But first, a short bio. Merrilee Faber lives in the sand and fly infested west of Australia, where she battles giant spiders and venomous snakes every day in a desperate attempt to survive. When not defending her family from Australia's deadly denizens, she tries to earn a crust by telling people what to do, with moderate success. She is a consummate liar, but gets away with it by calling it "fiction". You can get to grips with Merrilee at her blog Not Enough Words (http://notenoughwords.wordpress.com).
Revision would have to be the least popular part of the writing process. You've slaved for weeks, months (even years!) to produce this manuscript; through the good days and the bad days and the why-didn't-I-take-up-cat-herding-it-would-be-easier days.
Now here you are, exhausted, drained, a rumpled, coffee-stained manuscript in your hands, facing the realization that you are not finished yet. That there is so much more work to do.
Is it any wonder our tired muse rebels? So we rush through revision, changing a word here, a scene there, cutting great chunks out of the story because we have to.
After all this time we want nothing more than to be complete. So we tuck the muse away and approach revision like a dirty job that has to be done.
But revision can be, should be, as creative a process as writing the first draft. The revision stage is an opportunity to turn your story up a notch. And this is something you cannot do without engaging your creative side.
So how do you go about creative revision?
Let the landscape of your story become unknown. If you are too familiar with the story, it is more difficult to write fresh. I recommend at least a month, and that month spent thinking and writing other stories.
We tend to fall in love with prose, and don't want to change what sounds good. But you must be prepared to scrap everything, even those sentences you love, to improve your story. And you can only do this as a dispassionate observer.
Fiddling with word choice and rearranging scenes and phrases is just cosmetic. While it's nice to tidy, you need to go deeper. Get your hands dirty.
Look at every choice you made while writing. Was it the right choice? What can you change to make this moment/character/scene stronger, tighter, have more impact? Dig beneath the surface and find more meaning, more impact from the events in your story. Keep that inspiration coming, because more often than not, the second idea is better than the first.
Revision is the time when you should be adding metaphor. Placing foreshadowing for critical events. Developing and strengthening your theme. Retooling your characters to add subtle layers to their psychology. Don't be content with what you already have. Add layer upon layer to your narrative. Add touches of colour and voice. Build a web of character and event and place so tight that no-one can escape the clutches of your story.
You are wordy. Don't deny it. Embrace the fact, and then get out the hacksaw. 90% of your adjectives can go, and 99% of your adverbs. There will be repetition everywhere. Say it once, say it right. Bin the rest.
This may not sound creative, but this is where you use your creativity as a fine-pointed tool. Slice delicately. Excise, tune, think about every phrase, every word choice you have made. Does this word or phrase convey the tension, the impact of the moment? How can I say it stronger?
And of course, now is the time to get rid of all the clichés. It’s fine to use them in the first draft – they’re fast and simple and you don’t need to think about them. But leaving clichéd phrases and ideas in the final manuscript is a crime against literature, and even worse, it’s boring. Don’t be a bore.
Revising creatively leads to a stronger manuscript. If you approach this important stage without your creativity engaged, you are short-changing your story.