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Revising the Revision

April 4, 2012

Hello fellow Insecure Writers!

Wow. After only three months of participation in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, I’m pleased to announce that I’m already noticing the positive effects. When I started, I had so many topics and so many insecurities to write about that I had my posts ready two weeks ahead of time. I was so insecure that I didn’t even know where to start.

Thanks everyone, for all your support and encouragement and comments! They really help. One of the reasons I write this blog is to become more confident about sharing my writing with the world, and the Insecure Writer’s Support Group has been a huge part of that.

This month I had my topic of insecurity ready a week ahead of time. What a relief, though, to let it all hang out and be insecure about this for a few hundred words.

I’m revising my first novel. It’s taking me a while, and I expect that. But here’s the rub. The writing course I’m in (How To Revise Your Novel) advises doing one pass, doing it right, and then moving on to the next story. If this pass can’t fix my story nothing can, the thinking goes. I guess.

However, I’m getting a little off course with this revision. I got as far as tearing the first draft to bits, and rewriting the whole thing from an outline. There were some parts I hadn’t figured out yet as I wrote, hoping that I could just patch them in later. I didn’t want to stop revision entirely, and wait for some inspiration. I figured the best way to get story lightning to strike was to be sitting at my desk, writing, when it happened.

Oh, happy day. It finally did happen. I grabbed it on a yellow legal pad as I was sitting at work one day. The whole thing pretty much flowed out of my brain onto the paper–the thread I needed to hold the whole story together.

But now I have a nearly polished manuscript, with some scenes that just don’t make a whole lot of sense in it. I’m going back for a second pass, tearing apart the manuscript again—literally with a scissors and glue—to paste in what needs to be there. Every fiber of my budding story-telling instinct tells me that I need to do this. I can’t do otherwise.

So, what’s the problem, you ask?

The above mentioned course. One pass, remember?

And there’s that quote by Robert A Heinlein–only revise to editorial request. His advice:

  1.  You must write. (Check)
  2.  You must finish what you write. (Check)
  3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order. (Oops.)
  4. You must put the work on the market. (I will!)
  5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold. (While I write the next one.)

(Appeared in the 1947 essay “On the Writing of Speculative Fiction.”

I’m a beginner. I need to revise to learn to write. Right?

A part of me knows I need to do this. But, a part of me is asking, “Am I being a hopeless beginner who is falling into the rewriting and redrafting trap, a death spiral of editing that will never end until I finally give up in disgust?”

I’m not sure. That’s why I’m insecure. This feels like the right direction for me to take, but then, I hear other voices telling me otherwise. Am I doing the right thing by revising once more?

I’ve promised myself, this pass, then let the beta readers guide me on what to do next.

How about you? Do you revise all your work? Have you revised more than once? Was the result worth the effort?

To visit the other fine writers participating in Alex J. Cavanaugh‘s Insecure Writer’s Group blog hop, follow this link.

  1. April 4, 2012 10:35 am

    Okay – I totally disagree with the quote from Heinlein, because you have to take into consideration the DATE and time period of the quote: 1947.

    Things in the publishing industry have changed DRASTICALLY since then. Back then, his advice probably worked.

    But now – – you must revise revise revise if you want an agent to even consider your work … let alone an editor at a major publishing house.

    My advice? Write. Revise. Utilize critique partners and beta readers. Revise again. Use different critique partners and beta readers. Revise again. Submit to agents. Revise again based on feedback, if appropriate. Submit to agents until someone offers contract. Agent submits to editors. Revise again based on editorial order.

    Hope this is helpful.

    I’m visiting from the IWSG.

    Great post!

    • April 4, 2012 1:09 pm

      Thank you for sharing this with us.

    • April 4, 2012 5:35 pm

      🙂 This is very helpful!
      It’s good to know that I am on the right track with learning how to revise. I don’t even mind doing revisions–it’s all writing to me, and I love writing. It’s the self-doubt that makes me nuts and you’ve helped to clear that up!
      Hello, beta readers…

  2. April 4, 2012 1:02 pm

    You’re speaking to me. Can I join?

  3. April 4, 2012 1:06 pm

    Hi Kirsten. Are you on face book? I’d like to like your page. Would you like my page too? I shared your insecure writer post on fb because this something so many writers can relate to.

    • April 4, 2012 5:39 pm

      I’m actually not on Facebook, but thanks for sharing my post! 🙂

  4. Rekha permalink
    April 5, 2012 1:20 am

    Margo advice is spot on, hell, you are supposed to be critiqued even for the flash fiction , poetry and short stories you send out to mags…that’s the kind of competition we face, that said, a lot of bad works do sneak through. First or second versions get thrown into the slush pile without a thought.
    You are doing great, have put down your story in words and editing now. Good luck with the final results. Thanks for visiting and your encouraging words.

    • April 5, 2012 8:39 am

      I plan to get critique on everything I’ve written, and am fortunate to have quite a few writers interested in doing that for me. 🙂
      It does seem that I will never be done polishing! But it’s good to know that it’s okay to do that, and not a shortcoming.
      I’m glad you stopped by!

  5. April 5, 2012 2:47 am


    Thanks for stopping by my blog and GOOD LUCK with your writing adventure… you are well on your way 🙂

    • April 5, 2012 8:42 am

      Hi Mark!
      Thanks for the good wishes. 🙂
      Your blog is a treasure, and I’ll be stopping by more often. Keep up the great writing!

  6. April 6, 2012 10:39 am

    Hi there 🙂

    Just found you thought the Insecure list 😉

    I know someone who, so far, has spent nearly 10 years, yep, 10 years, rewriting and editing the same manuscript. To the point where it isn’t even the same book as it was to begin with. There is no way I want to fall into that trap. I’m just about to start editing and mucking around with the first draft of my novel and the problem is, knowing where to stop isn’t it lol *gulp*

    Good luck honey xx

  7. April 6, 2012 2:36 pm

    Hi Vikki,
    Thanks for the encouragement!
    Ten years!? I haven’t been revising nearly that long, and, though this version is quite different from my first draft, the story is quite close to where I want it.
    I think… 😉
    Good luck with your editing! I think you’ll find revision very rewarding.

    I’m glad you stopped by!

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