Greatness Comes in Revision

JordanA Writer's Guide to Persistence, Craft7 Comments

There’s nothing quite as white-hot and powerful as the moment a Grand Idea hits you—meteoric, seismic in its power. You probably get said idea just on the edge of sleep, right in a work meeting and quite often when you’re nowhere in the vicinity of a method to jot it down. By the time you begin in earnest to translate your vision from etheric realm to paper, it comes out like some waifish little runt with mange.

But greatness only comes in revision. Revision is the act of making good on that divine spark that came as inspiration. Revision is the process of chasing down that greatness, and you must not stop until the worlds on the page are as close to that original vision as possible—and, the truly magic part is, they will have become something else, something more, an even Grander Idea or a new one in the process.

That said, revision remains one of the most persistently difficult areas to get writers to learn to love or enjoy. In part I think this is because many people feel overwhelmed at the get go and don’t know how to break down the revision process into crucial, easy to work with stages. But once you do learn to love it, or at the least embrace it, you will be amazed how it changes your relationship to your own words. There’s really nothing more gratifying than watching your idea come together, flesh out, and reach its potential.

But I’m always surprised to find out how many writers not only struggle with revision but even express hatred for it. So let’s look at revision from a couple of new angles.

Take pleasure in the polish: You know that satisfying smoothness of a piece of weathered beach glass, or the way a polished stone glides beneath your fingers? Revision does that to your words. Surely you turned to writing because some part of you loves to turn words over in the tumbler of your mind, clip and tease the cadence of your sentences until they sing magic or evoke a feeling?  There’s nothing so grand to a writer as the feeling of a perfect sentence slipping into place. Have you lost touch with this sensation? Go read some poetry, listen to song lyrics, or just watch some episodes of True Detective.

The Receding Horizon: It’s just a fact of being a writer that publication feels like a constantly receding horizon you’re always chasing after. It’s easy to give in to feelings of fear that if you don’t submit or self-publish it RIGHT NOW you’ll lose an opportunity. But guess what makes a successful author? Care and attention to the writing. The stronger your work, the greater your chances. Rushing only leads to sloppiness, a major tell to agents, publishers and even readers. Your fate, your perfect timing aren’t going anywhere; your writing will find its place when the work is right, and you’ll feel a heck of a lot better about it then.

The Age of the Self: Self-publishing, indie-publishing–they’re wonderful methods I am strongly in favor of at the right time.  But they’ve also added to this false urgency in writers I see to get work out and done, especially if you’re publishing serial fiction. I don’t care if you write a book per month; nothing is ever done after a first draft. Nothing. Don’t become complacent with “good enough” especially when people are paying for your work. Rise above. Shine.

Great writings comes from practice, caring and attention.


If you like what you’ve read, please subscribe to this blog or sign up for my newsletter. Also check out my books: Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time and the suspense novel, Forged in Grace. And check out my Plot & Scene Writing Retreat with Martha Alderson at the Mt. Madonna Retreat Center in May.

JordanGreatness Comes in Revision

7 Comments on “Greatness Comes in Revision”

  1. Diane

    Once again, the timing of your post is impeccable. Earlier this week I finished the first draft of my first book. For the first couple of days, I savoured the high of having actually written a full book, but now I have done a wee-bit of a belly flop to “where on earth do I start with the revisions to take this from good to great?” I told friend I’ve entered the stage of drafts 2 – 52 (smile) and was feeling a bit overwhelmed, but I think I’m going to take to heart the phrase “take pleasure in the polish.” Writing the first draft was so much fun. Who says the revision process can’t be fun too? Thanks for the pep talk, Jordan. PS: Like the new look of the website!

    1. Jordan

      Diane, congratulations on a first draft! That’s marvelous. If you’re interested, I teach a class in May called “Revise for Publication.” Either way I will have future posts with revision tips.

  2. trip

    Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve visited your blog before but after going through many
    of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Regardless, I’m definitely pleased I
    discovered it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back regularly!

    1. Jordan

      Terese, I’m so glad you did stop by. The website got a facelift, so perhaps it looks different from your last visit? Either way, welcome!

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