Pep Talk from Ari Asercion
A pep talk on revision! After doing three rounds of NaNoWriMo where I would continually fall off between 15,000 and 30,000 words, I was able to validate my first complete NaNo-novel this past November. Writing a novel from scratch (or from the Post-It notes stuck to your desk) is something I only recently learned how to do. But revision, yes, that is something I can speak to.
Remember that inner editor you stifled sometime around late October? Well, she’s back. And when you let out your inner editor, it can feel like setting the dogs on your own writing. You look at what you’ve written, the work you were so proud of, the characters you’ve coddled, the plot points that got you excited about writing in the first place, and suddenly… everything seems awful.
“Everything?” your inner writer asks.
“Yes, everything,” your inner editor says, with a sweep of her red pen.
Your writer sticks her fingers in her ears and goes, “La la la.” She wants to curl up into a ball of shame until next November.
Relax! This is all perfectly normal. It’s what happens when you send your editor away on an extended vacation so you can write with the utmost freedom and abandon. She comes back all scowly, because she’s been left out. The truth is, your editor is good, and she wants to collaborate. She just has a strong personality. Your writer is good, too, and wants to improve. She’s just a little sensitive sometimes.
When it comes to revising your novel, it’s time for your inner writer and inner editor to make friends, or at least become good roommates. They don’t have to always agree (and in fact, they won’t), but they have to understand the importance of each others’ roles, and brainstorm ways to work together harmoniously.
Here is one way: I had a teacher once tell me that revision is recursive. That means it’s spiral-shaped, like a Slinky. You edit some, go back and read it, edit some more, continue reading onward, go back and cut out a character, keep reading. It’s shaping your story into the story that you actually intend it to be, just a little at a time—chapter by chapter and paragraph by paragraph.
My teacher also compared the process to carving a statue: chipping away at the edges, slowly seeing the outline emerge from that block of marble. And that’s a nice thought. But for me, there’s very little difference between the two. Revision, in its own way, has always just felt a lot like writing.
And we all know us Wrimos know how to do that.