Monday, June 6, 2011

Deep Revising Means Letting the Little Bastard out of the Cage

The first couple of days of revising was easy. Not exactly fun, not fun like writing, but pain free. I went through comments, marked up a master ms., went to town using post its and flags. I figured out big problems with my text, things that had to be tightened up and things that needed to be included. I realized that the number of times my MC says "I realize" makes him sound like a jackass. These are all things that I needed to know. Doing that first revising pass through felt like I'd accomplished something neat and clean, like creating a 3-D pie chart or finally putting the sodding mulch down by the hostas.

Now I have to go in and do the deep revising and this is not going well.

It's mostly the Inner Editor's fault, or, as I have named her, the Little Bastard. I call her that because she's small as a mustard seed and has a big mouth. Also, she's unfailingly unkind and evil. Just like everyone recommends, I manage to stuff her into a cage while writing. After all, I reasoned, it's only writing. Me in my little writing shed, no biggie. 

But now that I'm revising, and will be sending the ms out, I've had to let the bitch out of the box. 

A little while ago, Betsy Lerner had a post that started with the words "I want to vomit on myself." I know the feeling. It was basically a rant about how awful and useless you feel when you look at your own work. OK, maybe there's a writer or two out there that don't feel like that, but I haven't met any of them*. Everyone I know who writes goes through varying degrees of self-loathing while writing, regardless of experience, or success, and completely separate from any objective appraisal of the work.

For me, the self-loathing starts now. Fun.

Any ideas, suggestions and distracting techniques on how to get through this that doesn't include YouTube or eonline?

*And whether it's fair or not, I'm highly suspicious of anyone who doesn't hate their own work, at least some of the time.


  1. Smoke the Little Bastard out. She loses power when you shine a light on her. She likes the dark. The writer can win this battle-- she just needs to learn that revising can be endless and that once she gets to a certain level of mastery, enough is as good as a feast.

    Carry on.

  2. If what you're saying is that you're beginning to doubt what you've written is even worth revising, then I'd say that's pretty much par for the course. Everything that seems not good enough, either improve it, cut it, or mark it in need of attention. Every draft you do, there'll be less of them. That's the process. Little Bastard serves a purpose. Even if you suspect she's wrong, best to be safe. Mark it and have another look at it on the next pass. It's supposed to hurt like hell.

    Moody Writing

  3. I hear ya. I'm in the same place... so unsure of what I've created, but yearning for it to be as good as I'd hoped. That's why we have CPs and betas tho ... to let us know if we're being too harsh or our gut is right.
    Mooderino is right, in that, if you feel like something's not quite right, it prolly isn't.

    I find it helps to take some time away from your work. Work on something else or just give your brain a rest and read as much as you can.


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