My novel-in-progress is about 10 years old, a dream that started when my oldest child was born. In the beginning, all I wanted was my story to drift upon paper. I didn’t censor or edit myself during this tumultuous time. As a brand-new mother I was already vulnerable to low self-esteem, a constant doubt that rippled through my days. Am I good enough to do any of this?
The one urge that kept me driven was my passion for writing this story. It didn’t matter to me, at the time, if it was publishable material. I only cared about building this nether world and a community of characters who would never, from that first day, leave me alone.
Fast forward about two years, and I was determined to publish my book. But I knew it wasn’t going to soar as is. So, I started taking classes, workshops. I attended conferences, joined a writer’s group, networked. Shared my story with others.
I have revised it based on feedback from fellow writers as well as my own decisions. I have gone through close to a dozen drafts. Some drafts were a reworking from cover to cover; some drafts were solely about character overhaul or a subplot alteration. Regardless, each draft had a large enough scope and influence that twisted the work into a different story than what I first wanted to write. There were changes I made because I doubted myself. Then there were changes I made that I ‘unmade’ and reverted back to the original idea. There were omissions I made that I still grieve, and there are additions that make me proud.
As I consider the history, the making of this novel I realize—with some regret, some satisfaction–that the current version is nothing like my original version, the one I wrote when my daughter napped.
I recently read a thought-provoking post on Even More BonusParts regarding the difference between being an artist or a craftsperson. I don’t know if I’ve spent the past 10 years on this story as an artist or as a craftsperson.
As an artist, I fell in love with the story and the universal message it shares. This is the story that got me writing again after I lost my courage to write. Even after 10 years of nurturing it, I have not lost my passion for it nor my faith that it’s a good story.
As a craftsperson, I veered away from (most of) my original story idea because word count was too high, plot had too many holes, not enough action upfront, unclear character motivation—killing fields for a book I want published.
All of this makes me think about the word vision in the term revision. Perhaps revision isn’t a dismantling of an idea, but a refinement. A propping up of the original vision, brushing off the grime and scrubbing it until it glows all shiny-brand-new. Like chrome on an antique car.
I’d like to think that the changes I made were not at the mercy of my weaknesses as a person, but at the mercy of my inexperience and timidity as a writer. I’d like to think, as Mayumi suggests, that my story is the result of a blending of artistry and crafts‘wo’manship. That as I rewrote this story, I learned more about the art and the craft of writing. That the original vision is still there, but dressed to go out.