|What do you make of the advice for fiction that says, “Revise, revise, revise”? Could too much revision kill the original spark, and what is your advice concerning revision?
I believe in revision. But only after a solid first draft is on the table. That first draft is what contains the spark, and it could be that what I end up with veers away. That’s all right. The spark that made me interested in how the story would end isn’t the story itself. I’ve had months and years of frustration with a story, trying to make that first line or that last line still fit because it was so cool and I wanted it. I’ve usually found that getting rid of it in service to the story that came out of it makes the whole thing better.
I revise in several ways. When I’m doing a substantial revision, adding scenes and subtracting them, changing dialogue, adding setting details, changing tense or point of view—I actually will bring up a new document and rewrite the story. I have more freedom to move things around then when I’m not working with the original typed document that keeps me more attached to the structure that might need reshaping. When I was writing my thesis, I rewrote every story in it from scratch. Each time, it felt more right.
I also revise by editing. Here is where I go through and line edit, adding grammatical things I might have missed, changing a sentence here or there. This is also important but it comes later in my process. It’s more like polishing.
Sometimes, after I’ve polished, I look at the story (or get someone I trust to look at the story) and end up doing a major rewrite because it’s not working. Breaking something apart sometimes is the best way for it to heal. I mean, it doesn’t matter how often you polish a gem stone if the stone itself has a flaw. Cutting it away will make it brighter in the long run.
So, my advice is to not be afraid of revision. Revise until the story is ready to stand on its own. And then send it out into the world. If it comes back, maybe revise again.