Why Revising Is a Writer’s Most Valuable Skill

It isn’t just me. I know this because my friend Nicole just blogged about the importance of taking a piece to final vs writing one new piece after another. This GIF shows how so many writers feel about their work.

Lilo on the left represents our initial enthusiasm.  “This project is amazing!  Woo hoo!  This is the best idea ever!”

Maybe we manage to complete a solid draft, maybe not. But eventually our enthusiasm level more closely resembles Stitch. “Seriously?  Really?  Did I write this?  It is so lame. But the good news is that I have a newer, better idea.”

This is why I explain to my students that 90% of writing is actually rewriting.  The idea, powered by enthusiasm, gets us started. But that draft we get down on paper just is not as amazing as what we had in mind.  Our idea was shiny and amazing. The draft? More often than not, it is a mess. Sometimes it is a dumpster fire.

That’s where I am right now on a project. I just can’t make myself revise. All I see are problems. I could revise it and that would almost certainly make it better. But so much about it feels forced. The steps my character takes to solve the problem feel contrived. Rewriting it is going to be like redecorating a room from the studs out.

Based on what I said above about how important revision is, maybe I should just revise this version. But the problems my character faces are simply too like the problems my community i facing. Any time I don’t include a real-life problem in my story, I feel like I’m cheating. But I have to face these realities 24/7 and facing them in my story . . . ugh. See Stitch above. My story seemed thin and shallow.

Then I had a thought. Actually, I attended a webinar. In it, the author talked about setting her story in the past. By doing this, her characters are facing many of the problems she is facing but with a bit of distance. I think she may have said that this makes it easier but at that point, I wasn’t entirely listening.

I was listing the problems we are facing in our society today that my character would still be facing in the 1960s. I tuned back in to hear Nev March discuss that each modern seeming theme she could bring into her historic novel created a layer and depth.

A bit of necessary distance.



Modern themes my readers will identify with.

Slowly but surely I realized that I was regaining my enthusiasm for the project. I don’t think that I’ll be reopening the old file. Instead, I’ll be starting with a fresh document. But I have a good feel for how to construct the mystery, what I did wrong, and how better to proceed.

Is the first story idea going to be clearly visible in the current idea. Probably not. I am rewriting it that completely. But that’s okay. Because getting back to it is going to move this project forward. And that, my friends, is 90% of what writing is all about.


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