Writing, as they say, is re-writing. Anyone can churn out a first draft, if they just keep plinking at keys until they hit THE END. A lot of people can even write a good first draft. But no one can write a perfect one. I would almost say revision skills are more important than first-draft skills; you can revise a bad draft into a great one, but if you can’t ever get any better than your first attempt… /wince.
Naturally, being aware as I am of the importance of revising… I loathe it.
The first draft is fun. First draft is where the story pours out and the possibilities are open and it all just feels good! Revision — that’s where you have to look at your mistakes. And figure out how to fix them. Fixing is the awful part because of the Pregnant Pony problem.
The Pregnant Pony is a somewhat incoherent analogy I made while ranting to my friend Deni about how much I hate editing. Because you sculpt this pony, right? Like you’re a sculptor, you’ve sculpted a pony, but now you realize the pony is supposed to be pregnant, and you can’t just slap more clay onto her belly. You have to sculpt a baby pony, and somehow get it into her belly, and make room there for it, and then being pregnant is going to change the way the pony stands, and holds her head, and the luster of her hair, and EVERYTHING. That is what editing is like. Trying to make the pony pregnant, after you’ve already sculpted her!
(I later came up with a much more sane way of expressing this — “Revising is like adding nuts to the brownies after they’re cooked” — but of course the Pregnant Pony is what Deni remembers.)
Deni, meanwhile, is also a writer, and she loves editing. She says the first draft is hard, and once it’s out and you have something to play with and fix, that’s much easier, that’s much more fun. In this, as in most things, Deni is a complete weirdo.
I bring this up because I recently spent an entire day, 12+ hours, sitting at my desk frantically revising. My publisher wanted the first round of edits for Secondhand Shadow finished by the end of January. Most of it was little things (there’s a whole different rant in there as to why these little things needed changing, we’ll have to see how willing I am to possibly annoy my publisher by complaining about their standards), but the big thing was, the entire ending needed restructuring.
“You have a Lord of the Rings ending,” I was told. “It just kinda goes on and on.” And I winced and nodded and agreed because I knew they were right. And then I managed to put off fixing the ending — which was going to involve splicing three scenes into one, writing two new ones with bits of old ones scattered through them, and reshaping the final scene into a different setting — until the last day before it was due.
And I did it. I did it all. I fixed everything the best way I could figure to fix it, got my sister out of bed to read over it and make sure I hadn’t committed any egregious screw-ups, and emailed it to the publisher at 11:59 pm. Ahhh, the stench of burning deadline.
Did I do enough? Will I need to fix it more, or fix problems that I created while fixing the old problems? That remains to be seen. But I did it, y’all. Behold my pregnant pony.