Confusing, Revision Hell

I have a question for you more experienced writers. I am in revision hell. I just can’t stop. Every time I even look at my ms I’m changing things that probably don’t need to be changed. And that’s not the worst of it. Sometimes (I’m kind of whispering here), when I’m re-writing whole paragraphs, I re-write them in the first person. My novel is written in the third person. Gah!

I guess my question is this. Well, OK, I have two. Firstly – is it normal to revise like I am? I feel like I’m picking at a scab even when it hurts and I know I shouldn’t. And secondly – why am I switching to first person when I edit? Is it easier to write in the first person (and I’m just being lazy)? Or is this subconscious compulsion telling me that my whole novel should be written in the first person?

Does anyone out there have any advice for me?

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11 thoughts on “Confusing, Revision Hell

  1. DL Hammons

    How about the name of a good therapist? Just kidding. 🙂 As far as the constant editing goes, when I get to the point where I'm making menial changes, its time to put it away and start sending out queries.

    Writing in 1st person…hmmmmmm…that's different. Maybe your mind is trying to tell you something?

    Reply
  2. Suze

    DL – thank you so much. As usual you are the voice of sanity in my edit-crazy mind! This weekend I'm going to try re-write the first 3 chapters in the first person and see how it feels… watch ths space 🙂

    Reply
  3. Ashley A.

    You are using em dashes!

    Ahem. What I mean to say is: I am so right there with you, sister.

    I set aside time this weekend for revision, but it would appear that nothing in my book is right. Nothing at all. Do I slash sections and rewrite chapters? Trash the whole thing?

    Instead of the glorious progress I just knew I would be making today, I am sitting at my desk, cursing my incompetence and convinced I am nothing but a miserable, delusional hack.

    I definitely need an intervention. Gah, indeed.

    Reply
  4. Matthew Rush

    Hmm, that is a tough question, but I'm glad you brought it up. I'm not published, so don't give my advice too much weight but I have to agree with DL.

    Cutting for length, spicing up description or dialog, or correcting errors – those are important. But even with those things it helps to have a second opinion. Other than that it can get easy to get too picky, at least for me.

    As far as switching the point of view that is an entirely different story. It would be tough and time consuming to achieve but not impossible. Let us know how it goes.

    Reply
  5. Suzette Saxton

    I know someone who successfully changed her novel from third to first person. A total rewrite, of course, but it is doable.

    As for picking at your novel, it sounds to me like you are too close to it right now. Unless you feel it is ready to query, you need to set it aside for awhile, at least a couple of months or maybe 6 months or so. When you pick it back up again, you will be surprised to see that what needs to be revised is clear. It is almost like reading something someone else has written.

    In the mean time, write another novel, and critique the novels of a couple of others in your genre. It'll sharpen your skills and prepare you for the revision ahead!

    I hope this helps. 🙂

    Reply
  6. Timothy Fish

    I use a top down approach to writing. All of the big stuff I work out in the outline and work out the details, then I move stuff around when I create the second draft. Each draft after that is done in finer and finer detail. If I am working on the third draft and have the urge to move chapter or reorder the paragraphs in a scene or rewrite the thing in first person, I figure it is because I'm not getting enough sleep, because I've already worked out those issues in the previous drafts. I find that if I put it aside and look at it fresh the next day that the urge to change stuff goes away. The only time I will go back and change something that fits within the scope of the previous draft is if I discover mistakes that make it necessary or I find that even with fresh eyes I have a section that I don't enjoy working in. If I have problems with it during the revision process, the reader is sure to hate it.

    Reply
  7. Suze

    Ashley — so sweet of you to notice my sexy em dashes! I totally feel your pain (we should probably start to exchange pages to assure ourselves that we are not totally useless!)… I think

    Suzette — has some great advice… “put the book down… step AWAY from the book”. I do think you're right, Suzette, distance lends perspective to everything.

    Matthew — I'm struggling with the POV change to be honest. It feels right… but something's missing. Gah! Rachelle Gardner has a question pending on her blog asking her which POV she prefers and why. I'll be interested to hear her reply, but I'm still strongly considering 3rd person again. Call me indecisive…

    Timothy – I'm a top down person too… I start with the pitch, then write the synopsis, then plan the novel around that. It helps me to have a broad theme and story to flesh out.

    Thank you all so much for your advice – you've been so encouraging and have such great opinions… I truly appreciate your input.

    Reply
  8. Postman

    Have you had anybody else read it yet? Get them to. See if THEY think there's any changes that need to be made. Better yet, give your alpha reader a copy of your MS as it stands now and as it stood a little while ago, before you started editing it obsessive-compulsively. Then they can tell you what you should've kept in and should've taken out.

    That's what I'd do, anyway. I have left you an award at my blog, madam. You might have to scroll down a bit. It's the Creative Writer award.

    Reply
  9. Perri

    It sounds like you might want to put it down for a few weeks and come back fresh… or focus on big-picture stuff (plot, theme, etc) throughout and whether that needs tightening or expansion. I know when I get to this stage (which is ungodly often) I just need a bit of a break from it.

    As for the 1st person thing– depends on how the story needs to be told (Listen to me, I sound like Yoda or something!) But really, I find 3rd person works best for characters that need some distance, are “unlikeable” or flawed, or are not in touch with their own feelings… Or if you are jumping around between characters and events. 1st person is more intimate but can be kind of tiring.. all those “I”'s.

    Reply

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