Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Going for a Hike

When I read that a writer revised a novel sixty-four or a hundred-and-eleven times, I am not awed. I'm baffled.

Tackling a revision is like going for a hike.

First draft, for those of us who are planners, is like going for a hike to an unknown place but using a map. Pantsters (those who write by the seat of their pants, no outline) are hiking to unknown places without a map. Pantsters have only a vague sense of where they must end, which is some variation of home, be it a mental or emotional state for the main character or the plot coming to a place of equilibrium.

I always work on the first and second draft alone, and it’s the closest I come to hiking without a map. By the second draft I already know the trail (=first draft) but now I must see if this was a good, satisfying hike. Before anyone else’s feedback, I’m not clear how to asses. So I made some standard questions I ask myself as I go.
Consistent voice?
End that echoes the beginning?

Now it’s time to have others join me; Beta readers, whose feedback is invaluable. Their specific comments become the trail map for the next outing= the third draft. I find it much easier to revise to specific feedback. It is like hiking with specific places to pass on the way.

Revising is also akin to hiking in that after many rounds you stop seeing much of the road. It just goes by with nary a single detail noted. This is why my process stops at the fifth or sixth draft. For me, there's a point where I no longer see what a reader would, and that's where I'm done. I’m always ready to go back after some time has passed, or an acquired manuscript gets new eyes to guide it. But on my own, it’s a five-six times trek.

Because writing, like hiking, is an effort that should reveal and enhance, not suck the life out of the traveler. 


Joy Moore said...

Very good points!

Kelly Hashway said...

I’m with you. At five or six reads, I stop seeing what the reader sees as well.

ECharles said...

Great insight into the process. Thanks!

Johnell said...

Revision is key for sure. And good critiquers are gold. Hiking is a good analogy for the process.

Evelyn said...

As you know, I don't write novels or chapter books, so I don't experience much of what you're discussing, but what you're saying makes sense to me.

Ruth Donnelly said...

Great post, I love the analogy!

Tina Cho said...

Exactly, Mirka! Now I'm doing MORE revisions on my novel, but this time for the editor. Just finished 1st revisions for her. There will be more.

Sherry Ellis said...

I'm one of those writers who have revised something 50 times. I plot, so I know where I'm going. But sometimes I change the point of view, or I think of a better way to say something. Being a perfectionist is kind of a curse.

Janie Junebug said...

If I revised a novel that many times, I wouldn't have time to live the rest of my life.


Mirka Breen said...

"...I wouldn't have time to live the rest of my life."^

Or perhaps write more than one book ;)