Author’s Intent, Revisions

There’s a saying, “Dying is easy; comedy is hard.” For writers, it could be phrased as “Writing is easy; revising is hard.” One spends countless hours writing numerous, disjointed passages and then must figure out how to get them all to work together. This is where the real task of writing begins.

I consider the act of revising a manuscript akin to a sculptor chiseling away at a large stone. It starts off as a mass of rock and it’s up to the artist to form it into whatever vision directs the effort. I frequently write a paragraph here, or a bit of dialogue, or a few pages, with no real idea what’s going to be in the final draft, then begin chiseling out the story within. Many times, I have only the vaguest idea of where I’m going and the story takes shape as I go along.

Other times, I have a clear idea of where I want the story to go, but not how to put it into coherent words. In times like these, I’ll write out what I’m trying to say, sometimes simply describing what a character is doing or thinking, or writing out a paragraph on what’s supposed to happen, relying on the editing process to iron out any details. The result can be many revisions, some with just a few words different.

I’m not a writer who worries about removing elements of a work in progress, because I never truly discard anything. In the original draft of my play Rebecca, Too, the character who became Alyssa Caine started out as the youngest daughter in a family with two much older sisters, only one of whom was named in the play. When I realized that a sister we never saw had a larger impact on the action than the mother who was a character, I created Leah Walker, Alyssa’s sister, and killed off the mother. This created a totally new dynamic for the action of the play.

When I started developing characters for Worthy, I recycled the family unit from Rebecca to create the Worthy sisters, Regan, Rosalind, and baby sister, Rhiannon. The age difference is exactly what first appeared in Rebecca though the lives and situations of the characters are completely different. The main character from my earlier, unfinished novel, Boom Town found new life in the first story from Fables of the New South and has developed so well, I’m planning to revive his tale in the near future.

A writer’s work is never done, and there’s always some new way to imagine a story or scene. There comes a time, however, when one must say, “Enough!” Otherwise, revisions could go on forever and nothing would ever get performed or published. The final product could always be improved, perhaps, but most writers can recognize that they’ve done enough and release their work to the world at large. Then, it’s off to start the next.

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