Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Insecure Writer and the Revision Process

Today is February's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

I’ll be honest with you. If my monthly post for the Insecure Writers Support Group wasn’t due today, I probably wouldn’t have posted. Embarrassment can do that to you.

Last week I promised I would finish the initial revision of my first chapter by the end of the weekend -- no matter what. Well, it’s Wednesday, and I still haven’t finished. It’s almost there, probably about 99% complete, but it’s not finished. (Hangs head in shame)

I wish I could say it was because I didn’t spend enough time with my manuscript or that I didn’t stay up late enough or that drinking was involved – but that wasn’t the problem. I just couldn’t come up with any good ways to fix a few problem areas. I find it maddening (and slightly ridiculous) that I’ve been screwing around with these same fourteen pages for over three weeks now -- with most of that time spent on the first two paragraphs. At this rate, my kids will be published authors before I finish this story.

The funny part about all this is that the idea of revising and polishing and tightening my manuscript sounds kind of sexy to me – at least in theory. I occasionally have to write computer programs, and like a lot of programmers, once the program is behaving properly I have an almost irresistible urge to go in and tighten up the code. Removing useless bits of code, converting ten lines of code into two, improving the user interface. Stuff like that. It just gives me a warm cozy feeling.

But that’s because I know what I’m doing when I program. But until my writing skills improve, it’s always going to be a struggle when it’s time to revise my manuscript. I can tell (usually) when something needs to be fixed, I’m just bad at coming up with ways to actually fix the problem.

Does anyone else have these kind of problems during the revision process?


  1. THere was a time when I got to a point in my manuscrit where I was just stuck. ANd someone gave me great advise.

    Chop it.

    I know crazy, but when you get stuck maybe the page just isn't right. WHat would happen if you just take it out? Some times it doesn't work, but for me, I could just cut it and move on.

    I was able to find another transition from one area to another and you know it worked better. I was trying to fit something into my story that wasn't going to fit.

    For you it might be different. Maybe you are stuck because you just can't get the scene right, maybe you need it. Or maybe you don't. Just take a look and see if just needs to be chopped. GOod luck!

  2. That sounds like good advice, Melanie. I'd consider chopping it if it wasn't the first couple of paragraphs of the book. All I'm trying to do is describe a room in a few sentences (and the description is important later in the story, so I do need it), but every attempt at fixing it comes out feeble. Damn I hate that paragraph! Thanks for the encouragement!

  3. Yes, all the time. Eventually something comes to me or someone offers their advice and away I go. Sometimes I leave that chapter or scene and pick up the next chapter, then come back to it. We all work in varying ways, I suppose. All the best. :)

  4. Sexy, huh? Lol.

    But yes, sometimes I stare at a sentence and I KNOW there's something wrong with it, but I'm not sure how to fix it. Then the head bangin' on the keyboard begins. Sometimes a shower helps, or a long drive in the car, or something that gives you time to be alone and reflect. :)

  5. Post it on your blog! We'll do are darndest to help you :)

    And, if that part of the book is that frustrating to revise, move on to the next part and come back to it.

  6. Any critique partners that might be able to help you? Sometimes another set of eyeballs makes a big difference.

  7. Oh my goodness Ken, are you in my head? I posted something very similar yesterday :-)

    I think Alex is right, it might be time to let someone else have a look at it.

  8. HEY! I just found this really cool blog. I don't know if you've found it or not but it's all about Harry Potter and is AMAZING!

  9. Alex, Sarah, Thanks for the suggestions. I'm still in the process of looking for critique partners. Once I get some, I'm sure they'll have lots of useful suggestions.

    Melanie, yes I already know about that sight. Thanks.