Picture for a moment the following scenario: a writer sitting on a sofa, laptop in their lap, furiously typing away at the keys as outside a cool wind blows against the windows. The backspace key is hit a couple of times, then a paragraph is highlighted and moved to a different part of the manuscript. A few swipes of the scrolling ball and the writer once more begins to type with purpose and determination.
A few days later. The manuscript feels “off”, lurching about drunkenly. There’s something wrong with the heroine. She’s supposed to be a strong Alpha-female who doesn’t take any crap from anyone. Now, after a little hanky panky with our hero, she’s turned into a blithering, soft, tearful…well, girl. It’s a wonder the other characters in the story didn’t throw her off the ship.
So not where I wanted to go but yet I still need to show the softer side of the heroine because if I don’t, she’s just gonna be some frigid biatch who no one will care if she lives or dies at the end of the book. What to do? Where’d I get off track? And the biggest question of all, how to fix it, can it be fixed and do I want to? Better to deal with it now than to try to catch it once the book’s finished and I’ll have an even bigger mess.
I set the book aside for a couple of days. Started a new novella just for fun and to clear out the cobwebs. Talked and chatted with a couple of people about the book’s woes. Stared at my computer screen…
…and when the words didn’t rearrange themselves, I sat down and buckled in. It was time for revisions.
That’s right. The bane of every writer’s existence. The rewrite. But here’s the thing. As much as I hate the prospect of revisions, the best story is always found in them. The rewrite and polishing. The looking at the words and ruthlessly cutting away, pruning down the story until I can find the real meat beneath.
That’s where the real book lies. Underneath all the crap I’ve already written.
And deep down, I already knew that’s what was wrong. Too emotional. Too mushy. Too not my character. I was in denial—yeah, another mortal enemy of a writer’s life and she brought a friend, insecurity—just as deadly to a career (but much tougher to banish). Luckily, someone came along, gave me a swift kick in the pants, and told me to keep going.
I wrangled with that offending chapter, knocked it on its ear and I’ll be darned if it’s not so much better. That’s why we need revisions. To make the book stronger. To make it flow better. To inject it with enough believability until it makes sense.
Don’t be afraid to rewrite what you previously thought was a fantastic scene. If it doesn’t fit and doesn’t work, pitch it. Move on. Move up.
Now, onto the next couple of chapters. Darn it.