Revision as Solace

I love finding a quote which makes me wish I had said that. From Poets and Writers, Nov./Dec. 2016 issue, Paul Hertneky, author of Rust Belt Boy, said, “Revision became my solace, my drug of choice, the only activity that could make me feel better.”

I can’t remember when I first discovered that the struggle was getting the first draft down, and the fun began with rewriting. I had never thought to equate revision with solace or a drug of choice, but I know well the satisfaction of becoming wrapped up in whittling a writing until less becomes more.

My first major work with an editor came with a letter that was neither an acceptance nor a rejection. The letter from Highlights for Children recounted an editorial meeting that produced a list of nine questions or issues for the article I had submitted. At the end, the editor apologized for the two long pages of notes but invited me to work on it and submit it again if I liked. I answered the questions, which were easy, and put on my revision hat. After a bit more back and forth with the editor as we improved the piece, it was accepted and published.

My most recent response from a submission came from an editor who had read my whole manuscript and listed about four elements in the middle grade novel that needed attention with suggestions about why they didn’t work for her. Her critique made sense. Back I went to a place and people I had come to love when I first wrote the book. I found not only solace, but excitement as I tweaked and supplemented the areas she found lacking. With no promises from the editor for anything other than another read, I found the joy of revision satisfying as I added depth to the characters and elements that filled holes in the story line.

So, when does revision come to an end? Like sopping up the dab of gravy in the corner of a plate with last bit of biscuit, the end comes for me when all I can think to do is switch “the” to “a” and back again.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that my submission will go to a wise editor with fresh eyes who sees something I’ve missed. In that case, bring on the drug of revision.