Revision Paralysis

I love getting feedback on my work. I am no longer thin-skinned about it—in fact, it is one of my favorite stages of developing a novel. I want to know what worked, what didn’t and where I need to improve. I am an author who thrives on the creative synergy of back-and-forth with ideas and feedback. It’s a good thing.


You can have too much of a good thing.


I have recently gotten all my beta reader feedback from my latest WIP, The Oracle of Delphi, Kansas. The feedback is strongly favorable, but there are areas in the book I need to improve. I skimmed the feedback eagerly as soon as I got it—and it has been sitting there ever since.


I’d like to blame my procrastination on my 7-month-old daughter’s constant demands on my time. I’d like to blame it on the fact that every two weeks or so I am shuttling myself, my daughter and a carload of baby paraphernalia back and forth between New Jersey and Virginia (with side trips to Pennsylvania). I’d like to blame it on my other writing obligations, such as the complete revision of my middle grade novel The Egyptian Enigma and thinking up topics for this blog. But none of that is the real reason I haven’t gotten to the revisions of Oracle.


The real reason is that I suffer from revision paralysis.


I have so much feedback, so many things to revise, that it is overwhelming. Even worse, changing one thing often means changing another that wasn’t even on the list to start with. At first, I didn’t even have a list—just heaps of feedback scattered across multiple computer files. I took the first step and organized everything into a single file of feedback, dividing it into categories: Character, Plot, Setting, etc. I accomplished this in short order, and basked in the warm glow de-cluttering always brings.


But I still haven’t revised, because now instead of overwhelming heaps of feedback, I have a single overwhelming list of feedback.


The cure for my revision paralysis is near; I can feel it. The feedback, its implications, and ways to fix things are rattling around in my brain, simmering and surging. I am almost to the point where my creativity overflows and I must write things down. When I get there, I will turn to my revision file, take a deep breath, and dive in.


And once in, I will find, as I always do, that the water is fine and I love the challenge and satisfaction revision brings!


Do you suffer from revision paralysis? What’s your cure for it?


  1. Revision paralysis comes and goes with me; I’m on the sixth draft of the last third of my book and I have been paralyzed at certain stages – not, however, by an inability to create and conceive but by an inability to START writing. I stare at the spot, I know I have to change it – I know how I’m going to change it and yet making that step is difficult. I think that because so much has been revised already I find it overwhelming, as you said, to have to rewrite something YET AGAIN. I’ve been at this stage the past 2 nights – will tonight be a third? Quite possibly.
    But it will all be good in the end, right?

  2. UPDATE: I just broke through!!
    So I guess here’s my cure; I thought about it and thought it – the passage that was causing me grief, that is – and didn’t panic and just let my mind ease into it and tonight I broke through one of several revision paralyses. There’ll be another one, I’m sure

  3. Congrats on your breakthrough! It’s always a great feeling. I’ve starting on some of the simpler things, so hopefully I can gain some momentum and keep going.

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