July 16, 2012

Revision Revelations

I'm currently in revision mode on my YA sci-fi WiP Watch of Night, and with the help of my critique partner, Elodie, I'm making giant strides. I'm finding that I actually kind of like this part of the process, which is more than a little surprising. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's a barrel of laughs, but it certainly isn't the torturous experience I was expecting. 

Throughout this whole experience I've learned a few things:

1.  A critique partner (CP) is invaluable.
Awhile back I was of the mind that a CP was a nice idea, but not really that crucial, despite what everyone had to say about this. In retrospect, I think this was just me not dealing with the fear of putting my work out there for someone else to read. And there's always a bit of apprehension sending it off to somebody you only know online. As it turns out, my CP has made this process both painless and very productive. My WiP is way better for it, and I can only hope I'm returning the favour. I have a penchant for repetition—Elodie points this out. I seem to have a tendency to break up the narrative with unnecessary details—Elodie points that out too. I'm so close to this bad boy that I don't even notice this stuff any more.

2.  You can always cut a few more words.
When Elodie approached me about becoming CPs, my WiP clocked in at roughly 120,000 words. Talk about a bad case of the blathers. Oh, and I still wasn't done! So, so terrible. I thought there was no way that I'd be able to shave off at least 20,000 words (I was aiming for 100,000. Divergent by Veronica Roth runs about 105,000 words, so I figured this was reasonable-ish.) without having to cut out some pretty important stuff. Wrong! Once I got going, between Elodie's suggestions and my own realization that I was being redundant and ridiculous, the word count started to drop rapidly. Why use two when one will do kind of became my mantra as I pounded that delete button over and over again. Last count (we're still not done) my WiP was at 102,000 words, which is nothing short of fantastic. I Freaking  My Backspace Key.

3.  I can learn to love my WiP even more.
I'll admit, sometimes I get reading this sucker and I think: Ugh. I don't care. I'm sick of you. (*makes raspberry noise*) Lately, I'm finding things that I really love about my WiP. Part of this comes from my CPs excitement/enjoyment of reading my story for the first time. I'm too close to it. I struggle to have these same reactions to it any more. But while I've been revising, I've revisited whole chapters that I haven't looked at in a while. I've found myself cracking up at things I intended to be funny, swooning over scenes that were meant to be steamy/romantic, and actually liking the way I've worded certain phrases. I'm not trying to toot my own horn here, I'm just saying my WiP isn't the colossal turd I was starting to fear it might be. (Sidenote: Reading books by Laini Taylor, Stephanie Perkins, and Veronica Roth can have that effect.) Coming back to your WiP with semi-fresh eyes is a great experience—like being the reader instead of the writer for a change. The thing is, if this beast gets published I'll have to go over it multiple times, so I darn well better like it.

I've learned way more than just these three things, but they're probably the biggest. How about you? What kinds of things have you discovered during the revision process?


24 comments:

  1. I agree with it all! LOL! I'm at the polishing stage of my second ms, so I've done the revision thing..and the rewrite thing...and the editing thing...and...

    haha!

    Well, my first time editing called for LOTS of chocolate to both fuel my brain and help with the sting of deleting. Now I really like delete. I think I may be a little TOO delete happy!

    But yes, CP's are SO helpful and invaluable. I've had published authors tell me (when giving writing advice) that CP's are not necessary. Which make me think maybe they were a way better writer than me, because I NEED my CP's! ;)

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    1. It's surprising how much fun deleting can be. :) I can't imagine not having a CP now, and I don't think I'd stop having one even if I got published. Having another person read your story (who doesn't know all the details) is just way to helpful! :D

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  2. Great post! These are very valuable lessons. Everyone needs a CP or two or seven. They also make great cheerleaders for those times that you feel your ms is a colossal turd. :)

    I love the revision process much more than first drafting. Just this weekend one of my CPs said (jokingly), "Why didn't you write it this way in the first place?" Everything takes time. Good wine, good beer, good cheese, good books. I love that with revisions I can excavate what's truly meant to be there - and that usually means hitting backspace a lot!

    Hey, didn't Stephen King talk about excavation? I think that was related to plot more, but you know, same deal.

    Revisions are so much work, but so worth it in the end. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Yeah, Stephen King kind of did talk about that. Excavating the story idea, then going at it with those little archaeological brushes to remove the dust carefully. I think it's safe to say that's kind of like revising. :)

      Everything takes time. Good wine, good beer, good cheese, good books. Too true!

