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Why I enjoy revising my novels, and how you can too!

I’ve been a writer for many years now, but I’ve always just written. It sounds strange, I know, but writing has always been such a relaxing activity for me that I have just wrote, and wrote, and wrote some more.

I have several books that are about the same characters, but told in slightly different manners to see if I prefer telling my story one way or another. I have wrote a lot.

Unfortunately for me, either life has hit me with something that derailed my ability to keep writing, or I have hit a point where I listened to those who told me I could never make it as a fantasy writer, and I have set my work aside for months at a time.

This time I have steadfastly ignored those who ridicule me for wanting to write fantasy stories and have only been slowed in my dream by the hard blows life deals me. Through perserverence, however, I have made it to having a story that is 59,329 words long… and I stopped like I ran into a brick wall.

I am not going to say that writer’s block hit me, because I am starting to understand that Neil Gaiman is right, there is no such thing as ‘writer’s block’. There are points where you can not get the story to move, but that is a story problem, not an inability of the writer to create words. A writer when faced with a problem in a story that makes it come to a stop will often work on another story – which clearly means the problem is not with the writer, it is with the story.

So, armed with Neil Gaiman’s perspective on the situation, I looked again at my story. This time I was not looking for how to keep moving it forward, instead I was looking at why it would not move forward.

I had written in a direction I had not intended to go, and this had caused me to write myself into a corner where I could no longer find a clear path through the story to where I wanted it to end. Nor could I see an ending that worked better than the one that I had wanted to end at. I was stuck, but it was not a block in the writing, at least not in the traditional sense of the term.

So, I began to dismantle the block.

I started revising my story. Starting at the beginning I looked at it as a reader and have began to mark all the places where it works, where it fails, to identify what will move it toward the kind of ending I want, and most importatly, I am looking for those areas where the story starts to stray off into the corner. I want to keep it out of that corner and have found that it is a lot like herding cattle as a kid. (Not my cattle, the neighbor’s 200 head of cattle that kept coming onto our land to graze, so my pony and I would go herd them off and on up the valley.)

What I also discovered is that I love revising my story. I did not want to stop last night, and was eager to get back to it this morning. I am getting to read the kind of story that I like, but I’m still distanced from it. I don’t have that full “reader” mindset as I am doing it. I am adjusting the story, here I have a story I love and when I come to a point where I would normally stop for a few moments and grumble at how the writer had done something, I am able to actually make a note of how *I* would do it better. I have direct feedback to the writer to tell them, “Fix this, you can do it better if you do it this way…” and … the writer will actually hear me and might make the suggested change. It’s awesome and not something I had considered in all the years I had heard others talk about dreading having to revise their story.

So, I guess if I had to say one thing to wrap this post up I would say – don’t be intimidated by revising your work. You hold the power to actually tell the author (YOU) where the story can be made better, and then you have the power to take all the feedback from your ideal reader (yourself) and make the story onto one that you cannot put down.

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