Friday, April 19, 2013

Revising Too Much?

Last week I was re-reading Legend by Marie Lu and remembering again just how good it is to be caught up in a story that I just don’t want to put down. And how, as a writer, that’s the kind of story I want to create.

The problem is, there’s a huge gap between the story I envision in my mind and what I can manage to create using words on paper. Sometimes, I feel like all the work I do on my words to get them closer to that emotional vision is taking them further away. Oh sure, I’m getting the events in the right places to build a more compelling plot, to develop character, to improve the pacing and all the other things I need to do to build a story. But I can’t help feeling that sometimes my real goal—my dream of creating a powerful emotional experience— is getting lost in the middle of thinking about structure and other technical details (see Marcia Hoehne’s Of Fiction Writers and English Majors for an interesting perspective on this).  

I know that revising is supposed to make writing better, and it does. But stories are also a little fragile when it comes to the emotional side of things, and it’s so easy to forget to nurture that part of the story. To get caught up in where the characters are going and what they are doing instead of how they are feeling and how the reader might be feeling. Sometimes, it seems that revising some parts of the story too much, or maybe revising the wrong parts, drums the feeling right out of a story.

I’m holding onto the hope that as I get better at the structural and technical aspects of writing, I’ll be able to give the emotional side of the story even more space to grow.  
-- Andrea


  1. Wow, thanks for linking to my post, Andrea!

    Yes, it's all about creating the emotional experience. Hopefully our revisions don't just perfect the mechanics of the story but get us closer to creating the emotions in the reader, too.

  2. I worry about this too, Andrea. But I'm hoping the key is to get down the fun and the emotional parts in the first draft. There's a risk of revising them out but it's not as great as the risk of never writing it in the first place. So I'm trying hard to fly by the seat of my pants on this first draft and see if outlines are shooting myself in the foot or not.

  3. Once upon a time when I was a panser, I used to edit and revise while writing. This is bad, very bad! Now I have turned into a plotter and plot out the scene and do character sketches before I write the first word. This really allows me to get to know the inner workings of my characters and my story. Now I don't go back and edit and revise until the entire scene or chapter is completed. Amazingly, I find that I do a lot less revisions now. I think, for the reasons I already listed, I am able to really focus the story more and it flows much easier, and touches on that raw emotion that is so prevalent when we write.

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  5. Excellent points to remember. The emotion that comes through in the story is so important.

  6. I never thought of this before, but it's so true! It's tough not to get caught up in the mechanics that you forget the heart. Thanks for shedding some light on the subject. And the link.

    1. I think that this is where writing and writing some more helps with this, kind of like learning to read where you eventually stop focusing on the sounds and words and have more mental energy for the meaning.


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