7 Stages of Revision Grief

In Craft, Writers on Revision on January 21, 2010 at 3:26 pm

If you’ve come away with anything this week with the help of our first two writers of the Writers on Revision series, I hope it’s this: writing is rewriting. That is to say, after the first ecstatic gush, the rush of the story and characters flying down onto paper willy-nilly, it’s time to do the laundry. And the sooner you willingly and joyfully embrace the task of revision, the quicker you will find yourself with complete drafts and that much closer to publication. But I want to acknowledge first the necessary and often painful process many of us have to go through around revision.

I edit other people’s manuscripts for a living so I am constantly talking about revision. As a writer myself, however, I come to a person’s work with full knowledge of how hard it is to put your work out there for critique.

I tell my clients in advance of receiving my critique that it is normal to expect to feel the “stages of revision grief” which may look something like this:

1. Overwhelm. The writer simply doesn’t know where to start. Considers drowning feelings in tequila shots or Scrubs reruns.

2. Defensiveness (this is where I get letters explaining why a writer did what he or she did, and why he or she is unwilling to change it).

3. Discouragement. The writer figures she should just give up this whole damn craft and why’d she waste her money on me anyway?

4. Ranting. This is the stage I don’t get to see, as the writer does it to friends and trusted colleagues, but I know it happens because I’ve done it.

5. Relief. Well, at least now she has a kind of map for what to do next.

6. Purpose. The writer, by damn,  is going to tackle this thing head-on and not let it get her down.

7. Revision. The writer, at last, takes on revision with energy and purpose and finishes another draft! Let this be you.

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