Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Willing Reviser

Most people in the writing world seem to have a story about someone they've known who was unwilling to revise, to be edited, to change a single word. The unwillingness to revise springs from a belief that one's words are precious and valuable, that the writer should not knuckle under to pressure from anyone else, and that an artist must be true to his or her inner vision.

I've always been a willing reviser, and it has nothing to do with selling out, knuckling under, or betraying the inner vision. It's because I think of my words as less precious than the story itself. I start out with something I want to say, a point, and that's the precious part. If I can move a scene around, or cut out a symbol that isn't working, or combine two characters who are doing the job than one could do, it's all going to make the story better. The part I won't change is the heart. If I were writing a story about how it's possible to recover from a break-up and live happily alone, then I would have a problem with a critique suggestion to have the main characters get back together, because that negates the whole story I want to tell. It's not that I have anything against a romantic ending. It's just that that ending for that story would rip the whole rug out from under what I'm trying to do.

That heart is the only part of the story I protect. Everything else is up for grabs, because all of it is designed to serve the heart of the story, and other people may be better than I am at pointing out where some of that other stuff isn't working. And since revision is reversible--anything that doesn't work can be changed back--why not try it?


On another note: If you're anywhere near Haverford, PA this Saturday (Nov. 26), please consider dropping by Children's Book World, where I'll be appearing with Ellen Jensen Abbott, Jacqueline Jules, Alissa Grosso, Amy Holder, Ann Bonwill, Irene Breznak, Nancy Viau, and Alison Formento for a party and book signing (1-3 PM). It's Small Business Saturday, and Children's Book World is a small independent bookstore that's been incredibly supportive of local authors and local readers. Also, I will have an advance review copy of Try Not to Breathe with me for one final live giveaway, and if you're the first person to ask for it, you can have it.

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