Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Revisions and edits and revisions

There's a great article in the RWR (Romance Writers Report) this month on revisions. Essentially the author reviewed a bunch of writers about their most memorable/painful revisions and essentially all the writers talked about how revisions are a part of the process. And it's true, they are.

Recently, I've had a few people ask me about revisions. Usually it's them saying "you're still editing? I thought you turned those in last week?!" And usually my answer is "yes and yes."

I've heard some true horror stories about revisions -- people asked to add characters, arcs, 20k words or to cut characters, arcs, or 20k words. Michelle Rowen once changed a book from third person to first person (or was it vice versa?) and she re-typed the whole book in order to do it. I think Jackson Pearce changed a book from third to first (or vice versa?) and from past tense to present too (or vice versa?). I know someone else who's written the same beginning from three (or was it four) different POVs multiple times -- very hard core!

Clearly, I was anxiously awaiting my own editor letter, wondering what her prognosis for my book would be. And I have to say, so far so good. Right now we're on the third round which may seem excessive, but seems about right for me. We started two days after my book sold when Krista sent me an email with a few major points she wanted addressed, things like making one character more sinister or clarifying a relationship. All in all, things that I thought were addressed in the book, but clearly were better established in my head rather than on the page.

And that's something the RWR article makes an excellent point about -- wait a day or two before defending yourself to your editor. Because inevitably, the first words out of your mouth will be "But...." and that's not necessarily the way you want to approach your edits. I'll always remember a blog post Justine Larbalestier wrote about how writers are very often way too subtle in the first few drafts... that's a lot of what your editor will be pointing out to you: things you think are very clear but just aren't on the page.

Anyway, so I went through that first round of revisions and handed them in. Seriously, I felt like I was back in law school where you take one exam to cover the entire semester's worth of work. I had no idea if I was going to pass or fail -- if my edits addressed her issues, were too heavy-handed or too light.

A few weeks later, Krista sent the second round of edits (I passed!) -- this time an editorial letter and the manuscript marked up to delete repeated words (I hate repeated words), streamline parts, and questions written in the margin. This is the round I took with me to Belize and the round it felt like my eyes were bleeding with at the end. I became so tired of my manuscript I didn't care what happened to it!

Thankfully, I had a few days off to regroup while Krista read through the edits (I passed again!). I already knew there'd be another round, hoped there'd be another round. Because I knew that by the end of that second round I wasn't giving the best I could. I knew I needed another read with a clear mind. And to me that's the scariest part of finishing the big edits: the end of your chances to make substantive edits. That's it. The book is done. Finished. Any lingering issues need to have been addressed or they shall linger forever (or until you write a sequel :)

But I'm not there yet. Right now I'm on the third round, clearing up those lingering issues, trying to spot anything that needs tightening, explaining, etc. Once I'm done with this, the book shall wend its way to copy-editing where the poor editor will inevitably have a heart-attack at my grammar (yay! commas as decoration!).

So, that's why all the edits and lack of blog posts and sporadic emails. That and the fact that the end of the year is THE busiest time at my day job. I definitely have my hands full right now!! Anyone who thinks that revisions are done once you sell the book -- ha!


Patrick Alan said...

GAAAHHH! 3 rounds of edits so far?

Out o Curiosity, do you have a deadline of when you need to return it back by? Is it reasonable? Is it negotiable?

Vicki said...

Really great post! I'm in the middle of my own edits right now. The ones you do right before you send it out. Hoping you've done them enough that an agent is going to love it.

I swear everytime I read it, I find something else that I think needs to be fixed.

Still it's good (or bad depending on your thoughts), to know that the editor will be giving you more things to do work on, tighten up, and cut.

Hey, are you going to be able to come to the Feb. retreat?

Carrie Ryan said...

Yep Patrick -- three rounds of edits! As for the deadline, interesting question! Technically, according to my contract my final draft isn't due until Feb. 29th and I only have a progress draft due Jan 15th. However, because FHT was so polished (their words) they essentially moved up the publication date (that's my understanding) so we're trying to get the final draft into copy-editing much sooner. Usually, when Krista sends me something I'll ask for when she wants them and she'll ask me when I think I can get them done. For the second round, I set a deadline and then asked for an extra day which was no problem. So far it's seemed things are pretty flexible, but I think that flexibility goes away as we get farther into production. But that's just my hypothesis...

Carrie Ryan said...

Hey Vicki! Thanks! I never did sign up for the Feb retreat so unless there's a really short waiting list, I'm not gonna make it (sigh!). Good luck with edits! When I was in that stage, I did the best I could do to make it as smooth and polished as possible, but I also recognized that at a certain point, worrying about the random repeated word wasn't worth keeping me from submitting. I finally came to the conclusion that you want to put your best foot forward, but that agents are also looking somewhat at the potential and having some errors isn't going to sink that potential.

Diana and Erica were the ones to finally tell me to stop with the nit-picky editing and send the sucker out!