Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Revisions...When is enough, enough?

Posted by Eileen Astels

This is a question I personally struggle with day in and day out. I pray that once I reach a certain point in my learning curve, that the number of required revisions for my work will be exponentially less than where it stands now. I honestly cannot tell you how many times I have revised my very first novel that I wrote nearing four years ago. Way too many, is the answer that comes to mind. And yet, I'm still seeing improvement with each pass through, so it can't be too many, can it?

Since that first novel, I have written two others. But I continually bounce back to my very first baby, in an attempt to freshen it up with what I've learned along the way. I want that first novel to really come to life. But why? Why can't I let it go? Will I ever be ready to say: Enough is enough?

What do I keep revising that causes so many run-throughs, you might ask?

Well, there's the fleshing out of my characters, there's the trimming of unneeded backstory, word tightening (how I love to search for adverbs and adjectives that replace a grouping of insignificant words), invoking all the senses wherever possible, improving the general flow of my sentences and paragraphs (this is a biggy for me), infusing emotion, building more conflict, adding a sprinkling of humor where it is lacking, discovering redundancy and fixing it, the list goes on and on. I'd add being a grammar police to this list too, but I fear what I am fixing might still be wrong, since grammar isn't my strong suit. That, I'll have to leave for a professional to help me with once I'm finally satisfied with my work.

So when will I be satisfied? If ever?

My husband keeps telling me to think "good is better than perfect" when I drone on about how tedious a job writing has become. I have difficulty accepting that in this hugely competitive publication world. I don't believe we writers have that luxury. We better revise until we feel it's as perfect as we can possibly make it. But then, there's the serious writerly commitment to never stop learning, always keep studying the craft of fiction writing to keep improving. With that logic, I have to wonder if there will ever be a point when I'm able to say enough is really enough, and release my baby into the submission phase.

I'm left to prayer, here. Prayer is the only answer I feel I have to release me from this writerly conundrum. I pray that when God feels my writing is good and ready for me to be proud of, He'll give me a sense of peace, and a drive to begin submitting to publishers and/or agents in a serious attempt to reach the culminating goal of publication. He has much to teach me along the way, perseverence and commitment are just a couple.

So, what about all of you? How do you come to the decision to submit your babies? What sound advice can you all offer? I would love to hear your thoughts on how to know when enough is enough.




Wendalyn Loves to Write said...

You ask a good question about revisions. I have no answer. I am new to writing and am working on my first novel, plus a few stories. Just enjoying the process for now and the newfound passion. What I know is art having been a self-employed artist most of my life and spontaneous creativity is necessary but must be combined with good solid ground work and knowledge about the elements of design. I suppose the same could be said about writing? I enjoy your comments and I will bookmark your blog. Keep revising!
Wendalyn Love

CurtissAnn said...

Each of us has a different 'revision meter', I think. I have come to recognize that I am obsessive about revisions. I actually revise as I write, and when out of balance, this can make me crazy. I have to revise to hear a certain 'tone' before I can continue with the story. I struggle with perfectionism. Blogging is really helping me with this. I am learning to trust the voice within that, as you say, lets me know that my piece is 'good enough'.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. said...

I write until I have completely exhausted myself. Until the inner voice is silent, until there is peace. This can be challenging because you must learn to trust that voice.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Thanks so much, everyone! It's funny how you envisioned your writing to be is so very different from what it actually ends up sounding like. Onward I go.