Monday, October 18, 2010

How Much is Too Much?

Do you ever wonder if you’ve revised your story so much that it’s lost the original spark that brought it to life?

I’m working on Novel #4, which I wrote in 3 months, and (hopefully) I will have finished my first pass of revisions for in another 3 months. My first two novels took 4 or 5 years of hard work and rewriting to get them to the point where I feel comfortable submitting them to agents or editors. Maybe this is just self-doubt creeping in. But I wonder sometimes, if, along with the improvements, something has been lost during the revision process too.

Do you ever think you are "over-writing" or "over-revising"? How would you know?

9 comments:

  1. I think writers need to be really careful not to subject their writing to all the rules when revising. And I do think it's possible to edit out the voice. In fact, I think I've done it before!

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  2. I have one project that I literally revised to death. By the time I was done with it, it was a flat pancake. I think two things have helped me since then: keeping in mind my original spark for the idea as I go, and getting feedback along hte way from people I trust. And trying to quiet the self doubt with healthy doses of chocolate doesn't hurt either. :-)

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  3. It's a tightrope. Losing the spark is always my fear. Sometimes, putting the ms away for a l-o-n-g time is the only thing that helps me.

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  4. Ha, overwriting never would happen to me. But over-revising? Yeah. I agree with Laura, sometimes we can get caught up with everything we have to "fix" that we sometimes fix the voice of the novel right out.

    What I've learned is that a novel doesn't have to be perfect --- it just needs to sound true to what you're trying to say. Easier said than done I know. Having other readers and writers look at it helps too -- we're too close to work and we're our own worst critic.

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  5. That's true, Karen. There is always going to be something that can be improved upon. I think you and Laura are onto something with the idea of letting go of perfection in the words on the page, for the sake of the voice and story.

    Andrea V., putting the manuscript away for a while does help - when I get it out again I can tell if it pulls me in or not.

    Anna, it really is important to keep in mind that original spark. I think it would be a good idea to try to capture that spark of the idea in a brief summary and post it near my computer!

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  6. I think I'm at that point with my first book. I'm in revisions on my second and it feels much more alive to me.

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  7. Patti, I feel that way too, about the book I'm revising now compared to the earlier ones. Sometimes wonder if it's just the fact that it's a different book that makes it more fresh, but I also think that in striving to make the words sound perfect, some of the life goes out of the work.

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  8. One way to know if I'm over-revising is when I start changing things back to the way they were.

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  9. Oh Marcia, you made me laugh! That is so true!!!

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