Why Revision can Kill Writing

While in the process of revising my hastily written novel – you know, that thing I was so proud of cranking out in ten days – I started to discover the real reason why so many authors take so long to produce books.

Having spent most of my life as a consumer of fiction rather than a producer of it, I’ve spent my fair share of time complaining about the glacial pace adopted by most of my favorite series. I always figured that once I Became A Writer, I’d do a much better job of keeping up the pace than all the snail-paced fuddy duddies I complained about. The fact that I produced even less than they did when I sat down to write is an irony I spent a good many years coming up with excuses to avoid looking at, of course.

But now that I’ve officially Become A Writer (which turned out to be no more complicated than sitting down and actually doing it), I’m getting a much better understanding. The process takes longer than you want it to even when you commit to finishing.

And here’s where revision becomes work, rather than creative endeavor.

You see, in the revision process I’ve had to read my story over and over again. I have to examine it countless times with a critical eye…and in so doing, I sometimes find myself getting sick of the story. I have moments of lost confidence. I start to wonder if it is really as good as I thought it was…not because the story is any less than it was when I began, but simply because I’ve looked at the damn thing eight million times and I’m sick of reading it.

Earlier on in my career, this is usually the point where I would give in and shelve the whole project; now, of course, I’ve committed to finishing no matter what…but at this point, I really do want to move on to the next story. Familiarity breeds contempt, and I am about as contemptuously familiar with Margin Play as I ever wanted to be.

I’m not going to quit, though. This is part of the process and I intend to see it through. And to any other writers suffering the same problem, I would give you the same advice; we all had to know that sooner or later it would stop being fun, else everyone and their dog would be a successful novelist, right?

Don’t let the need for revision kill the spirit of the thing; the story you conceived of is just as good as it was when you thought it up…and it will feel just as fresh to a new reader as it felt to you, in that glorious moment when the idea crystallized in your mind’s eye.