Between a Rock and a Hard Place

What, for you, is the hardest part of writing? The part that makes you want to bang your head against your desk (or the nearest wall), the part that you have to grit your teeth to get through? Is there a part of writing like that for you, or is it all sunshine and roses? (And if it is all sunshine and roses, you suck. Just sayin’. I’m jealous…)

I’ve been writing more or less seriously (depending on how you look at it) for the past 11 years. I love the thrill of getting a new idea, and planning a new story is great fun. (Sometimes a little too much fun, as I tend to plan all sorts of details that aren’t particularly necessary, and therefore keep myself from actually starting to write the story. But that’s a whole other post…) The rush of writing and getting what I see in my head down on paper is always (Okay, usually.) fun. I like talking about writing. I like thinking about writing.

But for me, the part I like least about writing is…revising. Yep. Revising=not so much fun to me. My revision process goes like this:

1) Finish draft, put it aside for at least 2 months.
2) Re-read draft and resist impulse to cry at how badly I suck!
3) Slog through the MS, trying to figure out how I managed to mess up my spiffy, pretty idea so badly…and try to repair it.
4) Actually cry when I couldn’t quite manage to make the actual draft match the vision in my head.

Well, at least that’s how my revision process used to work. And then I discovered Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel class. I’ve been a long-time member of Forward Motion for years. I’ve been in a private crit group there for years (Hello, any of my fellow Silver Griffins!). The crit group alone has taught me an astronomical amount. I would never have imagined that critiquing other people’s work would teach me so much about my own, but it did. I took Holly’s How To Think Sideways class, and while I know some of the techniques escaped me, I learned a lot. So, when she created HTRYN, I jumped at that chance, baby! A system to actually teach me how to revise, and how to look at each aspect of revision logically (and therefore avoid the whole crying/head-banging thing?). I was there!

I’ve only used the class to revise one full novel so far, but I’m a third of the way through my second revision with it. Is it easy? No. Is it still painful? Yes. Do I still want to cry when I realize what I wrote doesn’t quite match up to my vision? Yeeesss. Do I actually cry now? NO!

Revision is still my least favorite part of writing, but this class has made it much less painful. More like minor surgery without anesthesia, instead of…a double amputation. And I think it’s awesome that Holly does so much to pay it forward to other writers. I’ve read several of her books, and enjoyed them all, and the amount of work she puts into helping other writers is phenomenal. Her amount of knowledge–and she freely admits that these techniques are what work for her–is also astonishing. If you haven’t yet checked out her site, you should. In addition to the paid courses, she also has a bunch of helpful freebies and writing advice.

So, tell me, what’s your least favorite part of writing?

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4 thoughts on “Between a Rock and a Hard Place

  1. I’m totally with you on this. Revisions and editing is the worst part of writing for me too! And as I’m revising my novel into a second draft at the moment I feel your pain! That’s great that the class is helping you through yours. I’m part of a small online group, and I find it really helps. Good luck with your revisions.

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  2. My guess would be that if revision/edits are not a writer’s least favorite part…they probably are either so naturally gifted they get it right the first time…or they produce very poor work. Of course I have two advantages. The first being that I am not a professional writer so far less pressure for perfection. The second is I am focused on short stories so far less words to worry about.

    All that being said, I do lament over the “perfect -error free” story. Before my website I would take a story through edit after edit until the final product, at times, looked nothing like the first. The problem with the unlimited editing process is my focus shifted throughout so that I worked on style, grammar etc etc. Today (again I remind you writing is a passion and hobby so others probably know better) I cap myself to five touches.

    The first I just have fun and write the story. The second I still have fun but I clean it up and ensure that overall it is the story I envisioned. The third is content/plot: did I say enough, does it make sense, does it flow. The fourth is style review: removing things that end in ‘ly’, improving dialouge, mood and atmosphere. The fifth, and hardest checking grammar and word usage. When that is complete I am done. If i don’t limit myself like this I will never think the story is “good enough.”

    I also do all of this in a very short time, usually over the course of a month or so. The only time I have put stories away for longer is when the first two phases aren’t working and the story doesn’t feel right. So that was a very long way to get to…I dislike editing 🙂 Final thought though, let someone else read the work as most writer’s are perfectionists and never feel the story is “perfect.” Oh and letting other writers read your work…umm I think at times their advice can be more about opinion and style than mechanics.

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    1. I think limiting yourself to a certain number of passes is a good idea. I know I tend to be a perfectionist, so if I didn’t set limits, I’d never get finished and get the story out the door. I have done MS exchanges in the past, and they are sometimes useful, but not always. But in the end, I make revision decisions based on my own instincts.

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