My #1 revision tip might annoy you …
Sometimes I think about stories as containers.
They are shaped a certain way so that they can hold, and carry to the reader, a particular kind of cargo. A bucket without a bottom won’t carry any water, and a story without an ending won’t carry any meaning to a reader.
Your willingness to commit to a version of your book is articulated in its ending.
Commitment is a risk. It’s a risk to leave behind other possibilities.
Commitment is painful, because it snuffs out every fantasy version of your book which could exist.
And for this reason, writers often sabotage their revisions by leaving the ending in some ephemeral state.
Or, nearing the ending, they decide they’ll just go back to the beginning and change the whole thing leading up to what they suspect the ending might look like.
If you are doing this, S T O P.
Before you can revise, you must write the ending.
I know people who have been working on the same novel for decades because they won’t write the ending.
In many ways, the book’s ending determines every other decision you must make to get there.
Often, writers see their books in non-hierarchical ways. Meaning, it’s about the heroine’s struggle to speak her mind, and it’s also about her quest across the tundra, and it’s also about her familial trauma, and it’s also a love story, and and and and.
But a reader won’t think, “Wow, this book contains multitudes.” A reader will think, “What is happening?”
If you haven’t written the ending yet, you are not revising your book. You are still writing the first draft.
Simple but not easy.
Before you can revise your book, you have to finish a first draft with a beginning, middle, and end.
If you haven’t written the ending, you aren’t ready to revise. Stop the revision process — it will only become an endless waterfall of frustration. Finish the book. The ending will tell you something about who you are.
Risk finding out, and you will be rewarded.