Revision Fatigue

In Classes, Craft, Publishing on June 18, 2010 at 4:00 am

You know that feeling you get when you’ve looked at your book a hundred times, fixed more nuances than you can hold in your brain, massaged more character dialogue than you’ve actually spoken all month and so on? The point at which if you never had to look at your novel again you’d die happy?

It’s called revision fatigue, and in my experience, it actually means one of two things. The least likely is 1) You’re really just done and can’t accept it yet. But nope, wait–more likely it’s 2) There is somewhere deeper you still need to go and you’re resisting it.

The kind of revision many of us start with is similar to taking off the toenail on a gangrenous foot (sorry for the yucky analogy)–it’s not going to fix what ails it, and in fact, it can fool you into thinking something is “alive” when it’s actually just hanging on for dear life (I was going to say ‘limping along’ but I just couldn’t do that to you all….hahah).

If you have revision fatigue, here are a couple of questions to ask yourself to try and go deeper, thus “waking up” your story:

  • Have you started it in the “right” place? Are you perhaps trying to explain away too much, lump in a lot of unnecessary back-story, or would scintillating flashbacks perhaps add a more useful tension than starting when your protagonist is five? Do you start your story in a “dangerous” place right in the midst of an unfolding action or event?
  • Have you mapped out your plot, taken its inventory, to see if there are any evident gaps?
  • Have you put your protagonist under the most intense, yet plausible, circumstances you can possibly fathom?
  • Has your character undergone a noticeable kind of transformation by the end?

If you’re interested in revision support, I’m teaching a 6 week online course titled Revise for Publication. Register at: $30 early registration discount!

  1. I dunno…that sounds pretty hard…

  2. I have been suffering from this lately (the revision fatigue, not the toenail thing). I think I need to map out this plot of mine a bit more, and find out where my character(s) are coming from. Luckily, I have some awesome people to help me out of my revision funk. 🙂

  3. Great reminders. Revision can really sap the blood out of you and I find I need a plan to remind me of what I’m aiming for – a great ride for the reader. I’m tweeting this.

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