Revising Failure -- by Katy

Katherine Longshore 6 Thursday, December 02, 2010
I’ve been reading posts and tweets this week from writer friends, acquaintances and strangers all about failure.  Namely, NaNo failure.

See?  This is why I don’t do NaNo.  I can tell you in early January that there is no way, come November, I will be able to craft 50,000 cohesive words in 30 days.  No matter how well I plan.  And I don’t plan well.  The thought of locking myself in my room to churn out 3,000 words a day with no respite and no refreshment and no bloody fun makes me nauseous.  I have enough failure in my life.

Wait, you say.  You got a fabulous, star agent this year.  And sold a book.  And got the thumbs-up from said agent on a second book.  Failure?  I think not.

But failure comes on so many levels.  Take, for example, yesterday.  I found out that my kid had a field trip.  That was leaving at 8 a.m.  I found this out at 8:07 as we left the house. 


My refrigerator contains two bunches of collard greens, some manky-looking stuffed olives and no milk.


Upon re-reading one of my research books, I discovered a single-sentence fact that throws the entire middle-section time-line of my novel into disarray.  Not to mention the setting.


So you see, I have enough to feel bad about without entering the Christmas season drained and dejected with a 30,000 word failure on my hands.

But take a look at that sentence.  Or at least one small part of it.  30,000 words.  Or however many have been written.  Now, I came nowhere near that, personally.  I got 10,000 words and then spent a week re-reading research books (shoot me now!) and biting my nails while my agent read them.  But whether or not you did NaNo, look at the words you wrote last month. 

And see what you can do with them.

Because that’s what revision is for. At the end of the day (or the novel), the number of words you write for NaNo doesn’t matter.  The agent, the editor, they don’t care.  Because now it’s all going to change.  Revision is where the real work happens. 

The other Muses have said it perfectly and given flawless advice.  Revision deepens character dimensions, adds plot layers, cleans out all the messy language that first, rushed draft leaves in its wake.  Revision will adjust my setting and time-line problems before the book goes to print and someone calls me on my historical inaccuracy. 

Revision spins failure into gold. 

Though I’m afraid only a trip to the grocery store will save my refrigerator.

And if you still feel like a NaNo failure, go and read blogs on the subject by Stasia Kehoe (stop making her sad!) and Elana Johnson (who truly makes you believe that every word you write is worthwhile – and she should know, she’s written more than a million).


I'm happy to say that I won NaNo. Though revision is where the magic happens, getting my first draft completed is quite an obstacle for me. I'm glad I have something to work with now that I can tear up and eventually make beautiful (hopefully). :)

Hooray! Congratulations, Pam! And you're right, the first draft is a major accomplishment, whether it takes a month or a year or ten years and whatever gets you there is definitely worth pursuing.

Okay, Katy, I just like saying "manky-looking stuffed olives" out loud. Thanks for this funny and very true post. Here's to REVISION!

Katy is always teaching us new words. We LOVE that about her, but I don't think I'm going to eat any olives at her house in the future :).

Totally! Manky made it into my manuscript, thanks to Katy. Love it! Great post, Katy.

I'm a firm believer that any words on the page are positive words. And revising is where the magic happens anyway! I'm odd for thinking that, I know. :)

Post a Comment

Grid_spot theme adapted by Lia Keyes. Powered by Blogger.


discover what the Muses get up to when they're not Musing

an ever-growing resource for writers

Popular Musings

Your Responses

Fellow Musers