Monday, November 15, 2010

Fearless Revision

"What if I rewrite the whole thing in first person?"
"What if I cut this chapter entirely?"
"What if death is the narrator?"
"What if there are 4 different narrators?"
"What if I write it as a blog?"
"What if she turns into a hippo instead of a moose?"

There was a time when I revised like an ancient, nearsighted clockmaker, turning over every word and phrase, tinkering with the minutest mechanism, making miserly revisions as if each change cost me and each letter was crafted from grains of diamond dust. I love treating words with so much affection and care, but I'm thankful that I have finally developed the courage to make more fearless revisions, skydiving, bungee-jumping revisions, the kind of revisions that change the entire landscape of a manuscript.

My whole critique group seems to have entered this phase of development together, which makes it ten times more exhilarating. When one of us announces, "I think I'm going to cut that whole section and move the important parts here instead," we cheer, we exult. It feels like we've all gone cliff-diving together.

Perhaps the support and safety of this long-term critique group has given me the foundation of confidence to take those plot-shattering leaps. Or maybe this liberation comes with writing novel-length pieces. Perhaps it's a function of exposing myself, over a period of time, to multiple critiques. Or maybe being in the habit of writing has made the words less scarce and therefore less precious, the process less like mining gold and more like cultivating a garden.

What is the most fearless, radical change you've ever made in a piece of your own writing? How did it affect the story?

If you've found yourself saying, "What if I ....?" or "I wonder what would happen if ...." then I challenge you to grab the hands of some fellow writers and take that vigorous plunge! What have you got to lose?

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful post. Yes, isn't it interesting how over time and with experience we can become more fearless, rather than more fearful. It definitely helps having brave writers, brave people around that show you the way and let you know it's possible and you, and your story will survive and may become in fact better because of it. I think that is also why choosing your writing companions carefully can make such a difference: we are as fearful or as fearless as we see those around us being/becoming.


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