Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Sometimes I love revising a manuscript--other times I'd rather have a root canal. On that revision continuum, right now I'm closer to the dentist's chair than I'd like to be. It's at times like this that I'm reminded that as much as I love writing, it's hard work. (But, if it weren't then everybody'd be doing it and where would I be then, right?)

I'm a little over halfway into my MS. And I'm loving it. I'm trying things I haven't attempted before, and by all accounts, it's working. Yes, I need to flesh out some things, but I've figured out how that's going to happen. The characters are becoming richer every time I sit down with them.

So where's the problem? I've gotten perhaps too attached to some of my prose. As my first creative writing teacher (27 years ago!) pointed out to all of us when she handed back our first stories to revise--we should examine the word "revision" and truly see it as a RE-VISION. Taking a new look. Seeing it with fresh eyes. A new perspective. She didn't want us to just polish things but to perhaps explore a new approach. And it might require us to discard (horrors!) some of the words we'd carefully crafted. We might have to toss out (eek!) whole paragraphs.

That's where I am this week. I realized that one of my narrators, Kate, wasn't dumped six years ago by her fiance, but he died in a plane crash. Now, that's not going to be a big portion of the actual MS, but it explains so much of why she's the way she is now. I need to work in enough of that backstory so it works for the reader. And for Kate. And that requires lots of re-vision. Some of her flippancy needs to be toned down, other conversations need to be completely revamped. It's work. Satisfying work, yes, but also hard. Frustrating at times. And when I highlight whole sections and go to EDIT and then click on CUT, a little part of me gasps to consider what has just disappeared. But I know, that later this week, or next, or maybe even next month, I'll look at it and the changes will be seamless and I'll wonder how I ever could have seen it any other way . . . unless of course my vision shifts again.


slpenney said...


Several words for you, one idea

Donald Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel Workshop.

I recently attended a day-long session. SOOOOO FAB! I picked-up the workbook there too. He is really good at helping writers find the motives and working on edits. I loved it.

Lisa said...

It must be spring/summer clean up time! Therese just posted last night on "Killing Your Darlings". In addition to posting that reminder up, I'll have to add "RE-VISION". I had some similar cutting activity over the weekend. I am maybe 1/3 to 1/2 way through my story and I puzzle a little about how much I should work on what I have before I try to plow through to the end of the story and how much I should work on getting the beginning right and then keep going. Thanks for the motivation about RE-VISION.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Stacy, Thanks for the suggestion. I've always heard good things about his workshops.

Lisa, I think you're correct--we're all slimming down and tidying up! I decided to rework the first half until I "got it right" before finishing the whole thing. I'll keep you posted, but it feels like I'm pointed in the right direction.

Larramie said...

Judy, you always make me :) With your re vision, you saw that Kate's boyfriend didn't dump her because he was killed in a plane crash! Trust me, you're already doing what Donald Maas suggests by raising the stakes.

Therese said...

As Lisa mentioned, I'm with you!

I feel like all I've been doing is revising lately. My agent called today, though, and said I'd hit the bulls-eye, hurray! Now if my editor agrees, it will truly be a full-throttle effort to complete a whole draft. I can't wait!

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Larramie, I like the concept of "raising the stakes' . . . and i do think it's working because yesterday was great writing day.

Therese, how fabulous to hear such a wonderful report from your agent. That's got to be great impetus to finish your MS.

liz fenwick said...

I am in the middle of re - vision and your post was very timely! Thanks :-)

ChrisH said...

Hi Judy, I read that you've joined the novel racers so have updated my sidebar. Welcome.

The Writers' Group said...

Judy, thanks for this. Revising for me has been the most difficult part of the proess, but now I've finally settled into a rhythm and am having a ball. You're one of the few writers who appears to feel the same as I do about it.