Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Revision fatigue

There comes a point in the writing of every book where I become sick of the book.

Actually, that's a lie. There's usually more than one such point per book, and they usually come near the end of a round of revisions. Come to think of it, it happened with my short stories, too. That's how I knew I was done: when I could think of nothing else to do to the story, and I had been through every word of it so many times that the words were in danger of stale meaninglessness.

The mystery of writing is that you can bring a project to this point, be convinced the story is done through and through, backwards and forwards and inside out. Then you pick it up two months later and see you have used the same word twice in one sentence. And the marvel is that you read that sentence forty million times without ever noticing!

So revision fatigue doesn't necessarily mean the story is perfect. But it usually means that it's as good as I can make it for now.

Before I understood how deep revision could go, I didn't know about revision fatigue. Nobody warned me. I probably wouldn't have believed them. Writing was a joy, tra la, a magical world in my head--who sez it can be drudgery? Turns out that bringing the magical world onto a page that someone else can stand to read takes effort, and more than one try. More than five tries. More than fifty tries.

The good news is that revision fatigue wears off. Between revisions, it ebbs, until it's possible to face the next round, or the finished version, with fresh eyes and renewed love.

6 comments:

  1. I hear you loud and clear. I'm twenty pages from the end of this sixth revision and I just want to put it on the shelf and not think about it. Move on to something fresh. The thing is, I know this one isn't even close to be finished, but I need some distance to figure out what to do with it. And to spend some time re-energizing.

    Thanks for your candidness. ^_^

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    1. New bumper sticker: Write the book until you're sick of it ... it means you're almost there. ;-P

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  2. And thank goodness it does wear off, or no books would ever be ready to be published! Oh, and I had to laugh at your bit about dusting off the book after a while and discovering obvious errors such as using the same word twice in the same sentence. Guilty!

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    1. It's amazing how those errors appear spontaneously overnight!

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  3. Then you pick it up two months later and see you have used the same word twice in one sentence. And the marvel is that you read that sentence forty million times without ever noticing!

    This amazes me and frustrates me every time it happens. haha.

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