So I finally got back on the revision track, with fits and starts as is my life. Why has revision been so much harder, mentally, than writing the first draft?
I’d always thought that getting through the first draft was the hardest part—that wide open expanse of blank pages, the unknown length of time to finish, pushing through the complete crappiness. And while I did have doubts and stresses during the draft, I was able to work through it without a lot of drama.
Revision, though… Ever since I realized that what I thought could be a trilogy was just going to be a standalone, for some reason I’ve been flattened by doubts. Mostly, in a way, doubts about what else I will ever write—I think because it puts more pressure on the current project? But also because revision makes a project real. Now you are thinking about your audience in a way you couldn’t during the first draft—you are actively expecting readers and you are trying to write the best that you can.
One of the biggest things to keep in mind during revision, for me, is that perfection still isn’t possible. That’s a constant refrain during drafting, but I think it’s equally important to keep in mind during revision. You can certainly improve your writing, but you can never completely perfect it. In fact, in some instances and genres and scenes, a simpler writing style (not always lesser, but often feels a bit more bare) is the better option.
This might sound a bit blasphemous, but I was rereading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and I realized the writing was a bit… simple (mostly due to being a children’s book, I would reckon). Action was sparse, there was a fair bit of telling, and the pacing could be a bit all over the place—still completely awesome, and not in any way diminished, but not archaic poetry unmatched by man. The characters, the world, the plot—okay, you’ve got me there. But for some reason, it made me feel a little bit better somehow.
To a certain extent, you have a certain writing style and a certain talent level that you just… have. Staring mournfully at other works and wishing you could write like them is a great aspirational exercise, but it will lead to madness if you never show anyone anything you write until it matches that. And in fact, your writing could be a lot better than you even think, since you can’t ever get quite as impartial as you can with other people’s writing.
There are still parts of the story that make me cringe, parts that might never have a perfect flow or logic, and though I’m taking this very seriously as my career—it might just have to be that way. There are a lot of imperfect stories out there that still get tons of love, so why not mine? 🙂
I’m getting closer to this stage myself, and I’m already starting to feel the self-doubt of my writing, we’re so hard on ourselves!
I know! It’d be so much easier if we just didn’t care–but then we probably wouldn’t have the passion to write at all. 🙂
Good luck! And thanks for the comment.