Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Learning to Love Revisions

Maven Carrie RyanI'm not going to lie, I used to hate revisions. In high school, college, law school -- I never revised. With my first completed novel I thought I revised -- I read it out loud, changed the flow of a scene or two to make sure the plot held and ran spell check. With my second novel I set it aside rather than revise a massive plot flaw.

I'm not sure what really changed with The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Maybe it's because I didn't have a clear idea where the book was going so I kept changing things on the fly. Maybe it's because I really felt I had something with that book and I needed to give it the best shot I could. Maybe I just loved the story enough to get it right. But whatever the reason, I learned to love revisions. I'm sure every process is different (and in fact, authors are discussing their revision processes over here on Fangs Fur & Fey), but I thought I'd share mine. Or at least, what mine was most recently :)

After writing 20k in less than 2 weeks I had no idea if I had a viable idea. So I sent it to a CP and she said "Yes! Keep writing!" So I kept writing. I added another 20k, sent these pages back to the CP. This time she noticed some issues. I believe she hated one of my characters with the fire of a thousand suns. And I realized that maybe this book was going to take more work than I realized :)

So I finished the book, changing the plot as necessary. Relationships changed, attitudes changed, secrets changed. But I never looked back -- just kept writing. Because who knew if I'd have to reverse some of those changes or change them even more? I didn't want to waste time revising something I'd just have to revise again.

After I typed The End, I went through and streamlined, making the story hold together, making the relationships consistent, making the story "work." And then I held my breath and sent it out to the same CP and another CP who had no idea what she was getting. I also made JP read it (again!). All were wonderfully honest -- pointing out TSTL moments, telling me how they felt about the characters, etc. So I revised again. I think at this point I was up to draft 5. And then I read it again (and made JP read again!) making sure it really held together. That brought me up to draft 7! More drafts than anything else I'd ever written in my life!

I'm sure I could have gone on to drafts 8, 9, and 10 if one of those CPs hadn't kicked my rear and forced me to start submitting. But she was right -- it was time to stop tinkering and time to start submitting. How to make that distinction? I've heard the advice that when you're only working on the tiny details that don't affect the story, it's time to let it go. So that's what I did.

I have to say, I'm pretty proud of the revising I did on FHT. I'm proud that I actually did it -- that I stuck to it. I'm also pretty shocked because I'm usually not so good with the long term follow through (my guest room closet is a testament to that!). I think one reason I was so set on revising was that I never wanted to look back on rejections and wonder what I could have done more -- what I could have done better. I wanted to send my very best work out into the world just so I could then let it go. And I'm glad I did :)

So, what are y'all's revisions processes? Do you like revising? Hate it? Why?


Kelly Krysten said...

My revisions process is torture. I hate to rewrite ,and I don't have a specific reason why. But I keep at it. I have this vision of it one day being perfect(or pretty darn close to what I see in my head) and that's what keeps me going.

beverley said...

Oh dear, a subject so very close to my heart. I have a two pronged approached when it comes to revising: Deep revisions and polishing revisions.

I can say in all honesty, I hate deep revisions. This is where I basically rip apart a scene, add a scene, make extensive changes. To me, it's like having to write the darn thing from scratch (essentially, like writing the first draft).

I love polishing revisions. That's where I'm just going back to make the words right. The scene doesn't change, the plot doesn't change, the characters are essentially doing what they did before, I'm just writing it different (hopefully better :))

Writer & Cat said...

I like it a lot because it means I must have actually FINISHED my first draft. At least, for it to be REAL revisions instead of procrastinatory tinkering.

Jody W.

Amy Addison said...

I love revisions. Sometimes the process gets a little intense, but for me, it's the best part. The first draft is mining the diamond. The subsequent drafts are the refining process to make it that sparkly, beautiful, sought after gem.

Darcy Burke said...

Jody, LOL at "procrastinatory tinkering!" Carrie, you make an excellent point re: when to stop fidgeting with it and submit. We could revise these things to death (and perhaps sometimes do).

With my latest book, I really feel like I have a pretty clean first draft. Not problem-free, but the revision isn't the least bit daunting. But then I like revision. Not to beat a dead horse, but storyboarding has really helped my first draft and I think my revision process. Looking at the entire story really helps see where you have too much of something and maybe not enough of something else. I'm making myself wait another week or two to start the revision so I can have extra perspective. But I'm itching to get started!

Vicki said...

Revisions, the thing that I thought how long can it take??? Oh my! It can take forever. :)

This is my 5th book (there was a long space of time between the other 4 and this one), this is the first book that I really wanted to submit. So revisions became necessary.

I really did tink it would be a quick deal and boy was I wrong. A 105k book takes a little longer than a week.

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