Skip to main content

Encore: Good Grief! Revision in Five Stages

Within a single hour this week, I received a batch of edits for one manuscript and a revision letter for another, which interrupted yet another set of revisions. Whew!

As overwhelming as it can be, I took heart, remembering this 2009 post I wrote for BtO. Thought it would be worth reposting because every writer who ever finishes and sends out a manuscript is likely to get gobsmacked by revisions. It's only those who learn to handle it who go on to be pros.


As I wend my way through a particularly challenging batch of revisions, I was brought to mind of the Kubler-Ross model on the stages of grief, which is all too apt in chronicling the reactions of your average working writer.

1. Denial - Surely, the editor doesn't mean my masterpiece! This must have gone out to the wrong author by mistake.

2. Anger - What the (insert strongest, vilest expletive that comes to mind)? Who do those stupid hacks think they are, screwing with me like this? Are they @#$! blind? (Ranting continues, either in the form of silent fuming or a epic hissy fit. If you're very lucky, no phone calls or e-mails to the involved parties originate during this stage and your loved ones have learned to ignore you at this point.)

3. Bargaining - If I change just this one little thing, that'll make it sort of okay, right? You surely didn't mean to imply I have to rewrite the whole, entire...

Oh, no you didn't.

4. Depression - I clearly suck, and everyone else has just been too kind to tell me. Or maybe they're all winking and laughing behind my back. There are septic slugs with more talent, deranged dabblers who smell of old potatoes who write better. I am vile, useless... (reaches for Help Wanted section of paper and checks out listing for fast food clerks.) Writer's block ensues, sometimes for long periods when writers get stuck in this stage.

5. Acceptance. Oh, all right. I guess I'm going to have to do it, so I must as well dig in and make a decent effort. Hey, wait a minute. These changes really do make the story better, and you know, it's getting good here. I'm getting waaay into this again! (Remainder of world peels away as writer falls back in love with his/her own story.)

I'm not sure if it helps knowing we go through these stages, but at least I'm getting a good laugh - at myself and my process.


I think I just cut straight to the depression stage these days. So not fun.
Jeanna Thornton said…
Oh, poor friend and inspiration...(I loved your comments about denial.) Hey, they have to get up pretty early to discourage CT...go get 'em!!! Get 'er done! (Can you tell I just returned from Dogwood?)
I just put on my "I'll show them face" and finished my edits and the revision of a synopsis. I have a full ms. revision, too, but I'm on the case after the holiday. I have some a little merrymaking and a whole lot of cooking to attend to first.

Popular posts from this blog

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button": Did you love it or hate it?

Earlier this week, Colleen and I went to see "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", the extraordinary movie based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I loved it. Colleen not s'much. (I was sitting there choked in tears at the end of the three hour film, so I only vaguely remember her saying something about "watching paint dry.") I want to see it again, so I'm trying to get the Gare Bear to go with me this weekend, but I won't be surprised if he reacts the same way Colleen did. The movie is long. And odd. It requires patience and a complete suspension of disbelief that modern audiences simply aren't trained for, so you've got to be in the right mood for it. The same is true of the short story, though the story and script have very little in common -- at least superficially. The story is very Fitzgerald (though it's not an example of his best writing, IMHO), and the setting -- Baltimore during the industrial revolution, Spanish Americ

APATHY AND OTHER SMALL VICTORIES by Paul Neilan is only good if you enjoy things like laughter

The only thing Shane cares about is leaving. Usually on a Greyhound bus, right before his life falls apart again. Just like he planned. But this time it's complicated: there's a sadistic corporate climber who thinks she's his girlfriend, a rent-subsidized affair with his landlord's wife, and the bizarrely appealing deaf assistant to Shane's cosmically unstable dentist. When one of the women is murdered, and Shane is the only suspect who doesn't care enough to act like he didn't do it, the question becomes just how he'll clear the good name he never had and doesn't particularly want: his own.