Alissa Grosso: 2k11

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Introduced first in 2007, debut children’s authors have formed a cooperative effort to market their books. I featured Revision Stories from the Classes of 2k8 and 2k9 and this feature returns this year with the Class of 2k11.

Learning to Respect Revision

Guest post by Alissa Grosso

Revision is Not Fun

When I was in second grade I wrote and illustrated a story about the Easter Bunny for a school assignment. The story wasn’t very good, and for obvious reasons the illustrations could best be described as being childish. The handwriting wasn’t much better. I had to rewrite a final draft. I can actually recall having to ask my teacher what some of the letters I had written were supposed to be, and she rightly pointed out that she didn’t know since she hadn’t written them. All I was doing with that revision was neatening things up, the story was still a mess, but it taught me a valuable lesson. Revision is not fun.

Perhaps because of this early experience, I avoided revising anything. School assignments and the great literary works that I was sure I was creating saw only one draft. I wasn’t ignorant. I knew there was this thing called revision. I knew that the idea was to read back over what one had written and make it better. I decided that wasn’t something I needed to worry about. After all, I was a brilliant writer. Revision was for the less talented.

The problem was, I got away with this because I was a pretty good writer. So, those unrevised school papers I submitted usually earned me A’s. They weren’t perfect, far from it, but they were a lot better than what most of my classmates were submitting, so my teachers and professors looked past my papers’ flaws. When you’re a writer in a sea of non-writers, you can get away with not revising. The real world is not so forgiving.

In college, I completed a science fiction novel for my senior honors project. My novel had a beginning, a middle and an end, at that’s about where its similarity to a complete novel ended. My adviser was a published novelist, but he tended to write relationship fiction and I think he was so overwhelmed by a novel that featured all sorts of futuristic thingamabobs that he didn’t have a clue how to help me revise it. Instead he suggested I try to get it published. Thankfully, for my literary reputation, that never happened.

Practicing with Short Stories

Instead of turning to drugs or hard alcohol, I turned to short stories. When a bunch of my first draft stories were rejected, I stumbled upon an online writing workshop. Finally, at the ripe age of twenty-something, I came to the conclusion that revision, which was still as painful as it had been in second grade, might be necessary. With a lot of help from fellow workshop members, I began revising some of those first draft stories. A funny thing happened. By the third or fourth draft some of those stories were actually published.

Eventually I found my way back to novels. After much procrastinating, I actually finished a novel. No, that’s not entirely correct. I finished the first draft of a novel. As any writer knows, it’s a wonderful feeling to get to the end of a novel, to write the last word of the last chapter. There’s a brief period of time when we can bask in the glory of having completed our masterpiece. Then we must dive back in and turn that mess of a manuscript into something halfway decent. Thanks to my workshop experience, I already knew a thing or two about revising. It wasn’t fun, but I did what I could to make my novel into something that somebody besides me could actually make sense of, and maybe, possibly enjoy.

I submitted it to a publisher, and then I got the magical call. My editor was full of praise for my novel. It’s possible he was trying to soften the blow about what he thought about the end of my novel, specifically that it didn’t really have an ending. The good news was that I was going to be a published author, the bad news was that I would have to slog through some pretty major revisions to get there.

I would like to say that this whole revision business got easier the more I did it, but I’ve yet to find the joy in revision. That’s okay because I’m really digging this whole published author thing, and from what I can tell there’s no way to accomplish that without revision.

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