Friday, May 15, 2015

a perfectionist revises

Inspired by this wonderful post and this wonderful post, I’ve been thinking about how revision relates to me.

I should start by saying I’m a neat freak, so when I receive an editorial letter from my super smart agent, my immediate reaction is filled with anxiety. I don’t like when things are messy and I want to hide all of this messiness in the bottom of a trashcan. Honestly, I picture throwing my manuscript into my blue recycling bin and never looking at it again.

This, as it turns out, is my work as a writer. To see that mistakes aren’t really mistakes, instead they are indicators of where I can dig deeper.

However, as I begin to dig deeper, I feel vulnerable and because I feel vulnerable, I have a tendency to rush through a rewrite. I cut out entire scenes with one swipe of the delete key and I quickly write new scenes just to fill the missing space. This technique does not work for me! When I rush, I end up with a story that is hollow.

So how do I keep from rushing? The moment I get an editorial letter, I remind myself I’m grateful for the feedback. Then I step away from the computer. I let myself feel uncomfortable. And, I wait. I do not go anywhere near my manuscript! During this waiting period, which usually takes a few days, the notes begin to move from my head and into my heart.

Here are a few things I tell myself while I’m waiting.

I will listen.
I will trust my process.
I will not throw my manuscript in the trash.

I also have this sentence tacked above my desk. I look at it everyday.

There are discoveries I haven’t made yet.


  1. Thanks for this! As a fellow perfectionist, I have to say vulnerability is painful. And writing exposes that vulnerability all too often. Thanks for showing how to work through it to make the manuscript its best.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Genetta!