Monday, March 4, 2013

Revisions. Yes, you have to.

So you wrote a book a story and now you are querying sending it to your CP's and then you plan to query agents and become a best selling to revise it and then become a best sell and then revise it and then get an agent and put it on submission and then become a best selling and then revise it and then become a best selling author!

Have fun with that. I get so angry when I hear people complain, "This book is 25 dollars." Really? You just paid eight for a lousy cup of fancy coffee and the barista didn't smile and spelled your name wrong. That author worked and bled and cried and did all those things over and over for five years making no money and now gets three dollars (if they got a good deal!) from that one book, so shut your cake hole!

I would write stories from now until the end of time, one right after the other if someone else could revise for me. I love the draft. Fast drafting. Slow drafting. New ideas. Doesn't matter. I love falling in love with a story and the characters. They are shiny and special and become my new BFF. I love new voices and all the things that go with that. I have written new stories just to avoid the R word (no, not rejection...revision!)

For me writing the story is like those first weeks when you are beginning to fall in love. They can do no wrong. You can't wait to kiss them for hours under the porchlight. You don't yet know they snore in their sleep. Total bliss. You type the end. You send it to CP's and you wait for your friends to tell you, yes! You've found the one.

But good friends only want you to have the best things in life. So they point out the flaws. They say things like: Will this really work? Is this believable? Why did she start this scene in jeans but now she has on a skirt? Can you please take a course on comma use? Pick something besides these same five words. You can use sheepishly only once per manuscript. CONTRACTIONS!!!!!

And like when you mother points out "Walter, that's a formal name, isn't it?" It eats at you until you can't stand to look at I am instead of I'm anymore. (Who am I kidding? I love you I am!)

Revisions for me are hard. I know they have to be done. I know the story gets better. I'm more than willing to put in the time and effort, but it doesn't mean I wouldn't rather be giving my attention to the forty ideas I have in my file labeled "new shiny". But revisions are a necessary part of writing. Anyone who tells you different is lying.

So what do you do in revision? I'm not sure everyone knows. I'm not sure I knew until I received an R&R (Revise and Resubmit) a couple weeks ago. I think up to this point I mostly edited. Fixing grammar, typos, missed words, that's the easy part. And I think that's all I used to do.Revising means you fix the holes, fix the dialogue tags, make the dialogue believable, undouchecanoe your characters or maybe the opposite.

This seems pretty straight forward but if only it were that simple. And here's why. I have amazing CP's. They have freaking brilliant ideas and even better advice. I was lamenting brainstorming to one about my R&R and how to make it spectacular. There was something I tried that didn't work for everyone so I took it out. My awesome CP Sarah who will remain nameless said, wait...whose story is this?

In that moment, I had to really ask myself... am I doing exactly what I talked about in my last blog post for The Writer Diaries? Am I writing the story I want or the one that is most marketable? The short answer for me is both. But where do you draw the line? And in that moment I realized my fear of revision...will my story stop being mine and become one of the mass market things out there or will it still belong to me?

You might think this fear is silly but think about critiques you get back or give away. I know I'm one of the first to say, you used this, pick a new word. Reword - awkward phrasing. Maybe this would be better here. And I see those same things in the notes I receive. I trust my CP's because they are rock stars and sometimes they suggest a word or phrase and I blindly put it in.

Then I think, my character would never say that. Their character would, but not mine. And I find a compromise between the first second third draft hot mess and what they suggested and make it work. And in the end it's so much better. And it's still my story.

The tricky and scary part of revisions, and especially an R&R, is will my original story still be intact? I got lucky. My R&R loved my story, my plot and my concept. The characters needed tightening and they were absolutely right. My MS needed cleaning, and again they were right. But in going through I found things to make the overall story better. I learned it was nothing to fear but something to be embraced. A path leading to a road that ends at publication. And isn't that the goal of everyone who wants to write for a living?

Their story, told their way, hardbound on bookshelves, in people's hands making them miss subway stops and bedtimes. That's my dream at least. And if revision is the thing that helps me get there, then bring it on. Does that mean it's my new favorite and I look forward to it?

                                                              OOh, look! New shiny!


  1. New shiny is fun, and revisions are hard. I always feel skeevy making suggestions for other writers, like, who the hell am I to suggest the character say this or that or the other thing? But when I love a story, I want everyone to have a chance to love it, too. So I make suggestions. But I always stick a ton of "maybes" and question marks in, so it doesn't seem like I'm being bossy. Except sometimes. Sometimes, I'm probably too bossy.

    Sincerely, the Insane Comma Ninja

    1. I love your suggestions, so don't stop. But I think I've learned I don't have to take every single suggestion given me either. It's a nice balance.

    2. Nope. They are only suggestions. Carry on. It's your story. Don't ever let anyone take it away from you. :D

  2. *is suddenly paranoid to crit you again*

    1. What? why? Your crits are some of my favorites. You get to it and I love that! don't change a thing, love!!

  3. The first time I had someone critique my work it felt like they literally pulled my heart out like on Once Upon a Time. But when I stepped back and processed - I saw what they saw and agreed. I even went to the those who made no changes and was like "please be honest - you're only hurting me." Revisions are good. They make everything better! Thanks for this post:)

  4. There's a reason they're called shitty first drafts. Even the most professional of professional writers writes a shitty first draft. It can't be avoided. You just have to know your story/characters/technique well enough to wade through all those stinky turds and find the diamonds underneath.

  5. I love revisions!!

    Sort of.

    My first drafts are always full of holes (I write fast & skip over anything that slows me down). I love the part where I get to delve deeper into my characters' minds, to find out exactly what they're thinking, seeing, hearing, feeling in each scene.

    My problem is, I get so caught up in the revising process that I never know when to call one manuscript "done" and move on to the next. So I edit, rewrite, revise... Then I send my manuscript off to CPs and move on to the next while I wait for feedback. Edit, rewrite, revise, send the 2nd ms off to other CPs and move on to a third while I wait... And then I get my first ms back and I start the process all over again. I now have 7 manuscripts in the active revision stages (one of which I've been working on since 2008), and I'm afraid to call anything "done." One of these days, my CPs are going to revolt!

  6. I always think starting is hard. So if i'm starting a new draft, it's hard. And if i'm starting revisions, it's hard. But in both those cases, i find my legs soon enough and then it's a lot easier

  7. Ahh great post. Revisions. You are right it's all about commpromise - how can I take this CP notes and listen to them and learn from them and still have it be my story. And the same with agent's notes too. Good luck!

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