Sunday, September 29, 2013

Revision to Clarify Vision

At a recent critique group session, a very serious writer very seriously asked, “How am I supposed to think about things like transitions and context when I’m ‘in the zone’? The very serious answer, of course, is that you’re not supposed to. Few writers experience that magical, “in the zone” state of fiery creativity often enough. The words come as fast as you can get them down. If only you could capture them faster! It’d be wasteful to squander those rare, euphoric moments when ideas and images pour forth from someone you barely recognize as yourself.

Why do some writers find the first draft thrilling? You’re unsure where you’re going, so it’s delightfully mysterious. Lack of censorship plays an even larger role. How liberating not to concern yourself with clarity, imagery, tension—even what to keep or toss.

If you dislike revision, perhaps you miss the freedom of that “zone” even more than its electricity. Uncensored velocity rocketing you toward completing the first draft? That’s terrific stuff. Unbeatable.

So is revision. To see again, to see anew, to see better. Certain processes harness fire to fuse things, to get to the heart of the matter, to expose the best part. Revision is among those processes. What could be more molten than finally perceiving exactly what you want to say and exactly how to say it?

Tip: Revision is an opportunity to clarify the ambiguity of your original story idea.

Perhaps you find revision closer to icy censorship than more acute vision. If so, changing your approach might help.

Hot and cold.
Alternate between making lightning-fast, spontaneous changes and cautious methodical ones. Avoid counter-productive patterns.

Fast and furious.
Instead of revising cerebrally, speed along. You might discover that swiftly going through your manuscript many, many times pleases you more than painstaking progress. And the more pleased you are, the better results you’re likely to achieve. Don’t let bad habits control your approach to revision.

In the zone.
Revision involves labor, but of love. Rework your manuscript with the enthusiasm you felt for the first stage and—your changes will reflect that. Don’t let love of your story and yearning to witness its completion get you down.

Writing a novel is a continuous process toward greater vision for author, character, and reader. Why not savor every second of that process? There’s more than one way to reach “the zone.”

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