Friday, March 21, 2014

Adventures in Revising

I’ve been working on my current project for close to a year now. I should have written down the exact day, but it was sometime in spring of 2013 for sure.  I’ve made a lot of progress in that time (I guess), including completing an entire 300+ page first draft of the book.  However, as anyone who has tried writing will well know, first drafts are crap.  Totally and completely.  I have a sneaking suspicion that mine is worse then most other people’s crap because I think they are able to actually revise their work, whereas I’ve taken to completely rewriting the entire book a second time. Sigh.

It’s amazing how much work there is to do before you even start revising.  First, you’re supposed to put the book aside long enough that you start to forget about it.  That’s easier said than done when you’ve been thinking and working on something for almost nine months. (I can see why writers will sometimes call their books “their babies”…though mine is still in the gestation phase.) I put my first draft away for almost six weeks and it was hard but comforting at the same time.  I didn’t have to feel any guilt if I wanted to watch TV or sleep!

Second, you need to read your WIP (work-in-progress) in its entirety. I’d never done this before with anything else I’d written, which I now realize is completely ridiculous.  How could I have possibly thought that it was a good idea to send out my last novel to literary agents when I hadn’t even read the whole thing myself?! To be fair, I had actually read that last book many, many times, but just not all at once.   I see now that this makes all the difference. You can’t just read chapter 1 and then skip over to chapter 10—you have to read it from start to finish without changing or rewriting anything because that’s what a reader will do.  That’s the only way to truly see your book as a whole.  So, that was a new experience for me…and a fairly depressing one.  Like I said before, I wasn’t necessarily expecting much, but I was still sad to see how bad some of it was. 

Once you’ve gone through that trial, if you have any motivation left at this point, you need to start working through all the changes you need to make. For me, that included completely rewriting the first half of the book (!), changing the tense of the entire book (!!), and adding a second narrator (!!!). That ‘s enough to make you want to just quit and find a new hobby, but that never works for me in the long run. I can only hold out so long before the writer in me starts banging on the walls of my brain, demanding to be let out again. So, I push on, and blindly tell myself it’s going to get better.

Now, this might all seem very doable if this was a one-time deal, but many writers revise their books (heavily revise—not just moving commas and changing adjectives) four, five, or even SEVEN times before sending it out to be reviewed.  Oh dear Lord, how long will it take me to go through this process seven times?!!  I don’t even want to know.   I’m just going to keep moving forward slowly, one paragraph in front of the other, and try not to think about the future. Or, maybe I’ll only think about the far future…when I’m a published writer.  ;)

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