The Overlooked Art of Revision, Part 1: Why Revise?

I could start this post by mentioning the several dozen quotes from famous authors pointing to the fact that writing is all about revision, but I think I’ll just sum it up myself, if that’s alright:

Anyone who doesn’t revise written work is a jackass.

You may feel like a champion after finishing off a story or poem or other literary brilliance, and you should. Getting the words down on paper is one of the hardest things to do, and I mean that. The mind will find a thousand reasons for you to do something else, and most times we succumb to the imp of distraction. However, nothing you write will be worth its keep if you don’t take the time to give it at the very least a once over.

To illustrate my point, I’m writing tonight about my adventures in submitting to Glimmer Train. I’m going to break it up into parts because very long blog postings scare me, and I think they probably scare a lot of people out there.

Before I get one with it, I want to clear the air about my expectations with this submission from past experience:

  1. I have been submitting work to Glimmer Train for about ten years
  2. Out of those seven years worth of submissions, I have only been a finalist once
  3. I know how bad that sounds

So why submit anything, right?

Well, call me a glutton for rejection, but I think it’s important as a writer to  have goals and keep trying for them. I’ve been published in other places, but I want to be published in Glimmer Train, and that’s that.  A personal crusade, if you will.

There is also the matter of sharpening my teeth. Because I know that Glimmer Train is hard for anyone to get into, and I know that the likelihood of my own story getting in is so small, I have to work as diligently and intelligently as possible.

It all comes down to revision. My story might be unique, clever, well thought out and have all the elements the editors are looking for, but if I don’t take the time to review it and make the tweaks (often times the huge overhauls) needed to make it shine, it’s not worth a thing.

In revision you’ll find that your mind is a bit more calm and very much more analytical. I’ve been on the writer’s high of fast, free-flowing prose quite often, but much like any other high you come off of it and realize there’s quite a bit that needs to be cleaned up. Sentences that made sense will seem empty or confusing, word choice will come off as conceited or much too weak. These are the things you need to find when revising your work.

Think about it: you can’t find a potter who never touched up a vase or bowl before firing it into a final form, right? Writers are no different. If anything, we’re far worse.

Writers need to produce the most polished, well constructed work they can. Thinking that a first go is the best you can do is not only an insult to your skill, it’s an insult to the craft.

As I’ve noticed the rambling that is now creeping in, I’m going to cut this here. The next installment will deal with the fundamentals of how I do two basic, quick checks on work going out for submission, and why I think they are important for any writer (how do you like that for a mission statement?).


One thought on “The Overlooked Art of Revision, Part 1: Why Revise?

  1. The longer I’m at this whole writing thing, the more convinced I am that the difference between humdrum and f***ing brilliant is all about revision. And revision. And more revision.

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