The Revision Exercise Regimen

Revision is a lot like starting a new exercise program. They both have very distinct stages you have to pass through before arriving at the end.

The hardest stage for a lot of people is getting started. Most of us need to exercise more, and we know it, but getting started is tough. It means finding time to exercise instead of doing all the other, more fun, things I want to spend time on. Revision is the same way, particularly when it’s a large revision. It’s overwhelming and I feel like I’m never going to be able to get to the end of it. So I procrastinate, doing all the “fun” writing things instead.

But finally, I have to take the plunge.

That first week on a new exercise program is tough. Aching muscles. Fatigue. Sweat. I so want to give up during this first week, and the revision process can be equally as painful. Those first few revision sessions are spent planning my attack, marshalling my details so I don’t forget to do something. My brain aches from juggling all the revision details, my eyes are tired from looking at the screen, and I’m sweating because I am positive there is no way I can get this done.

It is so easy to quit at this point. But I can’t—not if I want to reap the rewards.

Slowly my body adjusts to the new normal. The achy, tired muscles go away. My metabolism ramps up and I find myself haunting the kitchen for snacks (which I do not buy for this very reason). The revision program hits this phase, too. When I’m actually doing the revising, checking things off my lists, my brain ramps up—it’s playful, creative, eager to move forward. Ideas flow and connections get made that I didn’t see before.

After a while, I notice a change in my body. I feel stronger. I have more stamina. In revision, I grow in confidence, I am energized by the process. I can see the finish line, glowing like a beacon in the distance.

In the end, if I’ve persevered, I end up with a leaner, stronger, healthier body. The same is true with my novel. After the days of disciplined revision, the book is leaner, the story stronger, the whole healthier than when I began.

For me, sticking to an exercise regimen is really hard, because I find no joy in exercise at all. I’ve never once experienced the “exercise high” others have. Revision, on the other hand, I do enjoy. I love cutting the chaff and strengthening the story. “Writer’s high”? Maybe the difference is that to maintain my body once I reach a goal, I need to keep exercising, while with a manuscript, there’s a finite end point. While you may have to revise multiple times, at some point you stop and call it “done.”

But the key to success, as in so many things in life, is perseverance.

So get started, stick to it, and reach your goal!

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