Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The love/hate relationship

Can you guess what I'm talking about? Yep, you got it. Revisions.

Why am I writing about revisions? It probably has nothing to do with the fact that I'm waiting for my first revision notes from my agent. Nothing at all. (Did I mention I'm going to be revising my book for my agent? Wow, is that an awesome feeling!) Anyway, I digress.

Revising can be hard, or it can be liberating, depending on how you view it. You can look at it as taking your carefully plotted, written and finished manuscript and tearing it to pieces. Destroying all your hours of work. Making you feel like a worthless loser who really can't write at all. (And if that's how you feel, take two deep breaths and keep reading.) Or, as I've learned over the last couple of years, you can look at it as an opportunity to take the basis of what you've done and perfect it. Polish it until it shines. I love getting a suggestion and having an "aha!" moment, where I realize just how right it is. When I can see the shape of a more perfect novel coming to light. Revising is a gift. Trust me on this--it really is. If rough drafts of novels were what got published... Yikes. That's all I have to say.

So how do you get to the point where you enjoy revising? First, find a good critique partner (or partners). Any good CP (or agent or editor, I assume) is going to give you suggestions you can see value in. They might sting at first, but they should eventually make a ton of sense. The "why didn't I think of that? You're a genius!" kind of sense that brings a grin to your face. Not all suggestions will, but if more than half do, you know you have a good partner (imo). For me, those moments where I'm grinning and typing furiously as I see the diamond emerging from, well, you know the saying; that's when I get excited and remember just how much I love revising.

I learned this lesson the first time when I was lucky enough to have a friend of mine (who happened to be a former acquisitions editor and a published author) read my WIP and edit it. She only marked the first fifty pages because it took so long (and told me to find all the similar mistakes throughout the rest of it). Every one of those fifty pages were marked from top to bottom in red pen. Whoa. I was embarrassed. Humiliated. Ashamed that she had to read such crap. (What else could it be to have been marked up so much? Didn't "publishable" authors write perfect books?) Then she explained that all her red marks were actually compliments. She told me she wouldn't have spent so much time showing me the mistakes I was making, if she didn't think I had the talent and potential to make it worth her time. If my writing had truly been awful, she would have just said, "looks pretty good, maybe try working on ___." She wouldn't have taken the time to be detailed and thorough if it wouldn't have been worth it.

So remember, getting those revision letters are compliments. It means someone thinks your writing is worth their time and effort.

Remind me of that when I get my revision notes this week, okay?


Unknown said...


Great thoughts - I look forward to (hopefully) having the same painfully positive experience soon. Everyone from the AF writer's workshop is still cheering you on. All the best - see you at Barnes & Noble soon (and Amazon, and on the NYT Bestseller's List, and ...)


Sara B. Larson said...

Hey Scott!! Thank you so much, I'm so glad you wrote! I can't wait to hear what happens with your WIP. How's it coming?

Thanks for cheering me on. I am definitely doing the same for all of you! :-)

Janiel said...

Scott rocks. You and he will be doing book signings together any day now.

I can't wait to read your book, Sara. (ARC's anyone?) And just so you know, we do have a moment of silence for you at the beginning of each class. :)

So glad you're blogging about this.

Elana Johnson said...

Oh, the revision memo from the agent. I well remember mine. I seriously almost threw up in my mouth a little. Then I printed out the MS and got to work. Then I had to do it again.

And I'm sure I'll have to do it again for my editor. And again. And again.

But I've always known I'm a better rewriter than a writer, so I suppose I should just get used to it...