Barriers to revision:
- Love. I love my work and don’t want to revise. Frankly, I see this one mentioned a lot, but most writers I know don’t have this attitude. Maybe beginners do, but not professional writers.
- Procrastination. I know it needs work, but I’ll do it after I get this draft of a NEW novel done. Now this one, I see a lot. We love writing new things, don’t we? (Talking about myself!)
- Make-up. Don’t cover up bad structure, plot and characterization with a surface treatment that amounts to nothing more than putting on make-up. Again, I don’t see this attitude very much, but I do see it in practice. I think that results from wanting to revise, but being so close to the work that we can’t see what needs work.
- Fear. Often, we fear the risks of revision: the time investment, the risk that the new draft might not sell either, the risk of committing wholeheartedly to this mss, etc. Many years ago, I read one of the Doonesbury comic strips about Milo, who goes into the future to see himself. Milo is disappointed with the pot-bellied, middle-aged version of himself. Young Milo asks, “What happened?” Middle-aged Milo says, “I feared the risks needed to excel in life and now life a mediocre life.” I fear the risks needed to excel, yes. But more than that, I fear not taking those risks and looking back with regret.
- Deafness. That still, small voice in you says, this needs work. But you ignore the voice and send it out anyway.
We recently floated the Grand Canyon–fabulous trip! The first night, we camped near Pumpkin Springs, a mineral springs which stained orange a 20- foot section of a concave rock. Near the spring were rock ledges that curved away to a sandy beach where the J-boats pulled up for the night. The guides set up the kitchen on the beach and the “Loo with a view” was up a cliff on the downstream side. Others in our group set up their cots on the sand, but we walked back upstream about 50 feet to the ledges. I slept, waking periodically to marvel at the Milky Way’s slow glide across the sky’s dome.The next morning, I heard the guides call that coffee was ready. I walked around the rocky ledges toward the sandy area. Suddenly–I don’t know why–I froze.Something wasn’t right.Then, I saw it. I was about to step onto a pink granite rock and coiled beside it was a snake. His tail and head were hidden in the coils, but I knew it was a poisonous snake.
I waved my arms and called to the guides, “He-LLO!” With my arms still high in the air, I pointed downward. “There’s a snake.”
Why did I freeze? Why didn’t I just take that next step and get bit? The snake was well-camouflaged, pink markings against the pink granite.
But one summer during my college years, I was a Girl Scout camp counselor and part of our job was to watch out for snakes and keep the campers from being afraid. I had been trained to notice snakes.
You must train yourself to notice the small things that bother you about your story.
When you notice something not right, you must freeze. Survey the ground in front of you. Make the revisions. Don’t send the mss out before it’s revised, or you might get bit with a rejection.