Demystifying the Revision Gremlin

The blog has been on the back burner for a while now, to say the least. Between finishing school, starting a new job, and trying to dive into this manuscript, my brain has been working overtime!

However, this morning I set time aside to come up with a plan for revisions. And you know what? I made a spreadsheet. It doesn’t sound so terribly exciting. But here are the details.

I gave each revision task a description that includes the chapter or scene in which the offending section takes place, as well as a quick blurb on what needs to be fixed. I categorized each one with grand sweeping names like “writing” (for areas that have obvious holes that need filling), “revision” (for sections, usually paragraph or greater level, that need a second — or more — look), “detail” (for pieces that are not quite right, usually sentence level), “word choice” (if something was aggravating me), and research (you get the idea). Each was assigned a priority, and I even color coded for revision tasks that were thematically related.

Now, this could be all a very sophisticated procrastination scheme. But I think I actually accomplished a lot. I’ve quantified and — dare I say — demystified the space between where I am and where I want to be with my manuscript.

So no more of this little revision gremlin picking away at the periphery of a chapter. I have a roadmap for the very real work to be done, and it feels mighty good to have a plan.

The Importance of Dissatisfaction (Part One)

I was doing some prep reading for my TA class this week, and I stumbled upon a blog post by Mem Fox. As an author of over forty books for children, Fox certainly knows a thing or two about writing and the creative process!

In the post “So You Want to Write a Picture Book,” she discusses a number of tips for approaching picturebooks. But what stood out to me was a more general ideological belief on the importance of being dissatisfied. Mem writes,

“The most important quality in writers is the ability to be dissatisfied with what we have written. Dissatisfaction creates the essential discomfort that will eventually lead us back to the manuscript to attempt yet again to craft our work to perfection. The least effective writers are the most immediately satisfied writers. They do not understand the need for dissatisfaction nor do they know what to be dissatisfied about.”

I love Mem’s post, because she takes the idea of dissatisfaction one step further and discusses the process of revision. She says that dissatisfaction in reading our own work can be a useful tool for clueing in to what is working and what isn’t in a manuscript.

One of my favorites from the list: “Only trouble is interesting; and character is everything. If this is not happening, it is a cause for dissatisfaction.”

Now, an important reminder is that we shouldn’t internalize dissatisfaction to the point of failure…. By that I mean it should always push you to improve and to work harder at your skill and craft. But don’t let it cripple you. Revise and rework, but don’t stop! Use your dissatisfaction as fuel for producing the very best work that you can.

Learn more about Mem Fox, and read her full post here.

Stay tuned for The Importance of Dissatisfaction (Part Two)!