I've been thinking about revisions lately. A couple of months ago, while working on my final-year portfolio, I asked my creative writing tutor (the brilliant Jo Baker) how long it took her to make her novels exactly what she wanted them to be.
"Well, I still haven't managed to do that," she said, laughing.
I asked her why, of course. I mean, was it because no book is ever going to be as perfect as you hoped it would be in your head? Is it because characters can rebel and refuse to be exactly what you want them to be (but there, after all, is where the story's life is, don't you think?)
Jo told me that it's partly not being able to get things the way they are in your head, which I could understand. But she also mentioned that it's because, over time, what you want from your story changes. Not a lot, maybe, but enough to make you feel oddly discontented with what you were so pleased about last month.
This is so true for me now. In my current, edited manuscript of ECHOES (the full manuscript that's still out with agents, being considered), I have a scene in which two characters on the run, in an attempt to forget they're being hunted for a little while, go wandering around London. While this felt right and in character at the time, and even after several rounds of revisions, I now feel irritated by this. Yes, it still kind of works, but it's also not appropriate to that chapter and that part of the story, and I think it diminishes the impact of the tension and conflict in those pages.
Maybe it can be re-written to work better? Maybe it should be scrapped altogether? Either way, it's not the only small thing niggling at me, and I now feel like my book needs another round of revisions.
Question is, does time away from a project give you necessary perspective, and how much of this perspective should you trust? Should you revise a book every single time you feel a little discontented with it, or should you just let it be sometimes and put your discontent down to restlessness? Does waiting to hear from agents/editors/readers contribute to this feeling of discontent with your story?
Is a book ever really complete? Or can it always stand more editing, even if that editing at some point stops being helpful and becomes something that takes away from your original story?
Do you ever struggle with this kind of thing? Does time reveal flaws in your project you never saw before, or does it just make you restless and start picking at tiny things that aren't really a problem?
On an unrelated note, do join my Character Interview Blogfest! Sign-up sheet is in the sidebar, and I can't wait to read all your entries!