Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Religion and Revision?

This comparison isn’t meant to be blasphemous! Religion can loosely be defined as a belief system involving a higher power, while revision produces an improved version of something.

Viewed this way, there’s more commonality between the two than how the words sound:

  • Never covet thy neighbor’s publications, prizes, interviews, royalties.
  • The journey is its own reward.
  • Think more about others than yourself.
  • That hard work often produces some rationalizing.
  • Your journey will likely involve some wise mentors and some false ones.
  • Your journey will help unleash the best you have to offer.
  • Your journey will be difficult—because it’s supposed to be.
  • Your journey might change you from who you were to who you want to be.

Let’s say you consider those premises valid. What’s next?

v  Do unto others (your readers) as you would have other writers do to you. Never condescend or waste words.
v  View revision not just as the heaven of a “perfect” novel, but as a meaningful creative process. That’s not a view; that’s exactly what revision is.
v  Understand the “commandments” well enough to know when the context justifies breaking them—and when it doesn’t.
v  Be patient. Sometimes the solution lies beyond your immediate understanding. But keep trying. Don’t give up.
v  Place yourself in the hands of a power greater than yourself. Your novel knows what it needs. So do your readers.
v  Heaven helps those who help themselves.

If you want your final draft to differ radically from your first one, as Raymond Chandler put it,
“Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon.” The joy of revision is making sacrifices to achieve something good.

Upholding the tenets of your religion demands effort; that’s why some people give up what they love for Lent. This is Stephen King’s take on that: “The writer must have a good imagination to begin with, but the imagination has to be muscular, which means it must be exercised in a disciplined way, day in and day out, by writing, failing, succeeding and revising.”

Tip: Revise as if your soul depended on it.

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