Or, What revision really is.
(Yes, I am pulling a post out of my own comments section. That’s how I roll. Because it was a really great point, and deserving of its own post.)
I’ve been talking the last couple days about how I might and, yes, do have to do a bit of revising on the novella I’m currently writing. That word reminded me of my old rhetoric professor, who would always add a hyphen when he spelled it: re-vision. He explained that he did this to emphasize the etymology of the word, that it is not merely to correct or rewrite but to re-envision, to create a new vision for the piece.
It’s actually a profoundly different way to discuss revising than to consider it basically proofreading and tweaking plot points you want to bring more fully into view. Re-visioning is hard work. It is heartbreaking work, because you have to cast away much of what you did before and rebuild something new in its place.
It’s also an empowering word, because it’s a chance to toss out what didn’t work and replace it with what does.
Sometimes revisioning is a painstaking process, where you don’t dismantle everything because only one section didn’t fit. Other times its a melee of destruction, a joyful smashing of an idea you have consciously forsaken which can be stripped of its valuables, those details and sub-stories and foofaraw carted off to other stories like the spoils of victory. There is always a moment, standing in the wreckage of what used to be a narrative, where you feel a vague sadness for that story that now will never be. But as a writer one of your first jobs is also to be an editor, and that often means editing things out of existence.
That is the power of revising, to un-make the world.
And the power of writing is that you can then rebuild it again, word by word.