Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Revision Hell

They say war is hell. White shoes worn with black socks is sartorial hell. Red wine drunk with a fish entrée is culinary hell. But there is no hell for the writer like Revision Hell.

I currently reside on the seventh level, the ‘this book sucks’ level where plot points and dialogue I thought were so cool in the first draft now strike me as vapid globs of desperation. Oh lord, deliver me from my woe!

And then I stumbled on a website. The clouds parted, an angelic choir began singing. Author Holly Lisle has come to my rescue and slapped me upside the head. “My first revision is my last revision. If you’d like to cut years off the process of revising, I’ll be happy to show you how.”

The straw has been extended; I lunge for it.

Lisle calls her system the One Pass Manuscript Revision. I read the technique on her must-visit website and a chime went off. Ah ha! I could do this. And all in one cycle, too.

I got right on it.

How’s it working for me, you ask?

In the interest of honesty, I’ve gotta disclose that this is the most brutally painful rewrite I’ve ever done, and I’ve been writing steadily for six years. OPMR requires that you move forward, never backward. Characters who morph into totally different people as the story progresses have to be nailed down—finally—scenes that were fun to write and sound beautiful but don’t move the story forward have to be chucked—immediately—and dithering over plot mechanisms has to end--now. My heart’s pouring blood, my brow’s pouring sweat. And I’m only on page 80. Auggh!!!!!

Lisle’s point is that the writer can write and rewrite forever. Authors finish books. And then they go to the next and finish another. It’s called professionalism.

I’m going to slog forth with OPMR to the bitter end and I’ll let you know how it turned out. Lisle says she can finish the revisions on a 125,000 MS in two weeks. I’d like to do that too, but I’ll settle for two months.

Let’s see if I have any hair left after I’m done.


Blogger redchurch said...

I know how ya feel Kathleen. The draft I finished during NaNoWriMo last November was terrible. I've spent most of this year so far rewriting, or I should say... re-outlining and mapping each scene for maximum dramatic impact. When I do actually get to the rewriting, it will be easy. Editing will truly be editing--language edits and minor revisions, rather than "This whole thing sucks." It's a tough road, I'm with ya there.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Melly said...

Many times I've read Lisle's suggestions and found them very good. But, I never got to her level of productivity. I wish I had half of it.
Hang in there :)

11:14 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I think I'll have to reside in Revision Hell because there's no way I could do one pass through. Heck I'm revising before I even finish the chapter...and nothing is ever good enough.

I think it's a curse that befalls all writers.

11:39 AM  

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