I’m in the middle of revisions right now (seems like I’m always in the middle of revisions) and though I’ve been reasonably pleased with my progress, it’s still a frustratingly slow process. For me, revising often feels like sculpting a block of metal by striking it repeatedly with a large hammer while blindfolded. Subsequent revisions involve repeating the process with successively smaller hammers. Not an elegant process by any definition.
Still, I’ve come to the realization that a significant portion of my editing amounts to moving blocks of words from one part of the page to another. I may still need to tighten up dialogue or add more descriptions or squeeze in a few more interior thoughts, but my first editing pass (or three) usually involves massive rearrangements of my words. I may know everything that has to go into the scene, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that I rarely know the order in which the words should appear on the page—at least at the beginning of the revision process.
For example, I've struggled with a piece of dialogue for days, desperately trying to make it seem like a natural part of the conversation, and then, in a moment of inspiration, I realize I could move it somewhere else in the scene and suddenly the dialogue fits like a piece in a puzzle. Arg! Mindnumbingly obvious once I think of it, but hard to see initially because my brain had already decided it knew how the scene should unfold.
So basically, I spend most of my revision time fighting with myself. That's why I have critique partners—to stop by every once in a while and referee.
Do you struggle with this, or does the order of your words just come naturally to you?