Thursday, September 9, 2010

The 'Revision Haters Club'

I wish I was one of those writers who LOVE jumping into revisions.  Who revel in the process of ripping apart their first draft, cleaning up the overused words, tenses, plot holes, and adverbs and putting it all back together in a nice neat package.

But I’m not.

I HATE revising.  As in, really really really don’t like to revise.   

I think part of it is that I never used to have to do it in college.  I’d write my 5-10 page paper, double check it, change some wording here and there and voila!  I almost always got good grades on written projects.

Now, with 300 page manuscript staring me in the face, things are SO much more complicated than they were back then.  After I finished the first draft of my first book back in 2009, I pretty much did my ‘college version’ of revision.   I re-read.  I changed wording here and there and basta!- the agents should give me an ‘A’.  Right?

 Yeah.  You’re not in Kansas anymore sweetheart.

I actually had to Google:  ‘how to revise your manuscript’

Since then I’ve gotten TONS of great advice:

1.      1.  Let the first draft marinate for a few weeks.

2.      2.Give it a quick read through to note the plot, pacing, and characterization problems.

3.      3.Play 57 pickup (throw the numbered pages into the air and then edit them in no particular order.  Does each page have tension?  Are there any spelling mistakes?  Have you used the same words or expressions more than once on the same page?

4.     4. Play bingo.  Write your chapter numbers on slips of paper and throw them into a hat.  Then each day pull one out and edit it.  Is there a mini conflict in each chapter?  Is there tension?  Does it lead well into the next chapter or give a small cliffhanger?

5.     5. Read it out loud to check for flow.

6.      6.Line edit.  Check each line for clarity, correct word usage, and eliminate or change words that have been overused throughout the manuscript.

7.      7.Now that you’re completely sick of your manuscript and can’t stand the sight of it, it’s best to hand it over to Beta Readers- fellow writers (and binge readers) who know a good book when they see ‘em and can give you honest and constructive feedback.

8.     8.Fix problems based on feedback.

Now, after all of that, you’d think my manuscripts would be squeaky clean.  
But they’re not. 

Why you ask?

Because I hate revising.  Yes, we’re back to that. 

I can’t believe I’m admitting this... 

I start one tactic, rush through it, get sick of my ms and come to a halt.  I skip steps to make the process go faster.  I get caught up in the story and forget what I’m doing all together.  I get bored.  I move on.  I come back and try again.  I send it off to beta readers and slowly integrate their feedback over the span of weeks and weeks (months), knowing full well that I haven’t gotten to the bottom of the problem yet but then my new wip just looks so much shinier and more exciting than working on my boring old rough drafts!

SO -my questions for those who revel in the revision process are:  HOW do you come to actually like revision and editing?  How do you get pumped up?  Stay interested?  Not stop until you’ve actually finished?  Not get caught up in a new project because it’s easier or more fun than revising?

And for the other members of the ‘Revision Hater’s Club’- I know your pain.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of.  Secret meetings at my place after dark.  No new wip’s allowed;)

49 comments:

Cruella Collett said...

I don't *love* editing, but I don't mind it as much as many others do either. Probably because I can have such a hard time with the writing part of the process I often end up adding clichées and bad wording just to move forward - the editing is when I can make the writing "me" again.

Then again I haven't tried editing 300 pages, so I probably shouldn't put myself in any of those clubs until I know what I am talking about...

Jen said...

I'm still learning the art of revision, so I think that's why right now I'm not a fan (at least I hope that's the reason).

I have underestimated how hard a writer works many times, but revising makes it all the more real! I have two stories that are in revisions (aka stand still) and so desperately want to move forward. I'll use some of your tips!!! They were great!

I will say that I never thought I'd like to let my draft marinate, but it's the best thing, it allows you to go into it with a clear mind... my favorite way to attack something!

Tom M Franklin said...

my hatred of revising started when i was in elementary school. i have repeated, vivid memories of class assignments where we had to write on a topic, then revise (and revise and revise). "this is stupid," i thought. "i already wrote it carefully and correctly the first time. why don't they trust me to write properly the first time? what do they want me to do, change token words here and there?" (which is what i did)

now, of course, i feel the lightness of having actually finished a draft being tarnished by having to revise (and revise and revise). sure, it's not perfect, but, dangit, i finished it. doesn't that count for something?

i fall into the "when i'm too sick of it, i send it out to beta readers and work from their comments" category. after all, i can only look at my own work just so objectively.

i am disciplined enough to not try and start anything brand new once the revision process kicks in. if i did, i'd never get anything finished to a point where i could start querying on it.

great post, btw. i'm glad to know i'm not the only one who hates the process.


