Years ago, when I lived in Connecticut and belonged to the oh-so-wonderful RWA chapter there, one of my writer friends called me “the queen of cheerful revision.” I still love that term, but maybe I was just good at hiding my other reactions.
I don’t know about you, but my favorite part of writing is the first draft. For a little while, that book is all mine, and I get to find out what happens next to my new characters before anyone can call my “baby” ugly. But this isolation can produce some silly mistakes in first drafts, and I’ve gone completely off the rails at times, so it’s more than good another professional is there at the next step to get me back on track. We can all use help—and another clear, objective look at what we’ve written.
This is not to say I don’t sometimes resist (does this sound familiar?) and, when reading an editor’s comments for the first time, even weep. I’m suddenly the reverse of Sally Field long ago when she won an Oscar saying, “You like me. You really like me!” More recently, one of my writer pals got her revision letter and wondered if there’d been anything to like about her new novel. Still, after I’ve had a chance to look over any editorial comments again, I’m okay. I’m certain my friend will be too.
We writers have tender egos, but it’s not about ego; it’s about putting out the very best book possible. And after a brief indulgence in the classic stages of (fictional) grief, what do you know? The editor was right! I go back to work, and pretty soon I’m happily finding ever more chances to deepen and enhance my story. Nuances in the conflicts make themselves known. If I'm lucky, I may—best case scenario—even surprise myself with some nifty plot twist.
For instance: Slight Spoiler Alert here. When I was writing Cowboy On Call (Book #3 of my Kansas Cowboys series for Heartwarming, November 2017), my doctor hero felt responsible for a young boy’s death in a far-away fictional country high in the Himalayas. The child had a name but that was about all—until out of the blue, while deep in revisions, I had a sudden epiphany, and thus a much more personal, and heart wrenching, connection for these two than I’d thought.
Revision gives us an opportunity to put our best foot forward, to deliver the story that might have been hiding somewhere inside that first, rough draft—waiting to be revealed.
A big thank-you to my editor for her brilliant suggestions. They’re going to make Book #4 of my series, Wannabe Cowboy (working title), sooo much better than it was. I didn’t cry at all.
How do you feel about revisions? Love them or not?