The September 2015 Writer’s Digest, The Smart Writer’s Guide to Revision, is new on newsstands, and I’ve gotten so many nice notes about my Editor’s Letter that I thought I’d share it here—both as a preview for our latest issue and as a way to commiserate, connect and relate with fellow writers in the revision stage. I think it’s so helpful when you’re feeling daunted, or when you’re struggling, to know that others have been there too—and are willing to share their lessons learned to help you on the road ahead.
Before and After
I tend to be kind of all-or-nothing with my personal writing projects. When I’m in the thick of it, a part of my mind is there, inside my story, regardless of what else I’m doing. A snippet of dialogue might come to me during a staff meeting. A plot twist might reveal itself halfway through my kids’ bedtime stories, sending me rushing through their lullabies so I can dash downstairs to my keyboard. I know I’m far from alone in this. Chart-topping suspense writer Harlan Coben spoke candidly about it in our WD Interview a few years back, saying: “I’m a rude guest, I’m rude to friends, I drift off a lot, I just ignore people because all of a sudden I get caught up in an idea. My friends are used to it—Oh, Harlan’s going off to la-la land.”
But that’s the thing about being a writer—we kind of like having one leg in la-la land. We practically invented la-la land! Which I think is why so many of us struggle with revision. Because that has to take place with the kind of distance and perspective that is firmly grounded in the real world in which agents, publishers and our future readers reside.
Funny how fast that whirlwind of creativity can come to a halt when we’re faced with the task of shaping it into something that’s ready to be shared.
I can’t describe this any better than writer Gabriela Pereira does in her “The Great Revision Pyramid” article in this issue: “Nonwriters believe revision is something you do in an afternoon, manuscript and red pen in hand. … Writers know better. They know that a jumbled draft can be even more terrifying than a blank page.”
Truer words … and yet. If we let it become terrifying, we’ll freeze. If we let our creativity end where revision begins, we won’t end up where we want to be.
What we need is a smart way to go about this. What we need is a plan, one that taps into what inspires us and employs methods that will keep us on track rather than overwhelming us where we stand (or sit, head-to-desk).
That’s where the September 2015 Writer’s Digest comes in. We’ve put our Smart Writer’s Guide to Revision together with you in mind, at this crucial stage we all reach with everything we write. Inside, you’ll find advice for preempting your nonfiction editor’s revision requests. Adding humor and entertainment value as you revise. Improving your novel draft the frustration-free way, layer by layer. Engaging your reader in a way that will take your story from good to great. And so much more. We’ve even gathered before-and-afters from published novels to show you what effective revision really looks like.
You might be at the “before” stage now, but we look forward to seeing your “after.” We know you can get there.
Are you working on a revision now? What’s helping you make progress? What’s tripping you up? Share your comments below to keep the conversation going.
Yours in Writing,
Editor, Writer’s Digest magazine
Follow me on Twitter: @jessicastrawser
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