Revision Series #1: 20-minute Recon

I always heard that revision was the hardest part of writing. And then, I felt it in my bones. But there were those glimmers, and moments where my vision was realized. I started chasing these good-feeling moments, and then I realized — what if this was just revision? What if craft was a tool to support our vision, not stifle it?

This slightly better attitude doesn’t make revision easy overnight, but it did make me wary of the in-between times when I began dreading my project. That feeling was rare during drafting, when everything was full of possibility and adventure. During revisions, I started to feel lost and overwhelmed.

I realized one of the most important things I could do while revising a long project or collected set of works was to reset my attitude towards the piece.

Introducing: 20-minute recon.

I mean this quite literally — go spy on your writing. Just watch. Just take a look. You may have been away for a while, and that’s when overwhelm seeps in. So go check in. Open that doc, and your only goal is to see what’s up, what’s going on, where did you leave things?

Here’s how this relates to the long game — if, whenever you feel yourself getting busy and getting pulled away from the work, if you can be in the habit of just stopping by to check in, that will give you an accurate view of the state a piece of writing is in

And what can you accomplish when you have an accurate view?

You can plan.

And you can make progress.

Now, those are two other separate steps that I’m going to write some more about, but for now, I just want you to check in on your work. Just see how it’s going. I promise you’ll spot some amazing stuff that’s going on that you forgot about.

Because our brains are trying to protect us and do good work, our in-between time is often consumed with to-do lists and what we got wrong in the work. Of course this is stuff that you want to be aware of, but if it’s the only thing you’re thinking about when you’re not writing, then how could you be motivated to go work on that project again?

So go get a holistic picture of your writing — the good, the bad, and the soon-to-be-beautiful.

This post is part of a series leading up to the start of Finishing School, a Fall intensive class that focuses on finishing, revising, and finalizing creative work. Enrollment closes August 1, 2022.

Published by Marcella Haddad

I write stories about silly people doing brave things, and I draw pictures of creatures that don't exist. I like traveling, nutella, dragons, and redwood trees.

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