Revision is NOT a dirty word.
|Revision has more than four letters. It is not a dirty word. It is a clean word, actually, as the writer will be cleaning up what ever it is he has just written.
I am aware that revision is not always an easy task to approach. You've just finished a poem or short story and you are experiencing the euphoria that comes with a sense of accomplishment. What's worse is that you love what you've just written. It is great! You love it! Too bad.
That poem or story is something like a child. Your child. It can do no wrong in its mother's (or father's) eyes. Perfection. No, it isn't. Sorry.
No such animal exists. A child learns through correction, failure, trying again. No one ties their shoes right the first time. A piece of writing is like that. Yes, it may (and I stress 'may') be good. BUT, it can and will be better. One of the hardest lessons to teach beginning writers is the need to revise. Sometimes, it is a hard task for even more experienced writers as well. Regardless, it is a necessary evil that we, as writers must not endure, but embrace.
I try to look at revision in this way. I have written a poem. I love it. It is great! I put it away for a few days and then look at it again. That small distance overcomes the initial satisfaction and I am less emotionally involved. I can look at it as an editor more than writer. Or perhaps, a doctor would be a better term. He can see not only the skeleton, but the broken bones as well.
Writing the poem is, at first, an outpouring of ideas...it is the fun part. Then the work begins. But more than the work; the careful sculpting, the delicate brushwork, the molding and framing of language --that is when the poetry emerges
Revision is the art (yes, ART!) of refining. A few delicate brush strokes here or there, adding commas, description, or refining the images, can add depth, layers, meaning. Sculptors move clay around, molding, smoothing away a bump, filling in an unwanted crevice...using tools to add definition, to create a smile or worried look. Sometimes the artist must smooth away or paint over a section. He must erase what was to create a plane upon which he can refashion his idea, only do it slightly differently, and better to make the point.
Hopefully, I've made my point.
Is a poem or short story ever finished? Personally, I don't think so. Because something I've written has been published, or won an award, does not mean it is the best it can be. I was seven years old when I met Robert Frost. Even then I wanted to be a writer and told him how I loved to write. He asked me then if I liked to rewrite what I wrote. I remember shaking my head no.
Robert Frost told me something along the lines of the fact he doesn't read his older works, the ones his public has loved and memorized, because he'd see so much that needed changing, that the people wouldn't recognize their favorite poems. He also told me the revision is where the poet shines, or fails. He told me he had rewritten "Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening" close to fifty times before he got it right. And that he still wondered if it couldn't be better. I took his words to heart way back then, after all, I figure that anyone who has four Pulitzers under his belt knows what he's talking about!
So now the poem has been revised and edited and spell-checked and rewritten again. The author submits it somewhere (whether at WDC or a publisher--doesn't matter) and then is upset, incensed, defensive or downright nasty because others have found things wrong, unclear, think the author told vs. showed or think the meter is off or that it needs this or that. When this happens, it is not a slap in the face, a dig or for nefarious purposes. This is a golden opportunity to look again, perhaps now with a fresh eye, and make it better. It is the reason some reviewers spend forty-five minutes to an hour writing reviews. All the 'Oh gee whiz, this is great!' reviews do not help one as a writer, even if they are great ego trips.
Bottom line, the author may reach a point where they feel that what they have written is as good as it is going to get. This is a good thing. But always be open to the fact that, just maybe, it can be better.