Monday, April 07, 2008

Learning to Love Revisions

A few updates...

Thank you for all of your warm thoughts -- thankfully my kitty's eye is doing much better! And Jake's (the puppy's) paw is much healed and he got reprieve from the lamp shade collar today. He's also gained 10 pounds since we got him 3 weeks ago. Eep! I promise pictures soon!! Oh, and because I always feel that she's so left out, JP's cat is still smelly. And fat. But still cute :)

And now, I'm cross-posting from my Tuesday post at the Manuscript Mavens about revisions and learning to love them :)

I'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?


Pave the Whales said...

I farm it out to others immediately. It's the only way I can step away from my work long enough to look at it with a critical eye. I'm always willing to accept revisions, as long as they're real improvements, but never simply to pacify others who disagree with me on direction.

Of course, most of my documents are in the two page range. Given my work, however, every word has it can take a while.

JenWriter said...

This is so inspiring to read, especially for me and where I am in my WIP right now. I'm about 20k in, and things are changing. It's extremely tempting for me to go back and fix the relationships and direction right now, but I really think it's best if I plow forward and worry about those revisions once it is actually revision time. This is also the fastest I've ever written because I love this story so much. And I love the characters. I feel like I can't write fast enough to get it all down.

I sent out the first five chapters to a CP so far, and I was told that I should keep writing. That the story is compelling.

I'm going to wait until I'm all through and have gone through a first round of editing before sending it out again though. It will probably go through several rounds during that process.

Jennifer said...

Hi Carrie --

I'm very much doing as you did -- steaming forward toward the ending even though I'm constantly making changes that will require me to go back to the beginning to work them in logically.

Knowing that you worked this way and that it produced the desired result is highly encouraging!


JKB said...

I don't mind it at all. I actually like it. But I do try to get the entire ms out before going back to revise.

I do wish I had such a great CP as you've got, though. I need one badly.

Jessica Burkhart said...

I don't mind revising. Since it usually comes after I've done a lot of writing, I'm glad to do something different.

Erica Ridley said...

10 pounds gained in 3 weeks! Wow! (Sounds like me on my first trip to Costa Rica... *g)

Anonymous said...

I'm out of the loop.
What's a CP?
And what are TSTL moments?