Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Rewrites and edits and revisions, OH MY!

For some writers, the rewrites or the revisions of a story is their favorite part. (yes, those people do exist!) hehe. Best selling award Colleen Coble openly confesses to being downright giddy when she gets her revisions back from her editor on a story! For her, it's akin to Christmas morning and a tree full of presents.

Other authors are completely the opposite. They dread revisions and rewrites with a passion and struggle not to take the suggestions from their agent, editor, crit partner, or whoever, personally.

I think I fall somewhere in the middle.

Writing fresh from scratch is very freeing and fun - there's something about that blinking cursor of Chapter 1, new story possibilities! But at the same time can be a lot of pressure. For me, rewrites or revisions are a little painful, because it's critcism in a sense and represents several more hours, days or weeks of hard work. But it's also exciting because I KNOW the story will be better because of this step. That's why editors get paid to work on our novels, after all :)  I don't know HOW many times my editor came back to me with "I like this, but this part really needs work" or some other suggestion that at first, had me reaching for chocolate - then at second glance (or okay, maybe fourth or fifth) I realized the truth - she was TOTALLY right and I loved the story so much better after I put in that extra work.

BTW - this is the step that readers don't get to see. They don't get to see the pile of coal and the darkness of the mine before the diamond is pulled forth, however grudgingly. They just read the glistening diamond from their fav author and expect another one to add to their charm bracelets in six months ;)

So its important to have the right attitude regarding revisions, regardless of whether they are from an editor, agent or critique partner. When it comes from your agent or editor, however, you don't usually have much of a choice in whether or not you make changes. If there is something they suggest that really strikes the wrong chord with you, speak up. But choose your battles sporadically and carefully! You do not want that rep in the industr yof being high maintenance or a diva author.

If the suggestions come from your crit partner, you're clearly not as obligated to take them. However, if the partner is someone whose opinion you value and whose writing you admire (which both factors should be present, iif you're in a crit partner relationship!) then make sure you give their suggestions a fair chance before dismissing them out of pride or "she totally doesn't get my hero!" ;)  More often than not, our crit buds can spot a problem we're too close to.

Another important thing to remember is to give yourself some time between your final draft and the start of any revisions or critiques. (regardless of who they are from) If you have a deadline from your editor, then by all means, PLEASE make it :)  But try to squeeze in some time away from the manuscript before you do the work, so that you will have a clearer head and are a little more distant from the story (as compared to that moment when you type "The End" and the manuscript is, in your eyes, instant NYT Bestseller material!)  :)

However you feel about revisions, remember, every author goes through it at some point and likely does with every book. I don't think I know anyone who wrote a novel, turned it in, got contracted, and then published on the shelf, with nary a revision. It just doesn't happen. So you're in good company :)

Anyone have any questions on the rewrite/editing/revision process? I've had my share of them so I'm happy to help!


  1. I'm not sure what my favorite part is since I've never been throught the WHOLE proccess yet. I have a feeling I'm like you and in the middle.
    At the moment, I'm working on my first rewrite and at times I feel like everything with be ok but then a large part of it is me not knowing what to d. I may know I need to change the plot or have stronger dialogue or whatever but I don't always know what that it. It'll frustrate me and I'll procrastinate and I have to fight the thoughts of "you're not a good writer. You'll never be able to do this."

  2. Thanks for that encouragement!
    I finished my rough draft Friday night (Hallelujah!!) and am forcing myself to stop and read a few books by several favorite authors as well as consider my story while not sitting in the middle of its puddle of words, too close to see it clearly.
    But truthfully I'm impatient to start working on it and making it better - because I can see how very rough it is!
    I have things to figure out but overall I'm having far more fun than I should probably admit. ;D

    If you have tips for that first rewrite, I will gladly listen....but I honestly wouldn't know what to ask.

  3. Tonya, I know the enemy hits you hard with that lie often. Fight back with the Word of God :) It sounds like on a technical level, you could really benefit from a professional critique or edit. Services like that (and this is not an endorsement for myself though I do offer those services, but so do a ton of other qualified fabulous people!) can help writers find a breakthrough or recognize something that isn't working that has been holding them back. Something to think about!

