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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | Don’t Panic

Don’t Panic

Revision. Do you love it – or dread it? What thrills you more: the excitement of a brand new draft with limitless potential – or the nitty-gritty of fleshing out the elements that will make an existing story even better?
Personally, I love revision, but there’s always a few days of panic when I first begin.
Surely I’m not the only one to feel that way? You know – that heart-clenching sensation when you get feedback on your manuscript (from a crit partner, from an agent query, from your own agent, from an editor …) and you think: Ack! I have no idea how I’m going to fix that!
It’s pretty silly to feel that way, especially when a rational part of my brain is calmly saying in the background: Yes, you can. You know you can. Give it a couple days and you’ll figure it out. You always do.
Perhaps panic is a kind of nuclear fuel, toxic in its own right, yet producing a vast amount of creative energy, because after heart flutters and some pitiful whimpering, I generally experience … enlightenment.
Sometimes, it’s a matter of letting go of something I love. I was once advised that a certain manuscript would work better in third person than first person (and given some convincing reasons why). I agonized over it for days. My husband probably wanted to smother me in my sleep with a pillow. Of course, when I tried it, I discovered I could present my mc’s voice in a more effective way, while simultaneously overcoming certain limitations of the original version.
Sometimes, I have to admit that I’m wrong. Perhaps I’ve been told the first 150 words of my manuscript don’t work (yes, I’m talking about you, Katie Mills!), and I’m reluctant to believe it. Then suddenly, I see the light, make the change, and the next five queries I send out get immediate, positive responses.
Other times, it’s a matter of rearranging events or opening up a door I didn’t realize was there. The answer might be right in front of me, and some pre-conception caused me to overlook it for the first three drafts. One of the hardest things for me to do is just walk away from the project for a few days. I’m so darn stubborn, I’ll hang on like a terrier well past the point of exhaustion. But when I do get smart enough to take a break, I usually find a fresh, rested outlook benefits the manuscript.
I think I enjoy revision more than writing first drafts. Sadly though, panic seems to be part of my creative process, something I have to experience before I can visualize a new pathway for my story.
Anyway, it’s better than the panic felt when reading a review of a published work and thinking: Crap! It’s too late to fix that!

6 Responses to Don’t Panic

  1. Linda G. says:

    I’m with you — I love revising! I’m a tweaker. A fiddler. A polisher. It’s tough for me to finish a complete draft before I go back and start revising the beginning.

  2. Sarah says:

    I like revising and have gotten better at it with practice. And I trust my cps and my agent, so it’s getting to be more fun and fulfilling as well. Great post!

  3. Katie Mills says:

    lol- you’re one to talk! I still haven’t fixed up Gretchen Grey since I got it back from you. I am THAT bad about revision! I think in time I’ve learned to auto-revise while writing my first draft just so it isn’t SO hard when I go back to it. Fossegrim was the first manuscript that I honest to goodness revised and re-arranged and rewrote without having a panic attack thanks to some awesome critique partners;) 😉

  4. Candyland says:

    Well I’ve been in full-on panic mode for about 4 months now so if you could lend some of that revision optimism, I’d be grateful!

  5. mshatch says:

    Revising annoys me; I want everything to come out perfectly brilliant the first time. Sometimes it comes close, other times, not so much. I’m in one of those other times right now.

  6. I love the thrill of a first draft. I love the challenge of revision, but I’m worried a bit about the new direction I’m going. We’ll see if it is brilliant, or wrong, and then I’ll go from there. 🙂