Revision,  Writing Craft

Revising Isn’t Anything to be Scared Of

In between a lot of subbing jobs the past two weeks, I hunkered down and wrote, wrote, wrote and I finished the rough draft of my next short story!

Now, it is the epitome of Anne Lamott’s “shitty first draft.” There are so many times I wrote something down, knowing it was quite horrible and would need to be completely redone. But when writing this story, I focused on writing as quickly as possible and ignoring my inner critics. I figured I’d try a process where most of the work is done in the revision.

I think of watching Bob Ross paint and how at first all you see are the basic shades of sky and land applied with a thick brush. And then little by little he adds on, and the colors start to become objects. And finally, by the end, he’s applying all of the detail to the trees and mountains, the foam in the water, and the reflections on the lake.

When I write my “shitty first draft” this is what I have in mind. It’s how I silence my inner critics. I know it’s ugly at first. I know I’ve got a lot of work to do. This one in particular is going to be a major surgery, cleaving and amputating, slicing and dicing, adding on here and there. And that is OK! That is revision!

So when you finish a story and you look it over and you feel so horrified at the quality, don’t worry! You got the basic shades down. Now’s the time to roll up your sleeves, get your finer brushes out, and spruce it up. And when you’re done, if you’ve revised thoughtfully and diligently, you’re going to have something of value, something of beauty.

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