Revision: When Is Enough, Enough?

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Stop Revising
When it comes to revising, I have trouble knowing when to quit.

I tend to write for a while, then get some distance before coming back and see how it “sounds” in my head.  I’ll inevitably tweak my word choice a here or there for clarity.  Or I’ll rearrange the word order to adjust the tone.  I may even remove (or add) contractions, slang, or simpler language in dialog to better fit a particular character.

While these may all seem like reasonable ways to revise, the problem is that I find myself doing it to the SAME piece of writing.  Again.  And again.  And again.

So, when is enough, enough?

I mean, this IS writing we’re talking about after all.  So, the “right” words do matter, don’t they? DON’T THEY?

I’ve learned that the answer to this question is…

Not so much.

A grocery list can have the right words in the right places, but no one will ever give that grocery list to their friends and say, “You’ve just GOT to read this!!!”

What matters is the story.

Don’t get me wrong.  When it comes to storytelling, words are the vehicle for conveying that story to others.  But the words themselves are not the story.  The story is what happens, to whom, why, what they do about it, and how they change when all is said and done.

For example, you can tell the story of The Three Little Pigs in as few as 300 words. Or you can take more than 7 minutes to tell it.  Either way, the telling changes the tone, but not the story itself.

Bottom Line:
If you want to tell stories, YOUR STORIES, don’t let the “right” words get in the way.

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So what about you?  Do you struggle with the temptation of endless revision in your writing like I do?

I’d love to commiserate with you in the comments!