In keeping with the suggestion I made for myself in my post, “In The Numbers”, I am going to go over the 4 excuses that Dean Wesley Smith listed in his own article that inspired the aforementioned post.
In this post, I’ll go over the 1st excuse:
“Excuse #1… What about rewrites? If you are still lost in that myth, I can’t help you. Learn how to cycle and write in to the dark and stop being sloppy and produce a finished draft.”
It looks like Dean started with what ends up being one of my biggest problems. Since I am going in order of how he numbered it, you’re getting right to the meat of everything off the bat. Lucky you.
Rewrites and revisions have been my biggest excuse since day one. Of the two first novels I ever wrote, one has never been touched since the first draft was finished and the other “The Good Teacher”, was revised oh… like at least a dozen times before I finally published it. To clarify, I spend several years rewriting that book repeatedly. It was a huge waste of time.
In the prior post (link near the top), I showed how I wrote over 600,000 words in the last 4 years. If I converted that into all fiction, that was roughly 12 novels at 50,000 words apiece that I could have published in the time between my last published book and now. But as much as I finished the first drafts on a couple of novels as well as a couple of novellas and short stories, the publishing was stagnant.
Dean’s words hit home with me there. A lot of time is left on the table where I could be working on revisions and edits while I am writing fresh. If I revise at least the same speed I write, that’s 1,000 words a day or roughly 3 pages of material to go through. That’s another 15 to 20 minutes of my time. Double that (since I am behind), and that is still only 30 minutes to, let’s say, an hour to give a little extra measure. I’ve baked in 2 hours every morning into my routine. I could spend that as an hour of revising and an hour of writing to accomplish both my 1,000 word goal and the need for revision. Sure, I’ve not yet gotten to a rhythm in that time, still wasting about 1 to 1-1/2 hours of it, but suffice to say, not taking any other time of the day into consideration, I have plenty of time.
I get stuck in revisions though. Like having writer’s block, I freeze up when it comes time to revise. Or it becomes a “Groundhog Day” repetition as it was with “The Good Teacher”. Perfection, that unattainable myth of a goal, constantly haunts me when I attempt to edit. Certain times it will convince me that what I wrote wasn’t what I intended, or that it was stupid, or that I can simply do better (when maybe I can; maybe I can’t), or that the whole piece is garbage and needs thrown away. All of these are lies, of course. There are no reasons that should prevent me from any of the work.
And what is it that is being chased here? What is prefect anyway? What is even good? All of it is so damn subjective there is almost no point to chase it. Being happy or satisfied with what is produced is what should be done. Not every single damn word, sentence, and paragraph need to be glorious renderings of the written word. Often they are simply transitions to the good parts, to the next seen, to the next sequence of the character’s journey.
Unless I am paying absolutely no attention to what I write, it is unlikely that it will be complete garbage. Some of it might be sub-par, sure. Is every word of every writer greatness though? Depends on the writer, maybe? Even so, I’d still argue no. While some writers are absolutely better than others, there is almost no point in comparison to them. I am me. I am my own writer. And let’s just say that I published those 12 books I hypothesized, would they all be masterpieces? Nope. At best, 1 might be a viable work. The other 11 will likely be filler if not all 12. And that is OK.
The whole crux of this piece though is: how much time and effort should I be spending on revisions and how do I get to a point where it isn’t the excuse it has been keeping me from publishing? The answer depends, as do many answers. Suffice to say though, I assert that I should not spend more time revising than writing, and revising should not be a hold-up to publishing. What I should focus on is what Dean said: “stop being sloppy and produce a finished draft”. Is it possible? I am certain that it is. Until then, I need only stop myself from getting stuck in revision land like I was with “The Good Teacher”. And what did that get me?