    Cjoy, I'm glad the post helped :) Good idea on reading and taking a break. Don't lose the motivation though, if you really feel inspired to work on it now, then go for it! But if you start feeling claustrophoic or upset with your story, go back to the break.

    I pretty much write my stories in one polished first draft, then just do revisions as suggested by my editor at Love Inspired. I don't write a rough draft of my story in full then go back and write a second draft. So I might not be able to be much help in that form, I'm way too OCD to write that way! lol When I finish a chapter, I want it DONE. Edited, polished, ready to send off if needed. I hate backtracking. The only time I backtrack is if halfway through the story I stumble across or brainstorm a thread that really betters the story, and I need to go back and weave it through the beginning for effect.

  4. However, cjoy, if you do have a question you come up with, ask it here and me or another Chick can surely tell ya something :)

    My question to you is, when you write a first draft, what makes it a first draft to you? Why is it not ready yet? What is missing that makes you feel like you have to go back and rewrite? Maybe that will help me understand

  5. For starters, I have about 27k words in back story...which I cut then started using some of it as flashbacks (I need to decide if I should have just kept it as a 'part one' or stay the course now....I read not to have too much back story, hence the change, but cutting out flash backs would be no big deal).
    If I keep it as flashbacks, I need to clean some of it up because there are a few inconsistencies with timing and small details, things that may need explaining b/c the back story is not there.
    Plus, I write by the seat of my pants - not a strict plotter, though I keep an outline of where I'm headed (I didn't really know how it was going to end til I got there!) and a list of notes of things to double check.
    I also have a few technicalities that I want to reevaluate - (Does she really need to do this here or is it unnecessary?)
    Oh yeah. And I need to insert chapters. LOL.

    The real bottom line - I had to press on, not keep fixing things b/c I never would have reached the end in my need to perfect as I go along. Trust me. I speak from experience. haha!

    I started reading it through last night....I couldn't stay interested in the book I had open b/c I was thinking about my story. So not a long break and definitely no loss of momentum!

  6. (Sorry that was a LONG comment!)

  7. I read a book where an author said she ALWAYS does a "fast draft" and that if you do it enough, it WILL work for you, too. I just can't wrap my mind around slapping down a story and then having to go back and fix the chaotic mess I made the first time. :/
    So... Betsy, based on your comment, can I safely assume that I'm not alone???

  8. Ashley, yes!! You are not alone. That sounds like torture to me, and my question to that author is...WHY?? We should never force our style on other writers. What works for us doesn't have to work for everyone, you know? Do what works for YOU.

  9. Cjoy - if that works for you, great! Sounds like it does, so keep at it :) To me, that doesn't sound like you need a full second draft so much as you need "revisions" or just tweaking. To me - a second draft implies almost having to write the story again because you only have a bare minimum frame, if that makes sense. Like you have SO much to have to go through and write new or write better or etc. What you described doesn't sound like that to me.

  10. Thanks Betsy, I did enter a contest and was surprised by the feedback. Like you said professional critiques and probonly a good crit group/partner (I've eat to find) would be helpful. The first contest was a little bit of a rush and so I think about other contests too. Do you think contests are helpful in knowing if you're improving and if/when your ready to pursue publication?

  11. Yes, contests are definitely valuable and helpful! But it sometimes depends on the quality of the judges, too. If they are readers, that's a different kind of critique and is more subjective than the critique of a professional industry rep like an agent, editor or multi pubbed author.

  12. I definitely look for more reputable ones, like ACfW :)

  13. Betsy, you were right. It's got some revisions that need attention but definitely not a "rewrite". I need to add a scene or two at most for transition purposes, and maybe just a little filling out in a few spots. But otherwise, it's in much better shape than I thought! :)

  14. I love getting edits back as well, although I'm not quite sure if it can compare to Christmas morning... ;) I'm on the third--and thankfully last--round of edits with my editor, even though I really have enjoyed reading her comments and making the corrections. Yes, the editing round can be very exhausting and hard at times--but I really do like cleaning up my MS, getting feedback, and preparing for publication. I personally think it's exciting; however, nothing can compare to writing the first draft. =)