words and images by mk swanson
Re Vision

Re Vision

Two weeks ago I completed the first draft of a novel that I wrote in just over a month. Two years ago I completed the first draft of a novel I wrote in two years.
I am now starting the revision of the two year novel, deciding that I should finish it first, like doing my homework before I watch TV–if I don’t do it now, I’m never going to do it.

The second half of the word revision is the problem: vision. It’s like I was blind while I was writing the novel, and now I can see. The plot is holier than a man-target at the sheriff’s gun range. I can read road signs through the holes in this plot. And the characters: far from the interesting, sexy people I thought I knew, these guys make me feel like I need special glasses to see them in three dimensions.

I have been reading and talking to people about the revision process. There isn’t too much about it in the literature. I think it’s like the bathroom; everybody knows you gotta, but nobody really wants to tell you about it. And you don’t want to hear, either.

So far, the best advice I’ve gotten was to read The Unstrung Harp by Edward Gorey. Mr. Earbrass actually shares a few scraps of the experience of revision, and he comforts me.

Other advice, listed here in no order:

  • Use crayon
  • Write on post-its
  • Revise on paper
  • Don’t edit while revising
  • Be prepared to do it 20 times

What I’m trying:

  • Colored pencils (I hate them)
  • Post-its (OK, so far)
  • Post-it tagging the chapters
  • Put the novel in its own plastic box
  • A pretty bag to carry the novel in

I need to throw out half of the plot points. I need to add some suspense. I need to jettison 1/3 of the characters. I need to go back to what I thought I was going to write.

How does anyone get through this? Does it get any better, ever? Most importantly, is there anything about this novel that’s worth all this agony?

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