What have I been up to this week? Revising, revising, and a tad bit more revising. And all that has made me realize that I’m not a writer, I’m a reviser. Everything I write, whether it’s a query letter, an article, or a novel, has to be clarified, chopped up, rearranged, lengthened (or shortened), and copy edited. I haven’t made an actual tally, but I wouldn’t doubt for every minute I spend writing, I spend five minutes revising.
I’m not complaining–okay, maybe a little. I know first drafts are horrid things, something akin to how ugly a baby looks when it first pops out of mom’s womb. Seriously, those things are hideous, reptilian creatures. But no one tosses out their baby just because it doesn’t look right the minute it’s born (well, some people do, but there’s other issues at play, not just the ugly worm they’ve produced).
No, you accept your ugly baby, groom it, guide it along, and shape it until it becomes something other people will want to look at and (hope upon hope) think is something pretty awesome.
Same with a book, that first draft, oh my, it is hideous. Don’t show it to anyone or they will be dragging you off to the employment office to find you a job you might be a bit better qualified for because you obviously suck at writing.
The second draft should get you through some of the bigger plot problems, but still, keep Baby under cover or you’ll frighten the neighbors. The third draft might bring you around to filling in a few plot holes, working on consistency, and hopefully dressing up your language a bit to bring out your characters’ voices and set the mood. After this, go ahead, show someone, but with the warning that Baby may be a still rough on the edges.
Each subsequent draft should tighten and enhance the story, trim out any parts that don’t quite fit, and take care of any inconsistencies or repetitiveness. Finally, one glorious day, Baby will be ready for her final polish for grammar, punctuation, and spelling. After that, throw your Baby into the pageant ring (aka “publication”) and show her off to as many people as you can because Baby has finally become a lovely creature! (Unless, of course, you’re Stephanie Meyers or Dan Brown, then, no amount of work is going to make your writing awesome.)
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TAMMIE PAINTER IS THE AUTHOR OF THE TRIALS OF HERCULES: BOOK ONE OF THE OSTERIA CHRONICLES AND AN ARTIST WHO DEDICATES HERSELF TO THE TEDIUM OF CREATING IMAGES WITH COLORED PENCILS.