You might say that today’s post is not entirely genre specific. It applies as easily to the Reboot as the Dose, as much to fiction writing as to work in the medical humanities or elsewhere. We all must revise.
Before you scream in horror (and sometimes I do, no lie), a word about what this word means: See. Again. And again. And again. This is a far cry from editing. It means going over the same ground and figuring out 1. is this fruitful? 2. is this necessary? 3. is this “right”? On some level, I think we dislike revision because it opens the prospect that hours of work will be thrown out, uprooted, cast aside. We worked on that sentence or section for hours–now it’s not going in? And the older the writing is, the more it has matured unchanged, the harder that process becomes. Re-writing the last chapter is never as difficult as revising the first one; it’s got roots into the eternal abyss of originary thought. We may as well shift the earth on its axis.
But to be honest, the prospect of tossing out and starting new isn’t the most troubling thing for me. See, that kind of revision is actually more like “seeing new” than “seeing again.” It’s the spark of novelty that drives creative power (and has thousands scribbling away right now for #NaNoWriMo). But how many of those new-penned novels will be brought back to the table for the much more tedious work of refitting, refashioning, re-reing?
Some will. Some won’t. But this November, I’m not writing new. I’m revising old. A three-book series, yet unpublished, has been drawing to a close–and I am suddenly facing the prospect of revising Book One to match the more substantial tone and depth of Two and Three. I know, you’re really supposed to write a book, sell it, then write the next one. I didn’t do it for the Jacob Maresbeth Chronicles, and I’m not doing it for this series, either… We all have our methods, and apparently it takes me three books to sort a story arc. I’m a long-form thinker. But that also means I’m a long-term revisioner. Bless my editor at Elliott & Thompson for a saint.
And so. Here’s to seeing again. Here’s to the hard work of digging in old trenches with new spades. Here’s to those on the other end of the novel, or the essay, or the monograph–picking away for hours at the same old lines. I leave you with Oscar, as he said it best:
‘I have spent most of the day putting in a comma and the rest of the day taking it out.’ — Oscar Wilde