-- Tom

Slamdunk said...

Sorry if this is a repeat, blogger ate my first try at a comment.

Long documents are monsters. I try to start with the parts that I like and miss in the parts that are boring for balance. I also divide the document into lots of sections so that I can wrestle with it more effectively.

I like the bingo idea...

Jessica Carmen Bell said...

Well it excites me because that's when description become more poetic, and structure becomes more precise, and cliffhangers become more intense. It excites me because it takes a much more solid shape and perfection just lights my fire ;o)

Jess Tudor said...

The only way you'll learn to like it is by doing it properly. Just like you had to do it a lot to learn to get through writing a whole first draft, so it is with rewriting it. No shortcuts, sorry.

There does come a point where you learn to be unsatisfied with 'just finishing' and with that first effort. It's not enough to know it can be better, but to need to make it better. There's a difference.

Plenty of people are perfectly comfortable with their flaws. That's where you're at with the revision process. You may not think so consciously - of course you want your book to be the best it can be - but trust me, that's the internal attitude.

I know because I forced myself through a real revision process in May or so and I can honestly say I no longer hate to revise. I still don't love it as much as drafting but I don't hate it. It's a necessary and useful step in the game.

Summer Ross said...

I like editing, It doesn't mean I do not find it tedious sometimes, or really cringe worthy, its like a close friend- I like my friend, great person- but we don't always agree, and sometimes we fight. I look at editing the same way. I like finding new words, or when I really get going writing in the margins. What I hate is typing it all up from my notebook to my computer...that part sucks.

Old Kitty said...

Please may I join your revision hater's club??? I promise to just sit in the corner and rock back and forth and I'll even bring my own beer. :-)

I hate my current revision!! Hate it. I think it's because there is so much of it to do. I remember writing and finishing this first draft and the thrill and excitiment of writing this story was unlike any other.

Now that I'm reading it - it's like - "how on earth could I have missed this or write this and what is that character doing in this scene??!?". Aaaaaargh.

I'm of the "revise one page/scene/chapter at a time then leave that to stew for a few days before moving on" type of reviser! I don't think it's the best tactic. LOL!

Ok, thank you for letting me vent here a little. :-)

Good luck with your revision!!! I also feel your pain!

Take care
x

Anne said...

I always edited as I went along but I had to take notes so that I wasn't messing up too much. It's tough all around and that's before the revision letters from agents/editors. Eek!

LTM said...

I do that whole *edit as you go* thing to a certain extent but it's to help keep the story fresh in my mind, and when I see something that isn't working, I get the itch til I fix it...

But as for full scale rip it up when it isn't working revisions?

HATE HATE HATE them... But you know it's worth it. :o|

Dawn said...

I hate editing my own stuff, but I love the process of editing. I really enjoy going through my CP's stuff and helping her find what she misses because she is so engrossed in the book. She benefits from my fresh eyes - but in my own work? I'd rather throw the thing out than rip it to shreds. Good luck, hon.

C.E. said...

Umm...I'm pretty sure you're in my head...and thats creepy.

But, really, you have just described me. I HATE revisions. And have the same exact processes. edit edit edit scowl procrastinate scowl edit.

Good luck with your revisions!

DL Hammons said...

Where do I pay my dues? :) For me, editing and revising eventually gets to the point where it doesn't even feel like writing anymore and you wonder what the hell you're doing it all for.

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

I always hated checking my essays at University, I was a draft one and it's done girl. But I kind of like revising. I love getting feedback from my CP/betas and getting stuck into my MS. I think I'm just a sad perfectionist with it. But it does get to a point where I think I'm revising just to stop myself moving on to the next stage of the process.

Medeia Sharif said...

I don't really like editing, but I love revising. I feel like a sculptor shaping up my manuscript. It feels rewarding.

Melissa said...

I am with you 100% on this one. I NEVER check my blog posts/papers/essays or basically anything I write. I haven't finished my MS yet but I am already dreading trying to revise.

Though I really like a few of your methods you pointed out. I won't like doing them but I like the sound of them.

Writers put so much work into their MS. I have such a long way to go.

Good luck!

roxy said...

I'd love to join the club! I hate beginning revisions. Once I get going, I'm okay, but the beginning? Not a pretty moment.

randine said...

