The 5 (maybe 6) Stages of Revision

Revision can make a book, but it’s definitely hard.  Often you need to let go of not only words and scenes you love but also characters, plot lines, and maybe even the whole underlying idea of your book.  (I speak from experience.) So, sometimes you need to mourn the last draft before you can move onto revision.

For example, let’s say your editor has written in your editorial letter that your favorite scene doesn’t work and even slows down the pace of the book.  So, with apologies to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, here are the five (maybe 6) stages of grief… I mean .. revision, you’ll probably go through:

1.    Denial.  “There’s nothing wrong with that scene!”
2.    Anger.  “There’s nothing wrong with that scene, damnit!”
3.    Bargaining. “Okay, what if I have Mary bump into John as he’s leaving the theater?”
4.    Depression. “I’m such a hack. I’ll never get this to work, and the publisher will decide to pull the book.”
5.    Acceptance. “Damnit, they’re right. That scene doesn’t work.”

The 6th step, of course, is that you get over it and actually start writing a new scene.  Like grief, the only way out is through. And the result is that you’re a better writer for it.


Guinevere said...

As I sweat over my own revision notes, thanks for the reminder that, if I'm lucky, I'll eventually get to contend with OTHER PEOPLE's revision notes, which will probably be even more painful. :p

Love today's post, though, very funny. :)

PK HREZO said...

So true! I've found it can be somewhat refreshing to hit that delete button. It's liberating, once you come to grips with the need for change. :)

Becky Mushko said...

Great post! And it's so true.

Tere Kirkland said...

Lately I feel like rewriting large chunks instead of fussing over lines here and there really improves my overall work.

I like to think that I'm a better writer now than I was when I first wrote the passages that are troubling, so I buckle down, get over the initial sting of truth—that my work isn't *gasp* perfect already—and get to work.

I probably still go through all those stages, just really fast so I don't stew in my own self-pity. ;)

Great post!

Unknown said...

I know how you feel - I threw away a whole draft during the revision process and started from scratch. That was tough, BUT it was the best decision I ever made. The first draft was very disjointed, told from the wrong POV, and it lacked continuity and pace. 1 1/2 years later I am SO pleased that I was brave enough to do it, because the novel that took it's place is so much better. Now I just have to finish the last 70 pages of this revision round and I can start submitting. Yippee!

lotusgirl said...

Nice parallel.

Angie Smibert said...

Yay, Michelle!

Good thought, Tere. I think the more and more we revise, the quicker we go thru that initial grief process--and the less time we spend stewing in our own pity.

Dolly said...

I agree. I wouldn't say I am yet at ease with it. My previous revision attempts haven't produced a final, submission worthy novel yet, so I have given up somewhere along the way. But I am about to start editing NaNo2010 novel, and this is going to be different. I am prepared to revise its ass off :-))

Chazley Dotson said...

Well, I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels that way. My rule is that every critique must be followed by brownies and a good night's sleep before I'm even allowed to think too much about it. It helps me approach it objectively...for the most part!

Valia Lind said...

I swear thats me right there!!! That list follows me around every few weeks! lol

Okie said...

lol...great post. I love the breakdown.

I (sadly?) haven't had a ton of work yet with critique groups or editors (I've had a few creative writing classes in which we did formal critique groups, but it's been a while).

In many cases, I took their feedback and almost immediately hopped to the final step and started revising.

But there were many scenes that I felt particularly attached to...that I'd bled, sweated and cried over...that I wanted to lash out and say the reader was wrong.

What I've found though is that once I accept the critique and begin the revision, I usually come up with something much better.

I just wish I could get there faster...on the first time maybe? ;)