cuts. I'll go the long way around. Sigh.

  5. I find that even changing the littlest of details effects the whole book. I'll have taken out a scene only to forget that I reference it later on.

    I'll join in purgatory. Hopefully we get out sooner than later.

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  7. Totally worth it to do it right. I HATE when revising screws with my timeline. AHH! I feel your agony. Best of luck! Go buy vast quantities of your favorite writing treat!

  8. Uh-oh. You're scarin' me! I've just started my first round of revisions on my novel and I'm already experiencing a much slower start than I thought I would. Good luck to you as you listen to the advice of that little LOUD voice. :o)