This blog post comes to you from a writer knee-deep in revisions. Every time I’ve written *anything* I’ve somehow convinced myself at points in my writing that I could “fix things later” or that maybe “no one will notice” a certain mistake or inconsistency. But the truth is, if you find a scene boring, or think the character arc is a little off, or that one transition is kind of weak, or that word sounds weird in that sentence – it probably is – and you should fix it. Don’t leave it for later. There is no better time like the present!
If drafting is playing make believe in the sand or building Legos without instructions, revision is Sudoku, puzzle-making, Tetris, or building Legos with instructions (which I prefer, sorry Lego movie). One might seem different than the other, but it’s all play – and writing should be enjoyable! (Even complaining about writing is enjoyable).
Of course, speaking as a perfectionist, perfection is not the goal. The goal is tackling those problems you know exist and that you honestly feel like could be stronger. Trust your gut. You’ve read books. If you’re reading this blog, you’ve written them too. You know what actually isn’t working for reasons – maybe it’s an awkwardly placed infodump, maybe it’s instalove, maybe it’s a secondary character that falls off the page and never returns, maybe it’s an overuse of the word “suddenly.” Whatever it is, if you know it exists, so do I, and so does the world.
Okay, but what happens after you identify the problem? Sometimes we put off fixing problems we’re aware of because, let’s face it, it’s hard work. And it often feels daunting. Here are some tips to jumpstart your revision:
What do you love about your writing? List all the good things people have said about your writing, what you say about your own writing. For example, I love Meg’s whimsy and banter, Akshaya’s angst and resonance, Kat’s plot twists and romance, Melody’s dialogue and smarts, Ashley’s details and subtlety, Katy’s characters and worldbuilding, and Mara’s humor and attitude. If any of them were struggling with a scene, I would tell them that they should fall back on what they already know they’re good at. Sometimes writing what we love reminds us why we love writing.
Start with a blank page. A lot of the time the reason a scene doesn’t feel right is because, well, it isn’t, which sometimes sucks, especially when you’ve written 2k words of a chapter already, but entirely fixable. How? Open up a new document and start over. Not to say you have to delete the words you’ve already written, but maybe you went awry somewhere and need a fresh look at the scene to solve the problem. You can take the pieces from your original scene and put them into your new scene! Voila!
If a scene isn’t working, maybe it’s lacking something. In my opinion, all scenes should be accomplishing two or more things, whether it’s expanding your world or your plot or backstory or a side plot. Sometimes, the way to freshen up a scene is to add a new element into the scene which gives it an extra purpose. Scenes always love working double time.
Don’t settle for “I can fix this later” or “no one will notice this inconsistency, right?” or “other more interesting scenes will make up for this crappy scene” because your book deserves more than that and you, as a writer, can do more than that.
Trust your gut. You owe it to yourself to make the book the strongest version of itself. And really, there’s no time like the present.