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How Revisions Make You a Better Writer
Contributor
Written by
Alissa Johnson
August 2017
Writing
Contributor
Written by
Alissa Johnson
August 2017
Writing

I sent a short story to my writing partner this week. When I started writing, I felt certain that doing so was the right decision. The pieces of the story fell into place in an “aha” sort of way — so clear and vivid that ignoring them would have felt short sighted.

By the time I sent it to her, I suspected it was terrible. As in completely hokey, unimportant, not worth her time and a far cry from my original vision.

In truth, that story is most likely good and bad. It’s a first draft and parts of it will fall flat. Yet somewhere in there are the nuggets of a worthwhile story, and the only way to find that story is to write as many drafts as it takes to get there.

It’s tempting to believe in the myth of a perfect first draft. To believe that you’ll be a good writer when you don’t have to write several versions of the same story in order to get it right.

Creating multiple drafts is not a sign of weakness or being a new, inexperienced writer. It’s simply a sign of being a writer.

I recently received my first copy of a literary magazine and the issue featured the winners of a short story contest. For each one, the magazine listed its stats: how many revisions the story had gone through and how many times it had been rejected. The winner (who received a hefty sum for his story) wrote four drafts and was rejected six times. Another winner wrote her story 12 times.

The simple truth about writing is that it comes with uncertainty. When an idea lands, you have no way of knowing if it’s good or bad — and the way it feels to you (exciting one moment, terrible the next) isn’t a true indication of its worth.

That was true when I was convinced my story idea was genius, and it remained true when I saw all of its flaws. When I get feedback, I’ll see what’s working and what’s not from a more objective point of view. And then I’ll rework it. Even though I might rewrite it several times, something funny will happen: as each draft gets closer to my original vision, the more fun I’ll have.

Call me crazy, but I like revising. In fact I love it. It’s where the magic happens and seeing it through is what helps me write well and connect with an audience.

What about you? Do you get into revisions, or does it feel like endless work? And if you embraced it as part of the creative process, what kind of freedom would that bring to your creative process?

P.S. Interested in building more community around your writing? Check out the Inspired Writers Studio — a place to get in the flow, connect to your creativity and grow as a writer.

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