I want to join the club as well.
I edit as I go, but after it's finished, I lose my motivation to revise it at length. I just give it a quick once over, change a few things here and there as you say. Going through it line by line sounds tedious and frankly, painful.

Of course, this may be why I'm sitting on a stack or fifty plus rejection letters.

Laura Marcella said...

I hate that first draft revision. It sucks! Once that's done, I enjoy the process a lot more. But I don't have any magical advice for you. I just sit down and do it because the sooner I get started the sooner it'll be done. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Don't hate me, but I enjoy revisions. The first draft is more difficult for me. It's like laying the foundation of a house - it's a lot of work just getting the basic story on paper. After that comes the fun part- the building, the embellishing, the creation of something awesome.
That and I enjoy reading what I wrote (good or not) more than I enjoy actually writing it.

Anne R. Allen said...

The club's motto should be the Oscar Wilde quote, "I never revise. I feel it would be wrong to tamper with genius."

I'm with you all here. I just finished my current WIP after 8 months of being in that creative flow. I know there's some suckage in there, but I'm going to go with the marinating option. Somehow time makes it a little less painful to "murder my darlings."

Kelly Dexter said...

I love revisions. It's something innate that I have little control over. When I read other books, without realizing, I sometimes edit as I go along. I just love the process of turning a project into the absolute best version of itself.

I know, I need help.

Candyland said...

IT's like a relationship. You have to spend some quality time with it, stroke it, love it, tell it how amazing it is. It'll happen. Don't pressure it. Take it slow.

Nicole Zoltack said...

I hate revising. Hate it hate it hate it! A necessary evil I know, but God how I hate it. If you ever figure out a secret to revising, make sure to tell me!

Kathryn said...

I don't mind editing - the part I hate most is moving paragraphs around. It's just so much work. I know it sounds trivial, but I've had it happen to me so often that it'll screw up and some parts will go missing, and I'll have to go through some of the chapters again and try to find any words that may have dragged and dropped into Word Document Hell...

But having my work ripped apart, that can be liberating, to just delete them all and write them again - Wooo eee!!

Good luck with your revisions, Katie!

Aubrie said...

Marinate is a good word for it! Mine sometimes starts to stink, though! (If I leave it for too long!)

Can I join your club?

VICTORIA SAAVEDRA said...

I'm one of the weird ones who enjoy revising, but don't get me wrong, sometimes I want to rip my hair out :)

Awesome advice!

Matthew Rush said...

Sign me up. I hate revising.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Ooo, I love the bingo idea of throwing chapters into a hat and revising one at a time for larger story elements! That's a good one. :-)

Jolene Perry said...

Good freakin question.
I have no idea. Usually once I'm in the middle of it, I like it again, but not always.
I don't do the toss in the air thing but I'll pull up the re-write project first and pick some random page, I'll just look through it. Sometimes I'll start from there, sometimes I'll go back and redo the chapter.
As soon as I'm sick of it, I need to put it away. I feel like if I'm not enjoying the writing, people won't enjoy the reading. I'm sure that's not true but it does help when trying to procrastinate.

Erin Kane Spock said...

I'm in the club.
And I'm totally going to use some of the advice. The random pages idea? Excellent. I end up almost memorizing my ms by the time I'm sort of done-ish.
I don't think I'll ever like revising unless it actually is that last step before publication and there is some sort of closure.

Melody said...

I'll be headin' your way come nightfall for that Revision Haters Club because yes, I HATE REVISION!

The random pages idea is a good one, I'll admit.

I'm just (not) looking forward to days of staring at the same story that I was tired of a long time ago...why can't I just query already!?

Hart Johnson said...

That club offered to let me be MASCOT! That was exactly what I expected from revising... and I should KNOW better. I work in a field where we revise manuscripts all the time (albeit between 8 and 20 pages in most cases). The difference is, in scientific manuscript reviews they TELL YOU WHAT IS WRONG. See... if the agents giving a peeksee would say, 'you see, I like these characters, but I don't find this villain credible, and you really need to pick up the pace in chapters 8 - 12 and slow it down in 17 as you come to the climax. And your dialog is 'realistic' but nobody wants to read all that stammering... tone it down a bit" then I'd KNOW WHAT TO FREAKING DO! Unfortunately, revising when you thought you did it right in the first place is a much harder task... thank GOODNESS for writing partners!

