Saturday, March 24, 2012

Why I Hate Revising (But Do It Anyway)

When I was younger, I hated revisions (and by hate I mean, did not do at all.) In high school and college I wrote papers without looking back. Once I pressed that final period key, there was no scrolling up to reread the document. There was no return. I was done.

Fortunately, and to my endless agony, I've learned to get over this. I still hate revisions. Well, I hate the grunt-work of revisions. The results are usually (and rightfully) fantastic.

You see, there's no such thing as a perfect first draft. Even in my stage of teenage denial, I would have been the first to admit it. Characters will develop in ways you didn't predict, backstories will appear halfway through a manuscript. Pace will change. Plots will thicken. You get the idea.

I was in denial because revision, like most things that perfect and refine, is hard. It's messy. At the moments I'm in revisions for a novel that is not LUMINANCE HOUR. And I tell you, it feels like bushwhacking through a jungle full of rabid panthers in 250 degree heat. And my novel looks like this:

I'll be the first to tell you it's in bad shape. I know. I'm the one who's blinking at the Word document in utter despair trying to figure out what I could possible do to recreate the lush forest that was once there. Everything that didn't survive the burning.

The fires of revision are necessary to cull out the weaknesses, the brambles and thorns of our writing that will tear and wound readers, take away from the story. The trees that survive-- the plots, characters and scenes that withstood the flames of critique-- provide the framework for where the story should go. This process, culling weaknesses and regrowing, must go on over and over again, until your forest is fireproof.

So what does this lovely metaphor look like in the real world?

It means never settling for second best. If you know that something can be fixed, do it. Don't bite your lip and hope that a 2D character will slide under your critique partner, agent or editor's nose. Bite your lip and do your hardest to make that character come to life.  It means going over and above to make the story you loved and created be the best it can be.

So don’t be afraid of forest fires or rabid panthers (metaphorically, of course). In the end it will pay off.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go back to my bushwhacking now. 


When she’s not writing and drifting around the globe, Ryan Graudin enjoys hunting through thrift stores and taking pictures of her native Charleston, SC. Her novel LUMINANCE HOUR, the story of a Faery Godmother who falls in love with the prince she’s forced to guard, is due out with HarperTeen in 2013. You can learn about all of these things and more at You can also follow her on Twitter at @ryangraudin


  1. Good luck with the revisions. I actually like the revision process. Actually getting my first draft done right now is feeling like torture. Good luck with your revisions.

    1. Thanks, Natalie! It's funny, I love first drafting. It's so full of possibilities and anything goes!

  2. Oh boy - I just finished a first draft that is a hot ball of mess. I'm both dreading and anticipating the revision process. You said it very well.

    1. I love the first draft, because you're allowed to let your ideas roam wherever they want and explore new grounds. Revision is the big mess for me because it's when you have to herd all these idea in and make them an acceptable line. Agh!!

  3. i'm just blog walking and very surprise when we stopping here, cause you has a beautifull blog. Congratz.

  4. Thanks for describing exactly how I feel. I am staring at my screen, mourning the savaged forest, trying to find the courage to mess it up even more so I can fix it. It just feels like I won't be able to fix it and that fear freezes me. Time to stop feeling sorry for myself and get it done, though. Thanks for the kick in the pants and for letting me know I am not alone in the anguish and despair.