The Revision Process

  1. I am knee-deep in a second draft, so let's talk about revising.
  2. I would argue that the revision process is the most important part of any manuscript.
  3. More important than your first draft, you might ask?
  4. Absolutely, I'd answer.
  5. Your first draft is all about getting something down on paper. A moveable skeleton. I say "moveable" because you're gonna decimate it in the next draft.
  6. The second draft is all about figuring out what's working. And what's not.
  7. In case you're thinking you're immune to this: please know that this is my seventh novel, and I'm currently rewriting over 50% of the book.
  8. 50%.
  9. It's painful but sometimes, the only way to know what is working is to see what isn't working.
  10. To that end, it is SOOOOO critical to keep an absolute open mind while revising. Listen to your critique partners; pay attention to your editor.
  11. It's not that you have to accommodate all their suggestions or heed all their advice, but they may spark something in you that you wouldn't have thought of.
  12. My favorite part of this whole process is collaborating with my editor, getting on the phone and digging into the nitty-gritty, and figuring out how to make it work.
  13. To that end, some things that I am aware of while I revise:
  14. Cutting without emotion.
    One of the single best things you can do while revising is cutting passages and paragraphs. It's painful, I know. But if they truly don't serve the story, it doesn't matter how much you love them, how beautifully they are written. Axe them.
  15. Any extra exposition.
    I was really guilty of this in my first few drafts of my early books. Over time, I've learned to pare that down - show, not tell - but I'm still guilty of it sometimes. It's painful when I reread.
  16. Meandering passages without conflict.
    It's not that there has to be a problem on every page, but conflict helps create tension and tension helps turn a page. It's important to remember that your characters are moving beings and should be moving toward something for most of the 300 pages.
  17. Awkward dialogue.
    I'm reading some things now in my current WIP , and I pretty much want to kill myself it's so bad. That's ok. Realistic dialogue takes time and a couple of drafts. All for that.
  18. Time.
    What any manuscript needs - no exceptions - is time. Time away. I promise you that if you step away from the ms for a few weeks, you will see things in it (both good and bad) that you couldn't see without the breather. I was IN LOVE with my first hundred pages - sent them out to a few critical readers. They were like...hmmm...yeah...ok. I can see now all the reasons they were lukewarm. Give that baby time to bake.
  19. Discipline.
    For some reason, I have it in my mind that I love the revision process. And it's true: I suppose that it's better than the first draft process which is even worse. But revising is a beast in and of itself: who wants to go back and rewrite or rethink all that other hard work? But you gotta.
  20. Which leads me to deadlines and more discipline.
    Right now, this ms is due in six weeks. So I am forcing myself to revise two chapters a days. No exceptions. Once I do that, I can screw around as much as I want. And I can screw around as much as I want before then, but then I can't go to bed until it's done. By holding myself accountable, I'll get there.
  21. In sum: give yourself time, space, smart readers, no ego and a wild imagination. That's really what the revision process is about.
  22. Then do it four or so more times.
  23. That's about when a book is truly done.
  24. Then you can vow that you'll never write another thing again.
  25. You will. But that's the lie we tell ourselves to make it through this draft. Godspeed.