Revision—The Way of the Forceby Lorelle Marinello
Lorelle writes with warmth and humor and her first novel, Waltzing With Alligators will be released in 2008 from Avon Trade. You can read an excerpt here (click excerpt on bottom of the page).
This was originally posted April 17, 2006.
Lately my life has been a series of revisions, which I've begun to accept as part of a noble process, a sort of rite of passage. Perhaps it’s because I’m in a transition stage--husband retiring, children going off to college, moving--all the fun stuff at once.
In my effort to find balance amidst the chaos, I’ve come to the conclusion that periods of reflection and reevaluation are natural, even in stable times. I'm here to say that we should embrace these moments and give them our full attention and honest effort instead of rushing through them with the next hurdle in mind. Only when we‘ve had a chance to reflect and revise, we can move forward with the sense that we are on solid ground again.
It’s the Little Blue Engine sort of thinking we need to adopt. You know, I think I can, I think I can . . . We don’t drill this sort of thinking into our children’s brains without reason. Unfortunately, as we grow older, the good advice seems to be drowned out by phrases like, “Hurry up, slow-poke”, “The early bird catches the worm, and “Are we there yet?” Pretty soon we forget to reflect and revise because we are in such a hurry to keep up with the rocket scientists of the world.
Since I’m a writer, my thoughts on revision began there, then spread to the other corners of my life. Like gardeners expect weeds in the spring, we writers expect revisions, but naturally don’t welcome them. If you have a creative soul, you probably take the greatest part of your writing pleasure from the birth of a new story. The word REVISE may make you run for the cleaning supplies, any place but the computer. But I want to encourage you to add reflection, and yes, REVISION to your process.
First, what you’ll need is some distance from your story so you can gain objectivity. Then you’ll need to really love the characters as well as the dirt they walk on and want the story to succeed in the worst way. I’m encouraging you to be passionate about your revisions, passionate enough to murder your darlings!
Stephen King reminds us in his book, On Writing, that our job in the second draft (If you’re not Stephen, feel free to change the word “second” to “subsequent,” as in “many,” drafts down the road) is to make our work even more clear, which, of course, makes it more accessible to readers. And since our goal as writers is to communicate our thoughts, how can we let this part of the process slide when Stephen assures us that if we give it an honest effort, make the necessary changes, we will reap a more unified story? And, I might add, a story we have confidence in and feel passionate about.
So my new mantra is, embrace the process. Reflect and revise. It’s the Way of the Force—the path to knowledge and a fair shot at your dream—whatever it might be.