Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sadder But Wiser: Revision Follow-Up

I realized over the weekend that I left my “Rebuking the Wise Man” post a little flat at the end, neglecting to explain further why I brought Meredith Wilson’s “Sadder but Wiser Girl” into the mix.

I said:
Revision makes us wiser. And yes, sometimes sadder. 

But Meredith Wilson has an anthem for revision: 

I flinch, I shy, when the lass with the delicate air goes by
I smile, I grin, when the gal with a touch of sin walks in
I hope, I pray, for Hester to win just one more A
The sadder but wiser girl for me!
What do I mean when I say revision sometimes makes us sadder?
It’s more than cutting scenes or killing characters – although that can be essential. It’s realizing that, sometimes, the story we set out to write is not the one we were writing when we finished the first draft. Or the third draft. Or the tenth. Revision is much more proof of evolution than anything I’ve seen in the natural world. The story you thought you had is not the one you end up with – unless you’re far more disciplined a writer than I am, which is not outside the realm of possibility.
But just as Hester has that, ahem, experience Harold Hill so likes, a writer keen on revision has studies his or her story to the point he knows where the flaws lie, and has a general sense of how to correct them, and goes on to do so, whether the task is pleasant or not. The sadder but wiser revisionist plods on, though some of what he or she has experienced isn’t all that pleasant and results in “winning just one more A” from time to time.

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