I vividly remember sitting at a conference with a keynote speaker discussing his process as a writer. He announced that he never edited his own work, that he was incompetent to do so. So he wrote it, gave it to his editor, and moved on. The more I’m in the business, the more I wonder about his philosophy. Either he is some sort of possessed writer, in which the right words come out the first time, or he was lying…or he just wasn’t that good. I have come to understand the revision process as a necessary step, even if it is taxing by edit number eight. Why is it so important? Because I’ve grown the most through this stage. I have been blessed with Tama White, editor of Ghost River Images. I fell into their laps when looking for a self publisher so I could merely publish stories for family. They are the ones who pushed me toward mass publication and continue to be a blessing in my life. I thought I’d take a moment to show the growth from the beginning until now (feel free to laugh because I most certainly will upon reflection).
Most who have talked with me understand The Lord of Nightmares was not a first draft by any stretch of the imagination. What most don’t know is that this story went through three vastly different versions. The first, (a seven page story with as many chapters) I wrote in the 6thgrade. Tim wondered if he would die. Then he felt a sudden burn. He saw himself. He saw the Lord of Nightmares controlling his body. Tim couldn’t do anything. Let me pause to roll my eyes at such prose. All of my sixth grade stories are written this way, in a matter of minutes. In this version, the Lord of Nightmares would possess someone’s body. By the way, they kill him by shoving a pebble in his throat (I will thank my mother every day for not throwing me into a mental institution).
By the time I wrote my second draft, I was in the seventh grade. This version is 26 pages—something I bragged about at the time—and a love story between the Lord of Nightmares (whom I named Stephan) and his captive Cherisa (who reminded him of an old love before he became a Nightmare). The red liquid started running out of the sink in the kitchen. He could hear the windows cracking. “Please!” Mike begged again. While the sentences are better, most of the story was dialogue driven (without even dialogue tags). I had apparently given up hope on my prose.
The story called me freshman year in college. A love story was just not believable. No, by definition, this needed to be much darker. She noticed one black paw stepping out of the shadow that soon transformed into the entire body of a panther standing in the light of the room. Madison chocked on the air, her body stiffening as the animal made its way toward her. It circled her. While I am done with this story—aside from playing with a possible sequel—I only edited the final manuscript about five times. I can only imagine what it would be like if I had pushed further with what I know now.
I have learned so much since my beginnings, but it is because I have had awesome people placed into my life. They have guided me, pushed me, and told me I was worth reading. I thank my teachers who saw the prose of my early writings and told me I had talent and could be more.
I have revised my newest novel about ten times now. While it pushes my love and dedication for that particular story, I am excited to see the change. I am excited to see the growth with every revision. And I am grateful to all who push me and are not afraid to tell me something isn’t working. I could not be who I am today as a writer without you all. And I thank my readers. You all are the reward for the hard work and dedication to a profession I could never imagine giving up. My best advice to those writing is to continue to push your processes, continue to look for improvements, and continue to write. (By the way, I edited this piece three times before posting…)