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    2. And now I totally feel like a glass of red wine, some yummy smelly cheese and a good book :D

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    3. Do it! After a long day at work, I'm sure it would welcome. :)

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    4. When they say it's five o'clock somewhere, they aren't kidding. Counting the minutes until I can get out of here and take a peek at Elodie's query! :) With some good beer and good cheese, of course.

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  3. A good CP can indeed help keep you buzzing about your book. Having someone to talk to about the story, the characters, what they loved, what they loved-not-so-much, etc. can keep you excited about the story and anxious to revise and polish.

    I'm glad it's working well between you and Elodie. :)

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    1. It definitely makes you like your writing more and see those things that are kind of unnecessary too. I have to say I've agreed with every suggestion Elodie's made so far. :)

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  4. I think we all experience some of number 1 ^_^ Glad to hear your partnership is working so well!

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    1. It's working out so much better than I could have expected or asked. I'm glad I'm not alone with some of the things in #1, too. :)

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  5. I'm so happy you and Elodie have found each other! It's priceless to find a CP that you work well with. But once you do, hang on tight!

    I have three a-mazing CP's (and a handful of beta readers). And I'm sure everyone says that their CP is the best, but really, all three of mine have been years in the making...and all three bring very different qualities to the process (one is super analytical, one is a biologist and can help with all my science related stuff, and one is amazing at tenses and punctuation).

    And I think what's made them so great, is this is the second time they've read my MS (third time for one of them!) and yet, they still come back...and with invaluable feedback at that!

    In the end though, you know your story the best - so make changes you whole-heartedly agree with. It's hard to re-read something later and realize some of your voice is missing. Or it's just not worded now, the way you wanted to write it. Listen to everything your CP says, but trust your gut in the end. For me, working with three CP's, I get the gamut of advice and many times, they all contradict one another...which makes me believe it's now down to personal preference, with where I'm at in my revisions.

    Anyhow, congrats on shaving so much off your MS - and best of luck getting through the rest of it!

    I can't wait to see where your journey leads from there, Jaime!

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    1. Thanks, Erin! It's been really great getting to know Elodie better and to be able to swap advice. Now I need to just find some beta readers and I'm set. :)

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    2. Was coming along to say agree completely on how invaluable CPs are, and wanted to add always happy to beta YA sci fi if you need people!

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    3. I will definitely be keeping that in mind. Thanks for the offer! :D

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  6. I am with you on all three of these! The CP one, especially, is so true. CPs are as important to the writing process as, well, writing! Not that you can have a CP read something if you haven't written it, but... you know what I mean. :)

    So glad you have such an encouraging and amazing CP! And congrats on making it to this stage of the process! I can't wait until your book is sitting on my shelf! :)

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    1. Thanks, Daisy! I sure hope it ends up on shelves. :D

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  7. Betas are great. I originally had 3 and I didn't listen to any of their advice. They dropped me ASAP. Gee...I wonder why. LOL!! 2 years later, I have 2 (1 new and 1 from that pack of 3), and they are so wonderful. They really kick my butt. *cough*I may or may have originally sent out my MS to agents without doing any edits except small, minor ones and line edits*cough* I've done 4 or 5 revisions and this novel is so, so much stronger than it was before. <3

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    1. I have to say, so far I've incorporated pretty well everything my CP has suggested. She was right in every single instance! :)

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  8. I love the magic that comes out of revision. That moment when everything just comes together because of one sentence, or moving a section here, or deleting this paragraph...

    Laurie Halse Anderson said at a conference- "Revision is the best part." It took me a long time to accept that, but now I totally agree.

    (And CPs really are great!)

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    1. It is pretty great to see things become better than you originally hoped for just by losing some stuff, rearranging other stuff, and even adding (gasp!) some. So important! :)

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  9. Great points!!! I love my CP's for different reasons! They make me see things I just cannot see when I'm so immersed inside my own head!

    I'm a person who writes short first drafts so anything over 80K is like WHOA! :D

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  10. I'm like Christina -- my first drafts are short, basically a glorified outline, and my revisions are about adding detail and focus to the story.

    I <3 my CPs! They ask me insightful questions, challenge what I believe about the characters, and push me to write a more complete and compelling story. My writing sounds so much better with their input than without.

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  11. #3 is interesting, because I actually love my WIP way more after I've revised it than while drafting. I'm not sure what it is--seeing it become closer to a "finished" project, tightening the story, getting to the know the characters more ... I just love the revision process. I'm close to finishing a first draft, and I'm feeling sick of the book. I know that once I get it back from CPs and work on it a bit, my love will be greatly rekindled.
    Good luck!

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