On Revisions

My lovely writing friend Rosanna is doing revisions for her epic novel right now, and a few days ago we were talking about the process. She expressed how slow revisions can seem–on how she was supposed to write out ever itty bit of her plot out on index cards and how she was supposed to follow certain “steps”, but how she was so ready to jump in–but she wasn’t supposed to.

And because I’ve been through the long slogging process of it all–and I’m going to be back in Revisionland soon, I want to throw my own two cents in there.

I wanted to be a “pro” at revisions. I wanted to proudly display sticky-notes on the wall and whip out my typed-out Excel outline and brandish a staggering pile of index cards that were crammed with the goodness of Story and Writerly Things. I wanted to follow a clinical, procedural checklist that others did. I wanted to write out a synopsis and be organized for once, dammit.

I wanted to be a Writer. A Writer who Revises.

I couldn’t do it.

Why couldn’t I? Why couldn’t I get myself anywhere near an index card? Why did writing out my plot feel so torturous and slow when they said it was supposed to figure things out? What happened to the Post-it notes?

Was it because of the story? Was it so beyond salvaging that it just couldn’t be broken down?

How was I supposed to revise, then?

You guys won’t believe how much quiet frustration I went through, when I was on Twitter and others showed pictures of their plot binders and character cards and I thought to myself, Am  I supposed to do this? I thought that if I didn’t have a “system”–I wasn’t legitimate.

In the end?

Well. I ended up pulling off revisions just fine. Without a single index card. I went through months of revisions and figured my story out–with the help of only a legal pad (with messy stream-of-consciousness scrawls) and my brain.

Oh, maybe a pen, too.

I am a writer that lives by intuition. If the character’s decision “feels” right–I’ll go with it. I’m ready to write scenes, novels even when I can “picture” it running through my head, structured almost like a movie trailer.

I figure things out in my head. I think and I sit and maybe I eat the entire jar of Nutella, but in the end, I think it through. It took me nearly eight months to solidify the plot of my story–but I needed that. Because I finally constructed a plot that I never thought I would have done in the first place–and I love it.

In the end, it didn’t matter what kind of route I took through revisions. I got the job done. And that’s how I operate. By an unconventional intuition.

Because here’s the truth. I know that if I only had one piece of advice to give to writers, it’s this: find your own process. 

Bigger?

Find your own process. 

It’s not like people try to deter you with their advice–they’re trying to be helpful, I promise. And to be organized, to have a systematic way of going about things–that’s amazing. There are people that swear by index cards. They get the plot down on the first try and its brilliant. I love it, and I sometimes wish that’s how I work.

But it’s not my process. Maybe my process isn’t common or even advisable, but it works for me, and I’m so glad I found it.

Don’t be so easily swayed by people and resources that say that something is “the way it works”. Go with your gut. You could be a Post-it person. You could be a checklist person. You could be a person that just writes and revises along the way.

Find your own process.

In the end, revisions aren’t about endless index cards. They’re about getting the job done.

4 Comments

  1. Wonderful, wonderful advice Christina! 😀 You helped me take that dive into revisions, and now that I'm soaked to the skin … I think I might be floating after all. 😉 I've discovered that I'm a writer who needs a system, but I'm also a writer who clings to that system like it's a life raft, when I'm not really sinking in the first place. At some point in revision, there has to come a point where you stop making notes and lists of things you don't want to forget, and just go for it.Believe me, Christina, for all the writers whose neatly organised revision systems you were frustrated by, I'm wowed and impressed by your ability to figure out your revisions using only a legal pad and a pen! (And jars of Nutella, of course… 😉

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  2. Rosanna! 🙂 I'm so glad you read this post! (It was dedicated to you :D) And yay for Nutella! And I totally can relate to your \”revisions raft\”–it's like you feel like you need those extra steps, those just-in-case safety mechanisms in case your plot falls apart. I've been through that before (and I totally will probably go through it many times more). Lists are awesome and you should definitely keep all your revisions notes by your side! I'm totally awed by some writers' abilities to stick to their systems! Just don't forget about….the actual revising. 😛 And they're scary. Revisions are scary. But I promise you will get to the other side (and I'll help you get there!)Can't wait to read Swordslave!

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