The title of this post came from American author Nathaniel Hawthorne, in what I’m sure was one of a random sequence of quotes from Mother WordPress meant to inspire us bloggers. The timing turned out to be serendipitous because these words magically appeared in the same week that I’m diving into the revision of Born Again, Dead Again.
As you can see from the flagged copy of my most recent version, much work still lies ahead. The good news is that childhood friend and muse Tonya (the orange tags) and fellow writer and colleague Melissa (yellow tags) have generously contributed their time and energy into a careful review of the book to-date. Another thanks goes to a more recent muse who kindly reviewed Julio’s Spanish for me (¡Hay Dios mio!). All of this feedback is balanced with the gentle counsel of my editor and friend, Judy Geary, whose belief in my work and these characters has been my compass throughout.
Back to Nathaniel’s words. It is indeed amazing how hard the writing process can be, even for those of us who adore it. I can’t tell you how many hours have been spent on a single paragraph, and the number of revisions that a single sentence has endured.
I will say that a recent ally has been an old article in Writer’s Digest (above) by James Scott Bell on the subject of revision. There are many gems in “The Geyser Approach to Revision,” but most notably the following: “In shaping your manuscript…embrace the ebb and flow of a revision process that maximizes both creative surges and quiet analysis.” As many of you know, I have always prided myself on the ability to separate my writer self from the critical reader. I insisted that this was necessary. However, I’m beginning to rethink this belief, thanks to Bell. He reminds us that during revision, you don’t have to deprive yourself of the creativity that inspired you to write in the first place.
Bell’s advice has been liberating and frankly, a bit joyous. Don’t be afraid to overwrite, he says, deepen those details, and draw upon the evocative power of music. These words have helped tremendously, especially when sifting through the comments my friends have so generously contributed. And to Tonya, Melissa, Judy and other friends, I will again concur with the words of Hawthorne. As he said of his own friend’s advice: “I care more for your good opinion than for that of a host of critics.”