I'm in the midst of some major revisions on The Book at the moment, and let me tell you, there is nothing more amazing than going back through something you wrote and seeing how it all hangs together. Seriously, there are times when I'm looking at The Book and thinking to myself "I cannot believe that I, Jay, put this together!"
Of course, then you change one teeny thing and BAM! the whole structure falls apart.
Revision, my friends, is like a sweater. Pull on one thread and a whole bunch of other stuff unravels and the next thing you know a sleeve falls off and now you don't have a sweater, but an asymmetrical sweater vest, which who wants that, you know? No one, that's who.
Because this is a major revision, I'm doing it on paper. I know it's ridiculously old school of me to have printed out all 265 pages of my manuscript and be marking it up by hand, but I find it much faster than doing revisions on computer for two reasons:
1. when you're moving some big stuff around and changing order and adding in new scenes, it's actually a lot faster to have paper than it is to try to find stuff on a computer screen scrolling up and down. This morning I was trying to remember whether I'd taken out a particular scene and all I had to do was flip to the pages where it used to be and see that I'd crossed it out. If I had been working on the computer, I would have been searching for something that didn't exist any longer and driven myself mad.
2. when I finally get around to typing it in to the computer*, I have the chance to polish things up. So I'm doing a rewrite and editing at the same time. This has the added benefit of allowing me to let things go a little in the first rewrite and not being too worried about getting things perfect. I can put in more nuance and emotional depth later, when I type the stuff in.
To continue the sweater metaphor, doing the rewrite in two stages allows me to make sure I didn't drop any stitches the first time.
The beautiful thing about rewriting, even if it means you unravel a bunch of stuff that really looked good**, is that you have the chance to create whole new patterns, things that you didn't think of the first time you were knitting things together. Things that, maybe, are even better than the stuff you've gotten rid of.
* I'm pretty sure Agent Ted isn't interested in getting 265 pages full of my handwritten notes in the mail. I could be wrong about that but...no, I'm not wrong.
** And let me tell you, there were some heartbreaking moments where I had to lose a piece of dialogue or a scene I really liked. All fodder for the "extras" post when The Book actually gets published is what I tell myself. WHILE I WEEP.