Revisions and Why You Shouldn’t Fear Them

imagesWriting can be scary. Whether we’re diving into a genre we’ve never attempted, or plotting our very first battle or a character’s first kiss, or letting a trusted friend read our story for the first time, we’re going to feel some anxiety at certain points in the process. There’s one thing, however, that seems to receive more than its fair share of dread – the revision process. Sure, revisions can be a tough slog, but here are some reasons you should embrace them rather than fear them.

  1. You finished a book! If you’re in the revising phase of your project, that likely means you’ve finished it and are now looking back to see what you can improve. So, congratulations! Take a little time and celebrate what that means. By finishing your book, you’ve accomplished what the majority of aspiring writers in the world never will. You stuck with it, and now there’s a completed first draft in your hands. Moments for happy reflection don’t always come around, so don’t waste this opportunity to add more joy to this whole experience.
  2. This is when you learn and grow as a writer. Writing a first draft is like improvising an entire play in front of a live audience (yes, even if you’re a plotter). Largely, you’re relying on the skills you’ve already acquired. Now imagine if someone recorded that live performance. You could go back and review it more objectively later, noting where you excelled and where you need to work harder or try something new. Think how that would improve your performance the second time around. That’s what revisions are – an opportunity to take everything you’ve learned about your world, characters, theme, and how to be a better writer, and apply them immediately.
  3. You’re in good company. When you’re in hour six of an all-day revision sprint and your fingertips are as numb as your brain, it can be hard to remember that you’re not alone in this. You may feel especially isolated, and confidence in your book and in your abilities as a writer may be at an all-time low. If that happens, remember that it’s an illusion. Even the best writers revise. Even your writing heroes and idols had to revise, some multiple times, before their masterpieces were ready for your bookshelf. Now, it’s true that some books require more revisions than others, but in the end, that doesn’t matter if you produce a great book that people want to read.
  4. Writing is like a exercising a muscle – the more you do it, the more you CAN do it. It may not feel like it at the time, but a slog through revision hell will build your endurance and stamina as a writer. It will help lengthen the time you can spend in front of that computer or typewriter or telegraph machine or hammer and chisel (whatever works for you). It will toughen you up like verbal boot camp, so the next time you encounter a tough scene or a narrative crossroads and feel like stepping back, you’ll find it easier to put your head down and plow through.

Feeling better now? Got your pen and your armor ready? Good. Now suit up and get writing!