There is nothing quite like revision.
Right now, I’m reading over the 3rd chapter of my MA and leaving myself comments in the margins. Constructive criticism is something I value and try to promote to others, which is why I make an effort to put it into practice while giving myself feedback. For instance, I have found a couple of passages where my argument is not quite as explicit and direct as it could be; I have some really good theory I’m using to back up my examples from the film I’m talking about – The Maze Runner – and in these instances, I’m just not taking advantage of that theory as much as I could. I have therefore left myself some helpful reminders, such as “I could make this example stronger by using it earlier in the chapter when I introduce the film”, “this point feels peripheral now, I should evaluate whether it still makes sense”, and “STOP TALKING AROUND THE POINT THIS IS YOUR FUCKING ARGUMENT SO JUST FUCKING SAY IT AAAAAAAAAAA“.
I’m not even kidding.
And the thing is: it’s fun. Revision is fun too, but it’s also a real slog sometimes, so you need to take opportunities to entertain yourself. If that means screaming at yourself in the most un-constructive language you have literacy in, then so be it. The important thing is that you get through it, because the work ain’t gonna do itself, and whatever it takes for you to get it done – well, what happens in revision stays in revision.
Which is also why you revise more than once, unless you can afford not to care. When I revised Tallulah, it was a huge counter-swing in terms of what I’d done with the story already, trying to take it in as different of a direction as I could manage because everything looks awful in retrospect. Ironically, a few of the really weak parts of the story only stood out to me once I’d made these massive changes but ignored those parts, and that’s the other reason to revise more than once, something I have yet to accomplish with Tallulah. But my MA is going to have at least 2 revisions, and because I’m up against a deadline with it this means that I can’t actually afford to make huge changes. I have to discipline my writing and make sure that I take full advantage of the material I have to work with, making certain points stronger and de-emphasising others while still ensuring that it retains a sense of coherence.
It’s the deadline that does it, I’m finding, which makes perfect sense – and also makes sense as to why I still haven’t finished Tallulah or my shitty YA werewolf novel. I don’t have to. I can take my time to perfect them, nitpick over every single little detail and then every single detail I add in to satisfy the original nitpicks; there’s nothing materially preventing me from doing that. But with this MA, there is. And that’s a necessary thing for any writer: at some point you have to stop – or be stopped. Because without that, your story doesn’t end, and the thing about stories is that, one way or another, they have to end.
I’m getting an appreciation of what I have to do with Tallulah through just making these notes on my MA: I’m going to have to accept that I can’t change too much of it, that it’s flawed, doesn’t live up to the promises it makes and despite all of this, this is the material I’m going to have to work with, and make work as a functioning story. Which is why it’s not going to be the story I want it to be.
And the other reason this is what I know I’m going to have to do is because, obviously, I don’t have to do that at all. I can wait. I don’t have a deadline; as I’ve said before, I ain’t getting paid for my writing, so I may as well do it the way I want to do it. But as time goes on, the way I want to write is changing. I want to write in such a way that means I complete stories, that I finish with them and move on to other ones. I have so many stories that I’ve come up with in a moment of inspiration, even had that moment last for far longer than a moment, more than enough time for me to take a crack at that story while still feeling enthusiastic about it, and just never done anything other than indulge in the thoughts and feelings evoked by that inspiration. I’ve had so many stories that had their moment to shine, and I refused to help them do it. I think that might be why I have so much difficulty coming up with new stories these days – some kind of karmic backdraft, punishing me for not embracing the creativity I had at the moment that I had it. I say that only half-jokingly; whenever I think of going back to those stories and trying them out again, the spark is just gone, dead – I had the chance, and blew it. There’s no reason I can’t go back and pick them up, of course, but that feeling of deadness, of lost opportunity – I think there’s something valuable to learn there. Namely, to follow inspiration when it strikes. Take the risk. Defy perfectionism and worrying about what people will think, and give yourself the opportunity to see what you think when you’re done. Take the opportunity to start, so that you’ll find out what happens when you finish.
Which is, I guess, why I really still have this blog: to make notes, and make them public in case they prove useful to anyone else. Though having said that, this blog is hardly all about that. I wish it was. A little clarity of purpose never hurt anyone, especially a blog.
But, then again, sometimes you need those really ‘constructive’ blog posts just to keep the thing going, too. Or I do anyway. How real bloggers do that whole ‘consistency’ shit I’ll never know.