Good Grief! Revision in Five Stages

As I wend my way through a particularly challenging batch of revisions, I was brought to mind of the Kubler-Ross model on the stages of grief, which is all too apt in chronicling the reactions of your average working writer.

1. Denial - Surely, the editor doesn't mean my masterpiece! This must have gone out to the wrong author by mistake.

2. Anger - What the (insert strongest, vilest expletive that comes to mind)? Who do those stupid hacks think they are, screwing with me like this? Are they @#$! blind? (Ranting continues, either in the form of silent fuming or a epic hissy fit. If you're very lucky, no phone calls or e-mails to the involved parties originate during this stage and your loved ones have learned to ignore you at this point.)

3. Bargaining - If I change just this one little thing, that'll make it sort of okay, right? You surely didn't mean to imply I have to rewrite the whole, entire...

Oh, no you didn't.

4. Depression - I clearly suck, and everyone else has just been too kind to tell me. Or maybe they're all winking and laughing behind my back. There are septic slugs with more talent, deranged dabblers who smell of old potatoes who write better. I am vile, useless... (reaches for Help Wanted section of paper and checks out listing for fast food clerks.) Writer's block ensues, sometimes for long periods when writers get stuck in this stage.

5. Acceptance. Oh, all right. I guess I'm going to have to do it, so I must as well dig in and make a decent effort. Hey, wait a minute. These changes really do make the story better, and you know, it's getting good here. I'm getting waaay into this again! (Remainder of world peels away as writer falls back in love with his/her own story.)

I'm not sure if it helps knowing we go through these stages, but at least I'm getting a good laugh - at myself and my process.


Jo Anne said…
Oh wise one, you've tagged it. As someone who has totally (and I do mean totally) revised - oh hell, let's be honest - rewritten two stories this year, I'm very familiar with all of these stages.
LOL, Colleen. I'm currently doing some challenging revisions. I think I went through the stages very fast (I remember the "I can't write worth crud" one the most), then I rolled up my sleeves and got to it. Almost done...
Anonymous said…
LoL, Colleen, it hilarious and so true. I hope to get to the acceptance stage though.
Thanks for cheerfulness!
Thanks for stopping by, Jo Anne, Jen, and Sylver!

I don't know how wise you'll think me after you read my blood-raw synops revision, Jo Anne, but my fingers are crossed!

Good luck, Jen, and I know you'll get there, Sylver. It's the "sweat equity" part of the equation.
TJ Bennett said…
Do you know that Starbucks employees get benefits? I know this because I was checking out their health plan on the corporate site during Stage 4...

Currently in Stage 5, thanks for asking. :-)

I knew you'd make it, TJ.

Meanwhile, just how good are those Starbux bennies? :)
Lark said…
FYI, the jump to stage 5 may be temporary. It's possible to slip back to 4 halfway through.

Is health insurance one of the Starbucks bennies, TJ?
Joni Rodgers said…
Oh! Nailed it. So true. When you kill the proverbial darlings, there has to be a grieving process.
Donna Maloy said…
I'm currently at stage 5, no 3, no 4, no definitely 2! Give me ten minutes and I'll probably be back to stage 1. All I have to do is fix the opening and COMPLETELY CHANGE the characters. At least the plot is OK. I think.
Jason Black said…
Certainly it is important to recognize the five stages in one's self, so as to more quickly get to where you can do the right thing when presented with accurate feedback on your work.

I would argue, though, that if you want to be faced with LESS such feedback in the first place--because you wrote something better to begin with--you should also incorporate this model into the way your characters react to the events of the novel.

There's an article about using the five stages to create emotionally believable character responses here:
Beth said…
I LOVE this. I'm printing this out. I've reached every stage except the acceptance stage. When, if ever, will I get there??? Me oh my.
Beth said…
Mind if I put this on my blog if I give you full credit for this masterpiece?
Thanks so much to everyone who's stopped by and shared. One thing I didn't mentioned in the original post is that the progression isn't always linear and it's definitely slippery. As some have noted, you can definitely backslide, leapfrog a stage, or crash straight back to the beginning.

So watch your footing and keep at it.

Beth, you're welcome to repost if you include both credit and a link back to Boxing the Octopus. Thanks for the kind words and thanks, too, for asking!

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