...Or do we?
by Aunty Cindy
As I anxiously await my very first revision letter from My Editor (yes, I still get a thrill from typing those words), I've been listening to books on tape. My current selection is Lawrence Block's quintessential handbook for fiction writers, Telling Lies for Fun and Profit. I have read this book before and if you haven't, I highly recommend it. But half the fun is listening to the author read his own work, because it's almost like sitting down and having a conversation with him, or attending an extended workshop by him without the annoying person in front of you asking endless questions.
The other day, something Mr. Block said about revisions really resonated with me. Though he was being a bit facetious, he made an argument against doing revisions, or more accurately, to write as if you weren't going to revise.
Revisions, he argued, take away the freshness and spontaneity from writing. He likened a piece of writing to a jazz riff. Do it once, go with the flow of the moment, then let it go.
Polishing away the freshness seems to be an occupational hazard with many romance writers. I've heard more than one editor and agent say they've read partials polished to the point that the author's voice is gone. And I think we've all heard the stories of contest entries that were polished to perfection, but the rest of the manuscript (IF it was ever written) was slap-dashed together.
His other big argument against revisions is that sloppy first drafts encourage poor writing techniques. If you know you're switching POV too many times, dumping in back story, or writing pages of talking heads, then DO NOT DO IT! Train yourself to do it correctly in the first draft.
Here again, moderation is the key. I am probably more painstaking than most in crafting my first drafts, but sometimes just getting down words... ANY WORDS are the best I can do. Worrying so much about getting it right is pointless if you get nothing. (Can you tell I'm trying to refrain from quoting Nora about not being able to fix a blank page?)
So while it would be nice to have my first draft also be my final draft, I'm not kidding myself about revisions. They will always be there, as inevitable as that other famous quote about death and taxes. I only hope that they won't be too extensive.
Here's your chance to share some writing advice. If you're a writer, what unusual piece of writing advice has helped (or maybe hindered) you? And if you are a reader, what one piece of advice would you like to pass along to all us writers?