There are many different ways to revise or rewrite a book. I’m currently a writer with one project on the way out (with news on that coming soon) and another work-in-progress that’s on its fourth draft.
As a child of the internet, I was a big fan of sites, like Mibba, Wattpad, and FanFiction. Having online writing communities where other teens were publishing a chapter or two a week compelled me to learn how to output A LOT of writing. What I didn’t learn at the time was how to revise my works after the first draft.
But as I’m revising and enjoying revising right now, I’ve been asking myself- what’s changed in my love/hate relationship with revision?
1. Taking the time to relive and relearn my story.
As a younger writer, I was more in love with the pure process of creation. I was always shy, bookish, and hated sports. I’d carry a few Goosebump books with me on family visits to Jamaica in the summers and disappear for hours on end. The act of escape, of going away, of leaving for adventure was always so compelling to me that I used storytelling as a way to adventure.
As I’ve gotten older, however, I gained a bachelor’s degree, attended writing workshops where I had to formulate language around what I did or did not like about someone else’s work, and started freelance writing in 2017. Writing professionally and working with editors taught me to ask the right questions when working on edits and heeding the right parts of feedback.
Now that I’m revising my YA novel that I first wrote in 2014, I’ve found so much more joy in seeing the different versions of my characters, plots, and settings.
2. Getting to know your characters more.
In the first draft of this novel, the MC was far more naive and frankly, I wasn’t super clear on his motivations beyond being a lamb-like boy caught in headlights. In the draft I’m revising now, the MC is far more resourceful, somewhat manipulative, and caught in an existential whirlwind. The more that I write, revise, and reimagine this book, the deeper I know my characters.
Revising, in so many ways, is like peeling back the layers of an onion.
3. Releasing yourself from Draft One Perfectionism Syndrome.
I initially wrote this novel in 2014, attempted a second draft in 2016, wrote an official third draft that I finished in August 2021, and am now working on draft four. In the seven years since I wrote the first draft, I’ve fallen in love. I’ve traveled. I’ve had so many reckonings as a person and as a writer. Realizing this is not important in terms of me growing as a person, but it’s also important for me to understand that the reasons I wrote in college and before are largely different from the reasons that I write now.
Now as a writer, I’m dedicated to building a body of work that will rival my lifetime. I want to refine my narratives, stories, and histories to discover new truths. This journey is one veering away from perfectionism and towards a pursuit of — what does it feel like to tell a story?
4. Letting your story surprise you.
This may be one of the biggest reasons that I’m learning to love revision. There are moments in the last draft or two where I arrive at a scene that I’ve written before and something new that I’ve learned, whether in the story’s world or in my own, shifts what is possible for the character to think, say, and feel.
So much of my early writing was about writing characters that were bold, even in trying environments. But what happens when we can’t always be bold? What happens during periods of time where we dim our light for a larger goal? What happens when we are strategic about when we speak truth to power? All of these questions are guiding and fueling my revision.
A few other resources on novel editing/revision:
Originally published at https://princeshakur.substack.com on October 19, 2021.