When my dear friend and gifted writer Wendy asked me to share advice on revising that I’d gathered in working on my novel, it made me realize that I’ve learned quite a lot. Over the years, I have worked on many writing projects large and small, but I have never put in anywhere near the time revising anything else that I have in rewriting my YA novel.
In the hopes that some of what I’ve learned may be helpful to you if you find your work in need of revision — and who doesn’t? — here are some of the ideas I shared with Wendy:
Manage your mindset: Sometimes it’s just so hard, so emotionally demanding, to get a story or idea down on paper, that once we’ve taken that step, we feel our job is done. We’ve captured whatever it is we wanted to say in the first flush of our creative commitment — and we’re afraid or unwilling to tamper with it because we might lose something valuable. But our first go-round is exactly that — a first go-round. If we want we’ve written to be better, stronger, truer, deeper, then we need to push it to the next level. And that requires revision: revisiting — and re-envisioning — what we’ve written.
Focus on faith: Revising is an act of faith. When you embark on a revision, I think it’s important to believe that the steps you take will ultimately improve your work. You may have no idea how this will happen — what fine-tuning you’ll have to do, what additions or deletions you’ll have to make, but you don’t need to know any of this at the start. The only thing you really need is to believe in the value of your work and in the idea that focused effort will lead to improvement. So don’t worry about how you’re going to make the right changes, just start and the work itself will lead you in the direction you need to go.
Enjoy your excitement: As you revise and begin to see your work getting stronger and richer, your enthusiasm for pushing ahead with more changes is likely to increase and this will prove enormously motivating. Savoring your excitement about bringing your work to the next level will give you the momentum you need to keep going.
Take the time: Deep revising doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to sort through changes, play with new approaches, and let your ideas ripen. Don’t “push the river” — let it flow at its own pace. And write on!