Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How I Roll (Ahem, Revise)

I got a great question from Zoe Courtman about what my revision process is like.

Truth be told, I didn’t learn how to ‘revise’ anything until almost a year after my first MS was written.  Before then, I’d usually do a ‘reread’ and think it was a ‘revise’. 

For me,  Revision means you have to revisit EVERYTHING- dialogue, narrative, plot, description, character development, etc…and weigh it all very carefully. 

For example- I just finished a 50k YA romance/chicklit. (Yes!  It’s done!  Wooooh) I’m in LOVE with my characters and the story.  So for right now, I’ll probably do a few ‘rereads’ and just change anything that sticks out.   I’d also like it to be a little longer- around 60k so if I see any way to make this possible- if any scenes come to me that might add something important to the story, I might try and fit them in.

Then it will have to be put away for at least two weeks to a month.  
Seriously, I know that I will get nowhere if I don’t take some distance from this thing.

Once it’s given enough time to rest, I will go back with my ‘editing mind.’- ie- look at my manuscript from the angle of a professional and try and pretend ‘it’s not mine’.

Is the pace too fast?  To slow?  Is it clear whose speaking?  Are the descriptions too long?  Not indepth enough?  Could this sentence/word be cut?  Or would something fit better?  Have I repeated ‘shook his head’ ten million times?  I try and be as critical as I can. 

Then I get down to my list of annoying words.

Then it’s ready to be submitted to my critics group.  These wonderful people will help me repeat the above process but from their four very different viewpoints.  They make me revisit and question EVERYTHING and I hate them and love them for it.  Because in the end, they help me transform my work into something the ‘every reader’ should like.  And hopefully that will get me one step closer to finding an agent who will want to represent it and a publisher who will want to publish it.

So, all of that is what I have to look forward to for at least the next three months.  And then, and only then, will I craft a query letter and start shopping her around.

I’m posting this because it took a long time for me to learn to be patient. But now that I’ve gotten a clue, I’m really looking forward to making this the best it can be!  Why rush?

Also, just wanted to give a shout out to Talli Roland who got the news that she's going to be published!  Congrats Talli!


mi said...

yes, i too thought "reread" was the same thing "revise".

and i totally agree you need time away from your ms before you start revisions.

one of my favorite exercises is reading the ms aloud. that way, if you overuse a word it will be GLARINGLY obvious, as well as awkward sentence structure and dopey dialogue - not that i think your ms has any of that!

Clara said...

My process is very similar Kd! I really like our critics group too, like I always say, slaps in the face are the ones that make us grow so, may they keep coming.


India Drummond said...

That's the hardest part for me.. putting it away for a while.

But I will say that when I do go back to a project that's been "resting", I usually like it a lot more than I did by the time I finished it, and it's much much easier to see mistakes and flow problems.

Jessica Bell said...

My process is pretty much like yours. Except I don't have a critique group. I pay a mentor to look over it :)

Vicki Rocho said...

I totally agree with you about setting the MS aside for a few weeks. It is amazing what you'll find when you go back to something after a break!

Bish Denham said...

Good steps. I've found letting an MS sit for a month or two is a good. Things just sort of POP out.

Unknown said...

I think that's where I'm going wrong with the whole revising front, I've never actually allowed my MS to have time to breathe, time to sit, I just printed it out and started revising.

Your post was just what a needed, a wake up call to tell myself to take a break so I can think clearly next go round!

Unknown said...

Great post. I agree with setting the novel aside, come back with fresh eyes. Apart from that, I don't really have any set way I revise (maybe I should), you offer some great advice.

JE said...

I envy you. If you can read your ms like it's not yours and find all those mistakes, super thumbs up to you! I can't pull myself out of the "writer me". Never been able too. Thank goodness I've got a beta.

It's good to see you got a system that works for you. Good luck on revising the YA.


Talli Roland said...

Aw, thanks so much for the congrats and the shout out! *dances around, sits down*

I do very much the same thing with my revising - I always put it aside for a bit (at least a month), so I can come back to it with fresh eyes.

Jaydee Morgan said...

Congrats on finishing!

I think reading your manuscript aloud is a great idea and you can definitely tell if the flow is there using that method.

Good luck with the revisions (when the time comes).

Sarah said...

First of all, I'm jealous that you have a critique group like that! I find it so difficult to get people willing to read, who have the time to read, and who can give me detailed feedback. That's my greatest obstacle right now.

I hate revising. A lot. A lot of what I do to start with is the re-reading. Just going over it for grammar and spelling and typos and awkwardness. But I find that while I do that (I print the entire thing out and do it by hand), I end up revising as well. There's a lot of huge Xs and scribbles everywhere as I rework scenes and move things around. But they definitely have to be done by hand or else nothing gets changed.

I always try to put things away for a certain period of time but I have trouble with it because by that time I'm already into another project and don't want to revisit an old one.

Kudos to you for being able to do it that way!

AiringMyLaundry said...

Great steps.

I do basically the same thing.

Only I have the opposite problem: my novel is too long. I write chick lit and it's currently sitting at a grand total of 181,000 words. I know. Yipes. So I'm working on scaling back.

Matthew MacNish said...

You sound so much more organized than me, which is great, good for you.

Part of the problem for me is that line editing and rereading is too focused on the single word, sentence, paragraph or page. It is a necessary part of the process but I had to make a spreadsheet of all my scenes to get a better look at the big picture.

Slamdunk said...

Like Matthew, I like your organized approach. Realizing that patience is a necessary element, would be difficult for me.

On a side note, I finally got around to thanking you for my award in today's post. Thanks again.

Carolyn V. said...

I love this! I'm in the middle of revising right now. I had to put my wip away for two months before I could revise. And curse those words I use too much!

Laura S. said...

I always put my writing aside for a while. It's too close to my heart when I finish. I need that distance away from it so I can revise objectively. I let it breathe between macro and micro-edits, too. Reading aloud is also an effective revising tool.

Great idea making a list of annoying words! I'll have to pay attention to that in my own writing. Thanks for the tip!

Tahereh said...

this is a brilliant post, and so so important. i never had the proper patience to edit my novel by distancing myself for a month or so. not even a week.

i need to learn to be patient with my writing!

Lindsay said...

I was in the reading is revising club. Alhtough that bubble was shattered quickly. lol.
I couldn't distance myself for a month thoug, a week or two yup, but not a month. I admire that you can:)
Great post.

Lydia Kang said...

The distance thing is really important but I'm usually too impatient to wait a whole month!

Anonymous said...

I am new to your blog and want to thank you for your insights on the editing process. I finished my first book, had it professionally edited, read by family and friends, and still need to make more changes. It is encouraging to know others must also plow through this process.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Yes, the list of annoying words is a must. Somehow I also repeat the same word sometimes within the same page. My descriptive mind must like ruts. Roland

Zoe C. Courtman said...

Hey, thanks for the linkage! Also, thanks for sharing your revision process. Mine sounds similar, in that I need to let the MS rest for several weeks. Then I do the 50,000 foot view, where I look at it as a story. Then it's a flurry of rearranging and cutting scenes until it's line-editing time. Then it's list of overused words time, because THAT was an awesome little trick. Thanks and good luck with the revisions on your newest draft :D


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