The other day, I started reading my own novel on my Nook. I smiled as the familiar words flowed across the screen; it was like visiting old friends.
But then I noticed something I wish I’d done differently. Just a small thing; a sentence that, were I writing it now, I would have worded another way. A more concise way.
A better way.
And the more I read, the more little things I found. An unecessary adverb here. A wordy description there. And redundancies all over the place.
I didn’t even make it past the prologue before I turned off my Nook, irritated to the max. Why had I written the story that way? And how, in my 20+ rounds of revision, did I not catch the things that needed improvement?
The answer is twofold: First, that old saying that “Revision is never done” is true. (And if you’re thinking, “Huh, I didn’t know that was a saying,” well, it might not be. But I say it, so now it’s a saying. Ha.) No matter how much we edit our work, there’s always more. Why?
Because the more we write, the better we get, which means more of our writing weaknesses are revealed.
As you have already deduced, this is a blessing and a curse. It’s great that we’re improving. But it’s painful to go back and read our old stuff.
The second part of the answer is that I suffer from something called Revisionitis. Not only is my editing never done, but even when it’s to the point that I cannot make it any better, I continue to change things–even though the changes I make don’t necessarily improve the story.
Do you do this, too?
For example, I might take this sentence: “The dog, who was brown and small, went over the fence.”
And change it to: “The small brown dog jumped over the fence.” This is a much better sentence. I could stop here. But oh no, that would be too easy.
Instead of leaving well enough alone, I’ll change it to: “The small brown dog leaped over the fence.”
Why? Because in my mind, “leaped” is better than “jumped.” Is it really better? No. It paints the same picture in the reader’s mind. But I continue to change things around, editing for the sake of editing.
Revisionitis: It’s why I can’t re-read THE CLEARING. Because I’ll end up wasting a bunch of time, going back through a manuscript that’s already been published, trying to make it perfect.
I bet most, if not all, authors struggle with this–especially the established ones with several books out. Don’t you think?