According to my friend Jo, revising is like eating a huge chocolate cake.
Jodi thinks that revising is like moving a river.
Me, I think revising is like renovating a house. I’ve spent the last four years living in a fixer-upper. When we moved in, the dining room was floorless and the living room was floorless and wall-less. The kitchen was a disaster of mismatched countertops, cabinetry and appliances from the first days of the Industrial Revolution. The back part of the house was closed off until this summer on account of being a disgusting and dangerous place for kids to wander into.
So, yeah, I know about old houses that need fixin’. And first drafts are a lot like those houses. Some of the changes are merely cosmetic, like rearranging furniture or painting over the hideous orange in the bathroom. Other changes start off cosmetic, like stripping off wallpaper but then you realize that the walls underneath are a nightmare and you end up ripping them out and starting anew. Before you know it, you’re gutting the bathroom and rearranging the plumbing.
As fun as all this may be, renovating means that you’re working with limitations. For instance, you can’t really move your colonial from New England to, say, the American Southwest. Or turn your novel from a space opera into something literary and contemporary. You may be able to knock down the wall between the kitchen and dining room, but you may not have the space to build an addition. When you wrote the story, you set certain constraints for yourself, from choice of genre to world to theme to point-of-view characters. If your changes are going to be so drastic as to make the original nigh on unrecognizable, do yourself a favor and write another book. From scratch.
And this does not even begin to take into account the time and wordcount limitations that pros labor under.
Anyone else care to share other revision analogies?