My suggestion: write your synopsis. Critique your synopsis and ask others to help make the plot stronger, then revise the manuscript to fit the new, improved synopsis. THEN worry about wording and pacing and tension on each page... those are later steps.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I like revising because I love giving my MS that perfect polish. Of course, my least favorite part of the writing process is the first draft.

But now that I'm on Revision #15 I'm starting to see why people don't like revising. How many times can I read the same story???

T.J. Carson said...

that was my problem. I did the "college editing" strategy then started querying (my very first ms). Then I learned about betas, used a few... then began querying again. Then I found I was getting lots of rejections and was about to throw in the towel (this is the same manuscript BTW) because I'd almost run through all my agents. But I finally got my ms to the point where I began getting a lot more partials and even one full... though it is very late in my querying stage, I got my manuscript together. So def don't skimp.

I used the tactic of editing 30 printed pages every day, but I like the one tactic you said about 57 pickup... that could be fun!!!

Carolyn V. said...

I am so with you! I am stuck on chapter 7 of my ms because I am not enjoying the revision process. But I have to do it, so I keep pushing myself forward (and eating WAY too many chocolate chips).

Clarissa Draper said...

I hate revisions. The voices are no longer talking to me unless they don't like what I've done and then they yell at me.

CD

DLCurran said...

I'm still working on the whole 'give yourself permission to write badly' thing. I tend to edit as I go, but a full-on revision? No talent there. That's completely a something-I've-still-got-to-learn thing for me. I find myself 'revising' but it looks an awful lot like 'trashing and rewriting'! LOL

BTW - love your moniker... I have a character called 'Creepy White Guy' because he wears all white and I love the word creepy!

Laura Pauling said...

I missed this yesterday. I don't hate revisions but I do get frustrated because even though I "know" what to do, it's tedious. I like it more closer to the end when I'm seeing a polished draft. And even then, I don't know if I did it right.

Jeffrey Beesler said...

I used to hate revision too, but now I can see how important it is, and I can definitely appreciate its beauty. Great post, though. You deserve a Versatile Blogger award, which I've given to you over at my blog. Enjoy!

Jarmara Falconer said...

Take a look at the book details I posted on my blog, it might just help you come to love giving your MS a makeover...:-)

Suzi McGowen said...

Yay! Party at Creepy Query Girl's club tonight!

I hate revisions. Probably because I'm doing it wrong. But I'm determined to get through it so I can go to the next stage. Editing! (Wait a minute. That sounds suspiciously like revision, only not as much fun. Hmm. Must rethink this plan.)

Jennie Bailey said...

I'm in the thick of revisions at the moment and am remembering why I wasn't fond of them the first time around. Ugh. I have to set aside the same time every day (or night) to only work on them. Nothing but them. It's the only way that I can get myself to do it. Sometimes, though, I end up...here. On blogs. I'm feeling like your entry was meant to send me back to rewrites though. So I'm going. Really going. Really. Rewriting. Sigh.

Amanda Sablan said...

I wish I had a super awesome secret to liking and maintaining revision; but I don't, not really, other than: what keeps me going is the fact that I WANT to be done with my book, that way I can get it out there. And the more time I spend procrastinating and revising, the longer I have to wait unti I get an agent.

Amanda Sablan said...

Those were great revision tips by the way! Thanks for posting. :D

Perri said...

I can sort of get into revising (one of the weird ones I guess), but I lose sight of the forest for the trees and never manage the BIG changes. Sometimes And I just lose sight altogether.

Thanks for sharing the tips though. That "52 page pick up" is crazy!

The English Writer said...

I deteste revising!!!!!! It's awful. SO time consuming, disheartening and frustrating, I mean, how many times can you read one damned sentence???? However, bit at a time, deep breaths, and a clear head can help, as can remebering why and when you wrote the story and how it made you feel. Tell yourself you love it and that's why you wrote it. It'll be brilliant at the end, and you WILL get there (believe me, I know this from book 2!!!) Also, a great book to help is David Michael Kaplan's 'Rewriting- a creative approach to writing fiction' - good luck xx

AchingHope said...

*sigh* Editing is hard.

This list looks very useful though. I'll have to try throwing some paper around. It will make me feel better if nothing else...

Saumya said...

Argh; I am in the dreadful revision stage right now and I can't seem to see the light at the end of this looong tunnel! I've been making a notecard for each chapter with bullet points for what the chapter does to move the plot forward, which mini conflicts are included, whether I like the language, and how subplots weave in.

I love your blog and am so excited to be a new follower!

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...